“I am braver and stronger now that he is gone. Many people trusted him so I have to fight for justice to be served.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – From the very beginning, Rosalie Cabal, 42, understood why her husband Margarito fought, until his last breath, against the proposed construction of a hydroelectric dam in their community. Life has all the more been difficult for Rosalie since Margarito was killed. But she continues to fight because, for her, it is the only way to move forward.
“Margarito did not approve of the project. He knew that once the dam project would push through our whole community would be submerged in water,” Rosalie told Bulatlat.com.
Margarito, or Boy as he is dearly called by friends and colleagues, was gunned down on May 9 around 6:15 p.m. He was an active leader against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Pulangi River.
Rosalie said Margarito came from the bus terminal to fetch his brother. Upon arriving in their boarding house, “that was about the time he was shot,” she said. News only reached her at around 10 p.m. when village officials told her.
“They said he had a 50-50 chance of surviving when he was brought to the hospital but he eventually died,” she said.
The military vilified Margarito as a member of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. According to Clemente Bautista, president of Kalikasan, red-tagging of activists has been the “same modus operandi” for other environmental advocates killed such as Jose Doton and Nicanaor delos Santos who were assassinated in 2006 and 2001, respectively.
Running in circles
Rosalie has been going around from one government office to another as she search for justice for the killing of her husband.
During Margarito’s wake, she recalled, Kibawe Mayor Minerva Casinabe told her that her husband’s death was a big loss. Margarito was known to be Casinabe’s “right hand” in the city hall. “She vowed during his wake that she would not stop until justice is served. I think she was serious about it. But until now, no one has been arrested,” Rosalie said.
Rosalie believes Vice Mayor Luciano Ligan, whom she referred to as a staunch supporter of the dam project, has something to do with Margarito’s killing. She, however, never dared mention it to the police because she said she knows that they are working for him.
“I did not bother to go back (to the police) anymore because they will just tell me that they have not yet found the suspect,” Rosalie said. Since Margarito was killed, she returned three times to the police station to get updates on the case but to no avail.
Rosalie added the police would even ask her for updates. “They keep asking me if he has enemies. They said they asked around in the city hall and found none because his colleagues would always say that he was a good man.”
From Margarito’s salary working as an employee for the provincial capitol, Rosalie said, they managed to save enough money to buy 1.7 hectares of land for $375 back in 2003. She hires two or three neighbors to help her work on the field, where they planted corn and banana.
Hand in hand, Margarito and Rosalie sent their children to school. Their first two children graduated from a two-year degree. “Life has changed a lot. I have no one to be with at home, to take care of the children and to look after our livelihood,” Rosalie said.
“I always imagine him walking toward our house in the field. He is very caring. He would always ask me if I ate already,” she added.
Rosalie said their children are very close to Margarito. “They would always talk to each other. The youngest though is a bit scared of him,” she said.
While the children were deeply hurt because of their father’s untimely death, Rosalie said, she never heard them regret about their parent’s choice to fight the proposed dam project.
“We are hoping that justice would be served even under this government, which could possibly have a hand in my husband’s death,” Rosalie said.
As of this writing, Rosalie is in Manila to bring to the attention of the general public the impunity that continues to permeate their community. She is among the victims of human rights violations participating in ManiLakbayan. On Dec. 10, she will join human rights activists in taking to task the Aquino administration and explaining to the public the government’s accountability in the killings, ans other human rights violations.