Posted by: Jae | April 3, 2007

Cry, the Beloved Country(side)

2 p.m. April 2, 2007. Municipal Trial Court. San Francisco, Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon.

Court personnel: Criminal Case No. ____. People of the Philippines v. Edong Cantos. (not his real name).

Jae: Counsel for the Defense, your Honor. Same appearances.

Ugly opposing counsel: For the Prosecution, your Honor. Appearing for the private complainant, same appearances.

Judge: Continuation of hearing. Is the witness for the prosecution ready?

Ugly opposing counsel: Your Honor, there has been a development. I, together with the complainants, have conferred with the accused in this case. We have reached an agreement. In exchange for his future cooperation, my clients are willing to execute an affidavit of desistance.

Judge: Comment from the Defense Counsel?

No response.

Judge: Counsel, the prosecution has signified its intention to drop charges against your client. Any comment?

Jae: (ten-second pause). No Your Honor, no comment.

* * *

You want my comment, Judge? Ugly Opposing Counsel? You wanna hear it? You wanna know why I took so long to reply? You want to know the comment I dared not say in your small, hot courtroom in the middle of nowhere, ten hours away from Manila, for fear of losing my license barely ten months after getting it?

Here is my comment.

I knew about that “development”, Judge. It was whispered to me before the Court session started by the farmers I represent, the farmers of Sitio Nilantangan that Edong Cantos tilled, worked and forged hopes with. They told me that Edong had switched sides, and is now being groomed to testify on the side of the landlords against the peasants.

Hide your smirk, opposing counsel. “Conferred” indeed. Fancy language that hardly describes what you and the goons you represent did. Your men plied him with litson baboy and told him there was more of that where it came from. Edong told one of his farmer-friends that they promised him he would never go hungry again. How dare you. How dare you use his hunger as arsenal, when you caused that hunger?.You caused that hunger for three thousand farmers you have denied the right to land. You caused that hunger for twenty of their leaders that you sent to jail on various fabricated charges. You use as leverage against him a criminal case that you made up. And then to seal the deal, you threaten to hurt him if he doesn’t acquiesce or if he returns to his group of farmers. You knew he was illiterate, Counsel. Of that group, you knew he was the one who could not read or write. And you picked him out.

This wasn’ the first time you did that. You did that months before, to another farmer. You kidnapped him and forced him under duress to sign an affidavit against a farmer-leader. You did not succeed that time. He came back to us, and executed a criminal complaint against your men for Serious Illegal Detention and Obstruction of Justice. The witness whose house you ordered to be burned after he testified in court against your client? He filed a complaint for arson. What about that man whose arm your men lopped off with a bolo very recently? He can’t wait to recover and get back to community organizing. The sixty farmers you issued warrants against for qualified theft, they’re still around: angry, indignant, but always, always hopeful.

I represent brave people, Counsel. They who have the audacity to dream of a better world. They whose voices you cannot stifle. Who do you represent, Counsel? What kind of people?

Bumalik ka, Edong. Naniniwala kaming hindi mo kagustuhang sumama. Tinakot ka, binigyan ng panandaliang pamatid sa nangangalam na sikmura. Nauunawaan namin yon. Ngunit magtiwala tayo sa isa’t isa at sa lakas ng ating puwersa. Edong, lumabas na kamakailan lamang ang survey na hindi sa kanila ang lupang sinasakupan nila. May laban tayo. Kaunti nalang, Edong. Huwag tayong magpagamit sa kanila. Huwag nating hayaan na sirain nila ang ating hanay. Ituloy natin ang ating pakikibaka, ang ating pananalig, at ang ating pagpapanday para sa isang mas makatarungang lipunan at mas magandang bukas.

Hindi ako mangangakong hindi na tayo magugutom muli. O hindi na tayo mamumuhay sa takot, o binabaril ang bahay sa gabi. Ngunit tawirin natin ito, Edong. Gaya ng sabi ng paborito kong kanta, ihatid, itawid natin ang isa’t isa. Walang iwanan.

* * *

Which is not to say I’m not heartbroken. Texted Danny Carranza, a trusted friend and zealous Bondoc Pen/agrarian reform advocate, while the proceedings were going on. “Hindi yan ang una at hindi yan ang magiging huli,” he told me.

Bata pa siguro ako, kaya sumasakit pa puso ko,” I replied.


