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Human Face

Calauan in 1993 (2)

/ 05:14 AM September 05, 2019

[This column and last week’s are only one-fourth the length of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine cover story that I wrote in 1993. We end with this.]

Calauan has been a very Sanchez-centered town, and with meyor behind bars, his devotees feel orphaned. Sanchez’s followers’ devotion to him and his to them is not unlike the relationship between the late deposed President Ferdinand Marcos and the Ilocanos of the North. The 45-year-old Sanchez, who is with the Marcos-founded KBL party, must have learned a few things from the dictator, including his fascination with the number 7.

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In Calauan, the three white-washed structures that stand out are the munisipyo, the Sanchez home and the church. The church and the land on which it stands were donated by the Roxas-Soriano family in 1925. (The parish, which used to be part of the Lipa diocese, was established in 1860.) When San Pablo became a diocese in 1961, Bishop Pedro Bantigue established residence in Calauan. In 1991, Sanchez embarked on a complete renovation and embellishment program of the church and its surroundings.

Naturally, the church has the mayor’s color motif — frothy white with touches of green. Here, it is said — and the mayor himself admits this — he walks on his knees from door to altar. When he first became a suspect in the UP students’ deaths and rape, he showed his calloused knees as proof of his piety and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Over at the CIS jail in Camp Crame where Sanchez is billeted, Edith Sanchez, the mayor’s 40-year-old wife, plays hostess to her husband’s well-wishers from Calauan, simple folk wearing clothes in variations of white and green. Edith is in an all-white getup and green slippers. At first she refuses to be interviewed, but she starts to open up when convinced that her husband’s innocence or guilt is not the subject of the interview (conducted in the CIS jail parking lot).

“Ask these people,” Edith huffs, “what the mayor is like.” A woman comes forward, lamenting the mayor’s fate. “Sana naoperahan na itong bukol ko sa kilikili,” she says.

The missus is adamant. “When this is over,” she warns, “I will deal with those who have lied about us. May karma.” She refuses to allow anyone to interview her husband as per his lawyer’s orders. From his cell window, the statue of Our Lady of Divine Grace is visible. The mayor has been doing a lot of praying and Bible reading, his wife says.

Her husband couldn’t be a rapist, Edith protests. “Kaya naman daw niya magbayad.” Her stories about his goodness and piety are endless — he always pauses to pray the Angelus, and he is generous to a fault. “Lumuluhod pa sa bilao ng asin.”

Concerned Calauanos who do not wish to be named say in Barangay Imok alone, 13 dead bodies were found from 1985 to 1989. The boundary of Sitio Dayap and Curba in Santo Tomas is also “tapunan ng mga patay.” Even the Sanchez loyalists admit, in the presence of Edith Sanchez, that their town is really a tapunan.

And if it is at all significant, people note that since the handcuffing of Sanchez, jueteng operations in Calauan have ground to a halt.

Questions remain. Where are all the bodies coming from?

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Is Sanchez really the incarnation of evil that he is pictured to be? Or is he goodness personified, as attested to by the little people whom he has held in thrall with the bounty from his hands? Does his right hand know what his left hand has been doing? How much of him is Dr. Jekyll, how much is Mr. Hyde?

* * *

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon has been seen in photos (e.g., PDI 9/2/2019) wearing four stars on his shoulders, which means he holds the highest rank in military service. Faeldon was among those involved in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and left military service as a marine captain. As BuCor chief, he is undergoing intense questioning at the Senate for the thousands of prison inmates on the list for release through the good conduct time allowance, among them Sanchez, who is serving more than 200 years behind bars.

In his post on Facebook, retired Air Force chief Loven Abadia asks why Faeldon is wearing those stars reserved for the highest-ranking military officers. (Only the Commander in Chief has five stars.) Someone said that the heads of BuCor, the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection can be conferred four-star status (but, I suppose, should have the rank of a one-star general to begin with). Which means that Faeldon did not pass through the ranks, and was simply conferred the highest military status? And will retire with that rank?

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TAGS: Antonio Sanchez, Calauan, Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
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