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Arsenio C Jesena

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A BRAVE COWARD
By Arsenio C Jesena   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, July 29, 2011
Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011

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But I knew that if I ran away....I
would always be afraid and running away -- all my life.

A BRAVE COWARD
by Arsenio C. Jesena

My dear Nyssa,

Rape and pillage and murder happened almost
every day in Bukidnon and in many other provinces in
the Philippines during Martial Law. The perpetrators
were, very strangely, not bandits, not terrorists, but
soldiers of Marcos the dictator, soldiers who did what
they wanted -- with impunity.

Of course Marcos and his Generals denied this before the local
and foreign media. But in Bukidnon I personally met some of the
victims. And, despite our universal fear of vindictive military
reprisals, I managed to obtain notarized affidavits from them.

One day I was requested by the parish Priest of Pangantucan to
go to the Southern Bukidnon Hospital in Maramag.

A little girl of twelve had been walking home from school.
Drunken soldiers used her for their target practice. They must have
been good shots because there were seven bullet fragments lodged
inside her. Her parents rushed her to the hospital over rough roads
about three hours away. Her life was saved, but there were still
bullet fragments lodged inside her brain, and she was, of course,
unconscious.

When I got to the hospital, I listened to her parents. They told
me what happened. Then they brought me to their daughter. Her
face was almost totally disfigured and she was unrecognizable. Her
head had bloated to the size of a basketball because of the the
bullets lodged inside her brain. I talked to the doctor and he said
he neither had the skill nor the medical equipment needed to
extract the bullets safely from the girl’s brain. But she would die unless
the bullets were removed as soon as possible from her brain.

Cowardly Juni instantly became a hero. The girl had to be saved
and the perpetrators punished. To save the girl, I managed to get an
airplane all the way from Manila to come and pick her up for a
mercy flight from the little frontier hospital in Maramag, Bukidnon
to Manila which had the best hospitals and the best brain surgeons
in the country.

And then, very quietly, patiently, and courageously, I managed
to gather reluctant affidavits from the witnesses of the abuse and the
rape and the murder and the pillage in southern Bukidnon -- so we
could realistically demand justice and punish the perpetrators and
stop the rampant military abuses.

I made seven complete sets of the affidavits. One for President
Marcos, one for the Secretary of National Defense, one for the
Undersecretary for Civil Relations, and the rest -- if necessary -- for the
local and foreign press. If there was one thing the dictator Marcos was
afraid of, it was a negative international image. The threat of a bad
press worldwide would force Marcos to impose justice even if
principle could not.

I went to Manila, to the Office of the Secretary of National
Defense. And I told the Undersecretary I had seven copies of the
thick and damning affidavits. If the Department of National
Defense did nothing to punish the guilty soldiers, I would give my
other four copies to the international press which would know what
to do with them. The Undersecretary and I both knew that if there
was one thing the dictator Marcos was afraid of, it was international
condemnation.

Two weeks later, I was officially informed that the whole
company of soldiers responsible for the crimes had been
investigated and disciplined -- especially the Company
Commander who was accused of rape in my affidavits. He was
removed from his command. But I was also cautioned against
returning to Bukidnon because the Philippine Constabulary soldiers
there were out to get me. And this threat was confirmed by other,
very reliable sources.

Prudence told me to remain in Manila, where I would be safer
than in faraway Bukidnon, where I would be defenseless.

I was genuinely afraid. To return to Bukidnon would be to
return to almost certain death.

But I knew that if I ran away from Bukidnon because of fear, I
would always be afraid and running away -- all my life.

I decided to return to Bukidnon and to face the threat to my life.
I took out insurance policies – five of them -- with the Bishop of
Bukidnon as my beneciary. Then I returned to Bukidnon, and still
very much afraid, made myself very visible, and even showed
myself again and again right outside the camp of the unseated
Philippine Constabulary soldiers. For some reason or other, the
vindictive PC soldiers did not kill me.

But I was already a nervous wreck.

And by that time I had serious misgivings and disenchantments
about religion and my Church.

But God is very merciful and forgiving. He is compassionate.
He is innitely forgiving. He is healing. He cares, and He loves. He
waits for the prodigal son to come to his senses and return HOME.

And although I do not deserve it, God and the Jesuits and the
Catholic Church welcomed me Home. Domine, non sum dignus.



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