Born to a peasant family, Eddie Cruz used to bring home rice, corn, vegetables and fruits to his siblings. His parents, Ligaya and Corsing, now make do with whatever food is given by well-meaning individuals and groups.
By LYN V. RAMO
MANILA – “He was pale as paper,” an unidentified friend said when Eddie Cruz emerged in the courtroom, during a hearing that would arraign him for illegal possession of firearms, August 18, 2010.
A Dumagat farmer, Eddie Cruz is a dark-skinned fairly built young man. His incarceration, however, deprived him of his usual farm activities and mountain treks, making him pale.
His mother Ligaya and sister Vanessa, who were in the failed arraignment could not hide their dismay over the postponement. Although they were happy to see Cruz at the hearing, they did not expect Eddie’s health to worsen in jail.
On June 12, 2010, soldiers took Cruz in their custody and detained him. The arrest took place in a village in Rodriguez, formerly Montalban town in Rizal province, after an 18-member military unit allegedly had encountered New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas operating in the area.
Only 27, Eddie used to be his family’s breadwinner. His detention deprives his parents and siblings of regular meals. Born to a peasant family, Eddie Cruz used to bring home rice, corn, vegetables and fruits to his siblings. His parents, Ligaya and Corsing, now make do with whatever food is given by well-meaning individuals and groups.
He was accused of being a rebel and was forced to sign a document that states that he surrendered. He was even asked what charges would be filed against him. Given rebellion and illegal possession of firearms as options, he chose the latter “because it is bailable.”
Later, he was asked to tell his visiting mother that the .45-caliber pistol was his.
He was hoping his family and friends could raise enough funds to bail him out. He was wrong. His mother could not even afford fare money from Sitio Carugu, Barangay San Rafael in Rodriguez town to his detention cell at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Baras, Rizal.
Tired from the day’s work in the fields, Eddie and two of his neighbors, Nardo Cruz , 30 and Carlito de Jesus, 56, rested in his father’s hut in the sitio. At around 4:00 p.m., a team of soldiers, believed to be belonging to the 16th Infantry Battalion, arrived and without much ado, started chasing chickens, which they cooked and ate.
Afterwards, they offered P200 as payment for the poultry.
The eighteen soldiers all carried high powered firearms, Ligaya would later say under oath. The soldiers did not leave and instead asked permission to sleep over so Ligaya offered one more hut. She said she took her children to her son Ranie’s house, which is nearby.
At around 11:00 p.m., there was a gunshot that “alerted” the soldiers. Eddie reportedly heard one of them saying “Positive sir, there are enemies.” After that, they tied Eddie, Carlito and Nardo and started to beat them up.
Later, they took them to a house by the hills and there they were hogtied individually. The physical blows continued.
The soldiers asked Nardo to run but he refused saying he would not run because he was innocent. The soldiers continued beating the three, until 3:00 at dawn. Later, at around 11:00 a.m., they freed Nardo and Carlito, reportedly considering their age.
They took Eddie, however, to the military detachment in Baras, which turned out to be the 202nd Infantry Battalion Headquarters. In his affidavit, Ranie said he saw Eddie cry because of the pain inflicted on him. He could not talk about his ordeal, he just cried. “I know something was aching,” Ranie said in Tagalog.
He could not say anything because the soldiers were keeping an eye on us. He was even told to tell his relatives that he was caught with a firearm.
A house in total disarray met Ligaya and the children when they returned home to Sitio Tuay.
In her sworn statement, Ligaya said she saw Ranie and Eddie’s belongings scattered. Even rice grains were scattered all over the hut.
“Even the palay for the rainfed rice fields were also scattered,” Eddie’s mother said in her affidavit.
From then on, Eddie’s family has not been as disturbed as now. His parents have not returned to the village. Some of his brothers and sisters remained in different houses and the children could not forget the dreadful night when three of their kin were taken by 18 soldiers. Ranie and Ligaya still recall how one of his children asked about the volley of gunshots that evening. “The children turned pale out of fear because of what happened,” Ligaya said.
The situation does not warrant that the family stay in their village, that they are unable to tend to their farm.
With hearing schedules which Ligaya considers too slow, she worries it would keep her son longer in jail, and bring more hardships to her family.
The court postponed the arraignment for another month on September 14. In the meantime Ligaya has to raise money again for her fare to the courtroom in Baras and for Eddie’s daily needs in jail. (Bulatlat.com)