The Pope murders-A A +A
Thursday, January 24, 2013
THE raw emotion was palpable in Eddie Rosello’s voice when he spoke on Frankahay Ta! Tuesday morning. “If only there was no gun ban,” he sighed. “I could have fired back at him. Anyway, I hope he’s dead.”
“Him” was John Pope, the desperate Canadian, who killed lawyer Jovian Achas and his client, Dr. Rene Rafols, inside a courtroom that morning, then casually walked away before shooting another victim, lady prosecutor Maria Theresa Casiño, who now remains under intensive care in a local hospital.
Eddie had cradled the dying Achas in his arms, blood flowing freely from the victim’s lone gunshot wound. The others ran away, he said. He couldn’t abandon a friend.
Later that same morning, Cebu City Councilor Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba arrived at the emergency room of the Cebu Doctors University Hospital where doctors were trying desperately to revive Pope. “Why are you doing that?” Yayoy demanded. “He had just killed my friend.”
The doctors explained that they were just doing their job. Two of them had been weeping. Rafols, one of the first pediatric surgeons to practice in Cebu, was their mentor. One can just imagine the whole gamut of emotions racing inside the minds of the young surgical residents as they tried to save the life of the man who had taken that of someone they adored.
Shawn Espina called in the afternoon. Rafols was a colleague, he said, and a very dear friend. Shawn struggled to speak calmly but he couldn’t disguise his pain. “Pope had been stalking Rene. He was an undesirable alien. He should have been deported long ago.”
I must confess to the same sense of personal affront and violation when I learned of the attack on Achas, Rafols and Casiño. How could a foreigner dare do that to us in our own backyard? That he did not give the victims a chance to defend themselves and right in the very place where fair play is demanded of everyone really rankled. The courtroom is a temple. How could Pope so cavalierly trample hallowed ground?
And yet while I join all right-thinking people in condemning the cowardly attack that Pope pulled, I cannot help but wonder why he had been driven to such depths of despair. He had written letters to newspapers and newsmen (I think I received a couple) complaining of injustice and hinting of dire consequences if it remained unabated.
Note that Pope did not fire indiscriminately. He chose his targets. Branch 6 of the MTCC where he shot Achas and Rafols is located in the right wing of the fourth floor of the Palace of Justice building. Casiño was shot in the left wing. The fourth floor layout is such that in order to cross to the other wing, you have to go down one floor, walk towards the stairs on the opposite side and climb up.
After shooting Casino, and before responding policemen found him, the Canadian went down the stairs to the ground floor, reportedly looking for Prosecutors Nick Sellon and Oscar Capacio. Pope had a plan. He was deliberate.
Taken in this context, Pope was not insane. But it is obvious that something had snapped inside of him, leading him to believe that he was the victim instead of the perpetrator of injustice. Pope’s thinking had become so warped that he was convinced that Achas, Rafols, Casiño and the prosecutors that he apparently intended to harm were the bad guys and had to be eliminated.
Why? How? What events or other factors caused Pope to think the way he did?
Equally as the question as to how Pope was able to bring not just one but two guns inside a building that had two guards manning the only entrance doors, these, too, deserve honest answers. The Pope murders could be symptomatic of an ailment that besets our justice system.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 24, 2013.