Fiesta time, killing time

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    A QUARTER of a century ago, in May 1988, this appeared in People’s TONIGHT above my by-line:

    MAYTIME IN Pampanga is a swirl of religious rites and feasts – from the Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo to the fiestas of at least five towns and scores of barangays.

    The religious solemnity and the bacchanalian feasts attendant to the merry month in the province were shattered this year by the staccato sounds of machineguns, the deadly bangs of .45s, and the fatal swishes of double bladed knives.

    May’s orgiastic killings in Pampanga have so far claimed 27 lives – assorted individuals including a whole family of seven, a couple and their three helpers, three holdup men, a Philippine Air Force captain, a barangay chairman and the city engineer, all in Angeles City alone; an Army captain and two sergeants in a single incident and an airman in Porac; two suspected military informers in Guagua; and a town councilor in Arayat.

    That total, however, makes up only the reported cases.

    While mediamen here have lost track of the number of casualties this year – placed at 57 in mid-March, it is generally believed that with the latest upsurge in killings, the total of 197 casualties for the whole of 1987 “stands to be approximated or even surpassed by next month.”

    Local officials have consistently expressed optimism that “the end of the killings is in sight.” One ranking provincial official has even gone to the extent of integrating in all his pronouncements that “the killings in Pampanga are all isolated cases,” that compared with other areas, the province “is very peaceful.”

    To which, local residents, mediamen and even some local officials disagree.

    Rep. Carmelo F. Lazatin (1st District-Pampanga) said the resurgence of violence in Angeles has reached alarming proportions as he called on the military and civilian authorities to take positive steps including “pre-emptive actions” to confront the deteriorating peace and order situation.

    One city businessman who requested anonymity lamented the city officials’ coming out with “oblique assessments of the problems instead of frontal solutions.”

    One civic leader, in obvious exasperation over the spate of killings said he hoped “the rains of June will cool down May’s heat wave of violence.”

    xxxxx

    NO, THE rains of June did not dampen the killing spree a bit. Thirteen more bodies were collected within the first ten days after the end of May.

    The insurgency laid claim to the greater number of casualties – the province then embroiled in war of attrition between the communist urban partisan group Mariano Garcia Brigade and the right-wing vigilante groups called Angelino Simbulan and Francisco Sabile Brigades, with the low intensity conflict doctrine of the Americans in full laboratory testing in Angeles City and Pampanga.

    G.I. Joe has long been out of Clark. The insurgency has since simmered down.

    In remembering those days of terror and nights of horror, may we ever be resolute in our quest for peace and progress.

    Nunquam iterum. May there never be a recurrence of May 1988 again.

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