  1. will shed my lurker status for now,

    nakikiisa ako sa yo jae. nakwento ko ata minsan sayo na isa sa mga pinakamasakit na karanasan ay yung pakiramdam na tinraydor ka ng inaakala mong ‘kasama’ sa sektor. dito mo tatanungin kung worth it pa ba ang laban, dahil sadyang napakadaling akitin ang mga kasama at tama yung sinabi ng kaibigan mo na hindi ito ang huling pagkakataon na may magtatraydor. Wala akong sagot sa totoo lang. Pero baka makatulong ang naibahagi ko sayo noon na ang ipinaglalaban natin ay mas malaki sa atin. Umalis man si Edong, meron pa rin namang nanatili di ba? Baka ang tawag sa atin ay maging tapat – tapat sa kawsa at tapat sa mga kasama na patuloy pa rin naniniwala at umaasa sa kabila ng pagtatraydor ng iilan.

    Huwag masiraan ng loob. Wish ko sayo ngayong holy week. Maging tapat, ituloy pa rin ang laban, huwag matakot umasa at magpasaibayo. Shalom.

  2. Levy:

    Naexhaust na ata natin ang usaping ito sa text, hehe, pero sige, sasagot pa din ako. Gaya ng sinabi ko, hindi ako sure na apt tawaging “pagtratraydor” yung ginawa ni Edong. Certainly, setback ito sa pagkikilos ng magsasaka, pero nakikita ko din yung social conditions that led to his making that kind of decision, and to some extent, nauunawaan ko yung ganung level ng desperation. Yung mga landlords, they took advantage of a desperation that they themselves created. Stark poverty breeds false messiahs.

    On the other hand, kailangan ituloy ang laban at hindi magpatinag sa ganitong klaseng mga setback. Im dreading the day that ill be impeaching his credibility as a witness while he would be sitting there on the witness stand, in all probability shaking like a leaf, pero hard choices have to be made. I am certain youve encountered those choices yourself sa labor.

    Yup, like you said, this is really about a struggle bigger than ourselves, daring to reach for a heaven far beyond our grasp (gaya ng nakalagay sa walang kamatayang sidebar ko, hehe)and always being just a little bit crazy.

    So far, it’s still a good ride, coco loco levy. Cheers and happy easter.

  3. Dear Jae,

    Bilib ako sa iyo. Biruin mo sabak ka talaga agad sa litigation cases na ganito. Akbayan ka nga, marangal, palaban, at buong pusong ihahatid at itatawid ang mga nangangailangan!

    I hope that with this experience you have once again realised the constitutive role of politics in legal practice. But more importantly, may you once again discover the answer within you, nurtured over the years of youthful idealism:

    ‘You can look every bully in the eye and you know you will not flinch. Very few things threaten you – probably more the result of the brashness of youth than the wisdom of years. You think the best kind of job is not the job that gets you a fat paycheck or gives you generous car plan. It’s the job that makes you sleep well at night and eager to get up the next day. You love knowing that you’re working with the good guys – and drinking with them later at night. You believe that the fire in your belly can quell the butterflies in your tummy, and that your phantoms are no match for your passions.’

    And that’s you, Jae! Take that to heart. You fill yourself with peace when you rediscover that beautiful character of yours. Be what you have always been.

    Here’s what Paulo Coelho wished for the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, the line which I also wish to dedicate to you, a young idealist fighter force of justice:

    ‘And may she travel slowly, because her pace is the pace of change, and change, real change, always takes a very long time’.

    Smile naman diyan, Atty! 🙂

    Be blessed,

  4. Dear Bonn,

    Thanks for the kind words. They really made my morning. Nakakatawa noh, nung nasa manila ka, e hindi naman tayo nagpapansinan. Sabi ko nga kay Gary Ador last week lang, mas close na tayo keysa kaming dalawa. Haha. 🙂

    It’s true, real change takes time, and more importantly, real change requires a collective effort from many people believing in the same thing. Kaya siguro masayang masaya ako sa AKBAYAN — a set of solid and hardworking individuals taking a leap of faith, making real changes (na walang armas, hehehe..), and practicing what they preach.

    So no matter how long it takes, ok na ako sa byahe. Sa mga kasama pa lang, solb na solb na. Cheers, Bonn! Mabuhay ka.

    Always smiling,

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