Hero of Initao
Initial reports on the Nov. 28 grenade explosion in Initao, Misamis Oriental, that killed two people and wounded 16 others said nothing about the heroism of Master Sgt. Jason Magno. That Magno was one of the two people killed—the other being the elderly man wielding the grenade whom he was trying to subdue—appeared to merely underscore the old saying that working in the armed services means having one foot in the grave.
Why then is the Philippine National Police planning to posthumously bestow on Magno, 46, the title “Hero of Initao” as well as a medal of heroism, and to recommend to President Duterte that he be installed among the recipients of the medal of valor, the highest award given by the PNP?
The explosion at Initao College injured nine students, two teachers, four other civilians, and Senior Master Sgt. Alice Balido. A medal of heroism is also being planned for Balido, who helped get those present out of harm’s way.
A week later, the details of what transpired as narrated by Brig. Gen. Rolando Anduyan, police chief of Northern Mindanao, are providing a glimpse into, and affirming, Magno’s uncommon character. Per Anduyan’s account to Inquirer correspondent Richel Umel, Magno’s training in explosive ordnance disposal was evident in his posture as he grappled with Ibrahim Bashir, 65, to gain control of the grenade and prevent it from going off. His moves in trying to wrest the grenade from Bashir demonstrated an intent to protect the people around them, so that his ultimate decision to cover with his body the explosive that fell on the ground, resulting in his death, seemed a logical conclusion. From accounts, the valor displayed on Nov. 28 by the cop who held a bachelor’s degree in English was not surprising. He was the go-to guy whenever help was needed in the town where he was born and raised and lived.
He was a peacemaker, succeeding not only in mollifying a retired Scout Ranger who had opened fire in the Initao public market but also in pacifying angry protesters who had put up a blockade in the town of Lugait.In the course of his dialogue with the protesters, Magno was hit by a stone thrown by them. “But that was okay because that was part of his work,” his widow Vivian recalled, adding poignantly: “And he came home alive.”
The explosion that prevented this exceptional man from ever making it home alive again to his wife and children arose from no less tragic circumstances. According to Bashir’s family, the 65-year-old was gravely ill and in a rage that his truck, seized in March for transporting logs without a permit, was still being held at Initao’s City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro). Bashir had been seeking the release of his truck for months, to no avail, and on that day, he arrived at the Cenro office with a grenade and removed its pin. Frightened, the Cenro staff fled to the nearby covered court in Initao College. The authorities were called; Magno and Balido were among the first responders. It was reportedly Balido who fired the shots that killed Bashir.
Thus was the breath snuffed out of the cop described by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, as “the best among us.” Magno deserves all the accolades that his superiors and peers can heap upon him, as well as the benefits that a grateful government can bestow on his family. He awakens the deadened faith of many Filipinos in the police force and—dare we say it?—gives them hope. His death must signify more than an unfortunate ending; it must serve as a reminder of the police officers and men unworthy of their uniform, those whose crimes have tarnished the institution he served faithfully and well.
Remember the 19 police officers who killed Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, right in his prison cell as he awaited trial on drug charges in November 2016. Despite the finding of premeditated murder by a Senate inquiry, the Department of Justice dropped the murder charges to homicide, and they were allowed to post bail. After their six-month suspension, then PNP chief Bato dela Rosa announced that the officers had been reinstated and the administrative charges against them “resolved.”
Or the police officers who abducted the Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in 2016 and did him in right in the police headquarters of Camp Crame, almost under the very nose of the PNP chief, and whose remains could not be found because his ashes were flushed down the toilet. Or indeed the “ninja cops” who purloined part of a cache of crystal meth seized during a raid in Pampanga when Oscar Albayalde was holding sway there as provincial chief of police…
The heroism of Master Sgt. Jason Magno should serve to train the nation’s attention on these festering crimes by his unworthy colleagues.
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