Human rights watch
Slain student leader Cris Hugo
A Small Guy with
Twenty-year old Cris
Hugo was a small – only 4’11” tall – and humble person who led an
exemplary life. He fearlessly fought for quality education and students’
rights – until bullets felled him last March 19.
BY LINO D. INTERINO
I was aghast when my Bulatlat
editor sent me a text message on Monday, asking if I could write something
about the slain student leader from Bicol University. I then was in our
province talking with my friends and taking a not so grand vacation while
fixing my requirements for graduation.
“I’ll try to make a story about him. I
don’t know the person,” I replied.
At about 6:30 p.m. of the same day, a
friend sent a text message: “PLEASE PRAY FOR CRIS HUGO, A FOURTH YEAR
JOURNALISM STUDENT OF BUCAL (Bicol University College of Arts and
Letters). HE WAS SHOT DEAD LAST NIGHT AT WASHINGTON DRIVE. MAY HIS SOUL
REST IN PEACE. PLEASE PASS GUYS.” Suddenly, it was difficult to breathe. I
couldn’t believe that Cris was gone, that he was the student leader I was
supposed to write about, until another similar text message came.
Cris, 20, was a student leader at BU’s College of Arts
and Letters (BUCAL). He was regional coordinator and national council
member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS). He was also the newly
elected Grand Chancellor of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO Fraternity) chapter
Cris was a classmate during my freshman
year at the Institute of
and Cultural Studies (now CAL) in BU. I could not believe that he died in
such a brutal way. He was a small – only 4’11” tall – and humble person
who led an exemplary life, fighting for quality education and students’
rights. Nobody could have foreseen that he would be killed so violently.
Gremil Naz, a BUCAL
professor, recalled how the murder took place on March 19 at Washington
Drive, Bagumbayan (village), Legazpi City:
“Kausap ko si Cris
habang naglalakad kami nang bigla akong nakarinig ng putok. Paglingon ko,
nakahandusay na siya. (Cris and
I were talking while walking, when I suddenly heard a gunshot. When I
turned to him, he was already sprawled on the ground).”
Naz could not
identify the gunmen because it was dark and he was slightly drunk. He ran
to the Legazpi City Police Station to report the attack and Cris was
rushed to the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH). He
was dead on arrival.
Cris was the first
youth leader to be killed in the spate of political killings this year.
In spite of being the smallest in class,
he proved that he could beat all odds. Even as a freshman, he had shown a
In the first semester, he joined the Alpha
Phi Omega fraternity. I was amazed at how he endured the trials of being a
neophyte. I could not believe how this small guy, who seemed to be
fragile, could have possibly passed the initiations.
Every time there were rallies, Cris was
always visible. He would ask the students to join and fight for their
Dan Orense, Cris’ mentor and fraternity
brother, described him as “college student na parang Grade 6 (a
college student who looked like a sixth-grade pupil.) Mabait na tao si
Cris. A typical homegrown person pero malalim. (Cris is a kind
person, a typical home-grown person but he was deep),” he
His colleagues from LFS and his other
organizations said that despite having a small build, Cris had a
big-enough conviction to fight for the students’ welfare.
During the interview with Cris’ mother
Rowena Hugo, a public school teacher in Gallanosa National High School in
the municipality of Irosin, Sorsogon (647 kms. south of Manila), grief was
evident in her face. She said she felt restless last Sunday because she
was alone at home. At 11 p.m.., she
said, a BRTTH doctor called and told her what had happened to her son.
Cris’ mother recalled how he wanted her to
stay with him when she went to the university on the afternoon of March
18. After a parents’ meeting, she said they went to the mall and the park
and Cris even asked her to go to the movies. “It seems that he didn’t want
me away from him,” she said.
“Gusto niya makasama ako sa pagtulog. Sabi
niya pa nga huwag na daw muna akong umuwi. Sabi ko baka pagalitan ako ng
papa mo. Pero sabi niya kahit pagalitan ka ni Papa, wala na siyang
magagawa kasi andun na ‘yun, e,”
(He wanted me to sleep at his boarding house. He asked me not go home yet.
I said your father will be angry. But he said, even if Papa gets angry he
can do nothing about it) she recalled.
Meryll Arcos, editor-in-chief of the BUCAL
student publication Budyong (shell), said she saw Cris
passing by their boarding house in EM’s Barrio almost every afternoon
before the meeting of parents for ICT. “He was rushing to go to his
boarding house before dusk, which he does not normally do, as if somebody
was following him,” she said.
