Sunday, July 21, 2019

Cabaero: Looking back at Chiong case

A new movie on the kidnapping of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in Cebu has led to renewed interest in the 1999 case.

While people on social media gave their take on the movie “Jacqueline Comes Home” and on the conviction of seven young men, I prefer to look back at portions of the Chiong trial that, sadly, showed our lack of humanity.

In the trial, several witnesses came up to say how they saw the victims and suspects that night, and on how they did not even try to save the young women. Their testimonies bothered me the most. There were instances during the abduction of the two sisters when they could have been saved had several people (not one, but several) who came across the kidnapping not conveniently turn away from what was happening.

I wrote about this on May 9, 1999, five days after Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Martin Ocampo found seven young men guilty of kidnapping the sisters. I asked then - what do we do to people who could have helped, but did nothing? They were not named accused. They were not accomplices. But they failed in their human and moral duty to try to stop a crime. They did not violate the law; they violated the unwritten law against stupidity, cowardice, apathy.

At Ayala where the abduction took place, a taxi driver testified in court that he saw a young woman being pushed against her will into a car. A state witness said that, from Guadalupe where the first alleged rape of the two took place, the culprits proceeded to the south bus terminal to hire a van. Another witness saw the group and admitted he noticed something awry. He said it was suspicious because the women looked weak and the transfer was done swiftly.

On their way to Carcar town, the group stopped to buy barbecue and more liquor. Residents saw the van and remembered they heard a woman shout from inside the vehicle. Still they turned a deaf ear.

While in Tan-awan, Carcar, another witness saw parts of what transpired. The culprits drank liquor and smoked marijuana. They pulled out Jacqueline Chiong from the van, molested her while others again raped Marijoy inside the vehicle. Jacqueline managed to flee and run towards the road. A tricycle passed her and the driver later testified he saw a distraught young woman trying to escape the van following her. The culprits managed to grab Jacqueline again.

This practice of turning away when one witnesses the abuse of another is a brutal testimony to our lack of humanity. I once had the opportunity to stop the abuse of another, yet I didn’t. Now I know I should have.

“To kiss the cross, sweetheart, to kiss the cross.”

This was what Judge Ocampo said in part in his decision. He quoted a portion of the lyrics to an old song “My Rosary.” He said, “All will therefore just have to ‘try at last to learn to kiss the cross’ - the cross of humanity or the cross of life that we all have to bear for being ‘tao lamang’.”


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