By Joey Natividad
SORSOGON CITY (BicolToday.com/7-July-2012) – Every morning, Cesar Habla made the rounds at his land where he gathered coconuts whose grated meat milk he used for cooking, while the mature ones he set aside for processing into copra. As a copra farmer, Cesar had some dreams of providing his family of seven (7) children decent education and a prosperous future – dreams which ordinary folks play around inside their simple minds while working at their farms.
Cesar, with his wife Dolores, gave particular attention to their youngest son Jhovan, 10 years old, still very innocent from the harsh realities of living poor. The young kid is at Grade V at Barangay Palale elementary school. This is the kind of life at Bulan, Sorsogon. Cesar, also doubling up as village watchman, dreamed of providing his young Jhovan a bright future.
He has a young daughter Jennylyn, fragile at 17 years of age, already at fourth year high school. His three other children Joel, Jessa, and Johnna, still singles, work at the CALABARZON industrial areas outside Metro-Manila. Too early to work, but being poor has forced the three to leave their Tatay Cesar, Nanay Dolores, Jhovan, and younger brothers and sister to work in the industrial region, seeking fortune and success that have eluded them at the coconut plantation in Sorsogon.
Cesar’s two other children, Josie and Jason, still without families to care for, lived with their parents and helped them in farm work. Such is the simple life of the Hablas. Theirs are typical rural Filipino family. Simple life, simple dreams, simple taste and needs.
But, one early morning Sunday of June 17, the Hablas’ dream was shattered by bullets. Nearby, among the coconut plantations, automatic gunfire had pierced the stillness of early dawn, when government soldiers belonging to the elite Scout Rangers and New People’s Army rebels engaged each other in a firefight.
The sleepy village of Palale was engulfed in fright and terror, while civilians sought cover for safety during the exchanges of gunfire.
When the fighting subsided, villagers found the lifeless and maimed body of Cesar surrounded by government soldiers. At first, the soldiers pointed at the dead Cesar as a rebel, but village officials later, insisted he was a civilian, a farmer. When Cesar’s family arrived to claim his body, the soldiers prevented them to get near their lifeless father.
Dolores and the children cried in grief over the loss of their good father. Their dreams shattered. Their future now hopeless. What they realized and felt was grave injustice done into their father.
This was what human rights group, KARAPATAN Sorsogon, described on what happened to Cesar Habla and the tragedy his family suffered.
“There will be more senseless killings of civilians in the government’s counter-insurgency program. Many more civilians would be killed like Cesar Habla, Jovic Estrellado,” said KARAPATAN, referring to Estrellado, another civilian killed by government soldiers last month in Sorsogon.
The human rights fact-finding mission described that Habla was hit at the back, possibly running away for safety, and was cut down by automatic gunfire from Armalite rifles. The bullets ripped open his left chest, throat, and dismembered his arms.
The human rights group blamed the government soldiers for shooting Habla at the back, after feeling desperate of not inflicting casualty at the rebels side. Despite KARAPATAN’s findings and villagers good testimonies for Cesar Habla, the soldiers refused to admit the killing. There was no government- initiated investigation over the killing. [BicolToday.com]
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