Saturday, September 15, 2007

Behind cold bars of jail

[] A young man looks back at one bloody night that would forever change the course of his and his brother's life

ALL he wanted was to borrow money from his uncle Diosdado for fare to go home to Sigaboy in Davao Oriental. He failed to get a single centavo but instead got a deluge of painful words too bitter to swallow which prompted his vision to get dim. Harsh words that would forever darken the future of the two people who are yet starting to live their lives.
Chemuel (surname witheld because his brother, also sentenced to 72-year prison term), who will be turning 22 on January 19 will be 132 years old by the time his 110-year prison term will be finished, while Elbuin, his 16-year old brother will be 88 after serving his sentence.
In addition to the sentence, they are ordered to pay the heirs of the victims P1.7 million.
Although the brothers maintained a nonchalant attitude when the judgment was read before them at the sala of Judge Wenceslao Ibabao of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 33, Chemuel confessed that deep inside, he was afraid to be sentenced with death.

In an interview at the Ma-a city jail, Chemuel said that when darkness fell on the night of September 11, he did not have an inkling that before morning comes, something will happen that will alter the course of his life.
"I used to work for my uncle before, doing odd jobs around the house. My mother, who is the first cousin of Uncle Diosdado's wife Evelyn used to work for them too, so I'm no stranger to the house," Chemuel narrated.
He said when he tried to borrow money for fare early that evening, his uncle berated him. He also said that it was not the first time that his uncle rammed unpleasant words up his throat, but he silently bore everything.

"My brother Elbuin and I were in the sala that night but we could not sleep. Unexpectedly, my uncle, 55-year old Diosdado Lacorte who is a retired army sergeant went out, probably to go to the comfort room. Suddenly, all his cruel words earlier reverberated in my ears, deafened me and filled me with extra force. Before it, I had already struck him with the pipe," Chemuel narrated.

"I was horrified when I saw the first spurt of blood from uncle's head and I don't know how but the next thing I know, I had smashed them all with the pipe," he continued, enumerating his aunt Evelyn, 48; son-in-law Julius Villarmia, 21, and 9-year old grandson Kenneth.
"My vision dimmed, all I know was that I kept on attacking them with the pipe," he said.
Chemuel also admitted they attacked Diosdado's daughter Grace Lacorte-Hashiogochi; her Japanese husband Tamutso; and Julius' daughter Maria Carmela Beatriz, 3 who arrived from the casino just as they were leaving because they had no choice. Luckily, the three survived.
"Tamacho and I struggled for possession of the pipe but he overcame me because my strength was already spent," Chemuel added.

Chemuel denied allegations that he and his brother were under the influence of drugs when the incident occured.
"News reports said we were under drugs. That's not true because we don't even drink or smoke,!" Chemuel adds. His denial was supported by the negative results of the drug test conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory 11.

Reminiscing the past
Chemuel added that this will be the most bitter christmas for him as he will be away from his family, locked behind bars.
"Every Christmas before, we have a family reunion, but now its a different story. I'm here behind bars and my brother is at the rehab center, " he sadly narrated. He could not stop his tears from falling down his cheeks.

Chemuel said his father left them when he was still 9 years old. From then on, he automatically took over the responsibility over his three younger brothers. From Davao Oriental, they transferred to Toril, Davao City where they resided until that fateful night.

Charges downgraded

The brothers asked the court to enter into a plea bargaining agreement to downgrade the charges from murder to homicide in order to avail of a lower punishment, thus escaping death penalty by two degrees.
Prosecutor Jose Garcia who heads the prosecution panel said there was no opposition to the plea-bargaining agreement from all parties so the court granted the brothers' pleading. The court granted the brothers' plea and downgraded the charges to four counts of homicide, three counts of frustrated homicide and theft, instead of murder.
"We got the money from uncle's pocket because we knew we need it," Chemuel said.
The two brothers were arrested at their grandfather's house in Barangay Calumpang, General Santos City two days after the incident.
He narrated that he and Elbuin were at the beach contemplating what to do next when they saw their faces pasted on the TV screens, tagged as suspects of a bloody massacre that would fill several pages of newspapers and aired over TV and radio stations for weeks.

"We were asleep in my grandfather's house in Calumpang, General Santos City when the police immediately swooped on us at dawn, but actually we were about to surrender," Chemuel said.

Resigned to fate
Regretful as the brothers are, what's done can't be undone but Chemuel has not lost hope that someday, he will once again be able to roam the streets freely.
"I have already accepted my fate, I will just do my best here in jail," Chemuel resignedly said, wiping his tears with his hands.

Jail Officer 2 Edwin Naidas told Sunstar that Chemuel has been obedient inside the city jail since his detention.
"Chemuel is obedient and submissive here," Naidas said.

Separated forever
The two brothers will be separated from each other by the cold bars of jail for a whole century because Elbuin was already transferred to the Davao City Rehabilitation Center (DCRC) in Bago Oshiro, Davao City where he will undergo rehabilitation under the guidance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) until he reaches the age of 18.

A few days from now, Chemuel will also leave Davao City and be tranported to the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Davao del Norte to serve his century-long sentence.*

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