WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Over your shoulder for as long as you live

Last May 4, I came down to Ateneo High School in Matina to catch the Comval kids on educational tour. This was a project that 1001st Infantry Brigade had been working to realize for many months even prior to the 31 March 2007 encounter at Bgy. Kahayag in New Bataan when nine-year-old Grecil S. Buya died.

Inasmuch as commendable Civil Military Operations projects of this kind are almost like a crusade for BGen. Holganza, I was not surprised to find him there among the kids, sporting a name tag that said "Kuya". We talked for over an hour. Most of what we discussed was in confidence, and I have honored that. Yes, we talked about Grecil's death, an issue that we had then been at odds with. On the matter of his readiness to apologize for her death which he put on public record, he told me for us to wait for the results of the investigation of the Commission on Human Rights on her death.

I waited, in the same way that I waited in vain for his promise last April 3 to deliver within two days the results of his unit's investigation into the child's death. I waited, even though a couple of weeks after May 4 the CHR claimed that lack of cooperation from 1001st Infantry Brigade on the matter of the battle report on the 31 March encounter was holding up the completion of the final CHR report. I had faith that BGen. Holganza would in the end do the right thing.

So finally the CHR report comes out. Does BGen Holganza have anything to say about Grecil? To my extreme disappointment, obviously we all can hold our breath till our faces turn blue. No apologies forthcoming. Wala man lang, "Sorry, iha, natamaan ka ng bala. Namatay ka tuloy."

Instead, the man is busy telling everyone that he was vindicated. According to him, the CHR report proves his men were on a legitimate mission– as if anybody was ever disputing that.

What about the girl, sir? What does the CHR say about the girl, sir? More importantly, would the CHR finding that says she was not a child soldier be enough to merit an apology from you, sir, for calling her one?

BGen. Holganza had been fudging on this final retraction, hoping the rest of us would be mollified when he told us he was ready to apologize and was inclined to believe she was not a child soldier. The thing is, sir, you did say she was. And now, the much-awaited CHR report says she wasn't. Unless you're disputing the CHR report, sir, may the Buya-Galacio family have that apology now, please?

You see, sir, if you did not call her a child soldier, you would not have set off the chain of events that had her family running scared and clinging to the only oasis of hope available for protection against you. Her family was quite cooperative with you and your men in that week after her death. If her family did not find justifiable grounds to think that they were being pushed to the wall, this issue would have been settled in that first week before the offer of help from you came their way.

All it required then, sir, was for you to set the record straight. You, on the other hand, seemed to think an apology was being required, but you were too proud to give it. Still are, it seems.

Inasmuch as you committed your readiness to do so, I had hoped you would apologize even at this so late a date because it is the right thing to do. Your words had caused the family a lot of anguish. Your words have set off this unpleasant upheaval in the lives not only of her immediate family, but of her uncles, her grandmother, and her cousins ages 7 months to 8 years who are also in hiding from you.

Yes, sir, you may laugh in derision at why they all have to hide when they all have no cause. They are in hiding because they are afraid of you, and until you apologize, they have enough reason to be.

You know what your crowing "vindication" means, sir? It means you believe that it was right for that nine-year-old to have been hit by a bullet to the back of her head.

You may dismiss the Buya-Galacio family as having gone over to the other side, so let them suffer the consequences of their ill-advised action. It doesn't take away the fact that your careless, irresponsible statement was the reason why they opted for something ill-advised. Obviously, the prospect of life as a fugitive looks better than being out there in the open and at the mercy of one BGen. Carlos Holganza, commander of the Philippine Army's 1001st Infantry Brigade.

Your recalcitrance has ruined whatever chance there ever was for this aggrieved family to ever lead a life with some semblance of normalcy.

God be kind to you, sir. You have the ghost of a nine-year-old who was killed in a crossfire looking over your shoulder for as long as you live. Carry that weight, sir. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail.ilagan@gmail.com. This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)