His fellow activists, who requested
anonymity, said Cris had been receiving death threats a year before his
death. During that time, they said, Cris tried vainly to alter his
appearance by wearing polo and eyeglasses. It made him look like a
seminarian and they just laughed at him.
Cris came from a devout family. His
parents were lectors, or scripture readers in their church. He also acted
in theatre productions of their parish church.
“Ang gusto ‘nya talaga ay maging pari
(He really wanted to be a
priest),” her mother said. She revealed that he spent two years in high
school at the Peñafrancia Seminary in Sorsogon City. He went out of the
seminary on his third year because his father didn’t want him to become a
“Para lang kaming magbabarkada niyan.
(We’re just like friends),”
his mother said as she stared at her son’s casket. “I even join his
company of friends every time they are here. We would go out to a
videoke bar and sing and have fun.”
“Napakabait ng anak ko. Hindi ko
matanggap na agad siyang mawawala. Kahit sa mga kapatid niya, ang bait
niya. Minsan pag-umuuwi iyan, may dala siyang pasalubong. Kahit ano, tulad
ng scented candles. Napaka-thoughtful niya. (My son was
very kind. I cannot accept that he would suddenly be gone. Even with his
siblings, he was so kind. He even brought gifts for the family when he
came home, even simple things like scented candles. He was very
thoughtful),” she added.
“Napakabuting bata niyang si Cris. Wala
akong masabi diyan sa apo ko (He was a very good child. I could not
find any fault in him),” said Socorro Hugo, Cris’ grandmother, as she
“Sometimes,” his mother revealed, “he and
his father would have petty fights and discussions because of his views,
which his father disagrees with. One time he said, ‘kulugan mo na po
ako Papa, suntukon mo ako, aakoon ko po pero dai mo po mamababago ang
prinsipyo ko’ (Hurt me papa, knock me down, I will take it but you can
never change my principles).”
Cris’ mother recalled that when he was
arrested February 2005 during a protest rally on the occasion of President
Arroyo’s visit, they were so enraged because she heard on the radio that
Cris and other protesters were arrested on charges of illegal possession
“Nagulat nga ako ng binalita sa radyo
na na-detain sila sa Guinobatan (I was shocked when it was
reported over the radio that they were detained in Guinobatan),” she
“Walang bisyo ang anak ko” (My son
had no vice), she reacted.
Cris and his colleagues underwent drug
tests, were found “negative,” and were released after 24 hours. The group
learned later that they were framed-up by “men in uniform.”
“Ang suspetsa namin militar ang may
gawa nun kasi nung Friday bago ‘yung meeting, inutusan siya ng papa niya
na mag-withdraw ng pera sa AFPSLAI. Sabi niya,’ mama darating si Gloria.
Siguradong may mga parak na magpapasikat’,“ (Our suspicion is that the
military killed him because last Friday before his meeting, he was ordered
by his father to withdraw money from AFPSLAI. He said, ‘mama Gloria is
coming. For sure some police or military officers would want to create a
good impression.) Rowena said.
“Hindi kami naninilawala na frat war
ang dahilan kung bakit pinatay si Cris. Walang history ng frat war dito sa
Bicol at kahit mga taga-ibang fraternity kaibigan niya” (We do not
believe that Cris was killed because of a fraternity war. There was never
a history of violent frat wars in Bicol. And he has friends from other
fraternities), she said.
Accredited fraternities in
University confirmed this in a
press conference March 24 at the BU administration building.
Michael Malano, coordinator of the
National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) and incoming BU
student council president, joined in condemning the killing.
“I challenge the authorities to widen
their range of investigation. We are calling for (your) cooperation for
immediate action and justice for Cris Hugo,” said Gerald Dino Caba of
“Ang pagkamatay ni Cris ay may malalim
pang rason. Tulad ng pagkamatay ni Joel Asejo , wala paring
malinaw na resulta ang imbestigasyon,” (The death of Cris has a deeper
reason. Just like the death of Joel Asejo, there were no clear findings
resulting from the official investigation), LFS-BU chapter spokesman
Rodcel Bontigao said.
Asejo was also a student at the BU
He was killed on October 2002 in Sto. Domingo, Albay. The suspects were
military men from Tanay, Rizal. The court issued arrest warrants against
the suspects but they are still at large.
“We will seek justice for him. I cannot
accept the death of my son,” Cris’ mother said.
Students, organizations and other
concerned individuals have been holding a protest vigil in front of Camp
Simeon Ola, Legazpi City every 5
p.m. since Cris’ death
Cris’ remains will be interred on March
31. A tribute was scheduled by his family, friends and fellow activists
on March 30. Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
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