BEFORE he played dead exactly a year ago today, drenched in blood inside the vehicle of slain lawyer Noel Archival, Paulo Cortes had escaped death twice already.
In 1979, at age 19, he got into a brawl. When his enemy tried to stab him, he parried the attack with his left elbow.
“Swerte ko kay ang kutsilyo nabali (I was lucky then because the knife broke),” he said.
His friends rushed him to a hospital in Cebu City, where he stayed for a week.
A few years later, he was again confined in the hospital for seven months, recuperating from a vehicle accident that killed his friend.
In the 1980s, Cortes got a tattoo in his upper left arm. It’s the image of Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns. Under it are the words, “Dios ko po (My God).”
Cortes’s left elbow again saved him from a bullet wound to the head when the vehicle he was in was strafed with bullets in Barangay Coro, Dalaguete, Cebu on Feb. 18, 2014.
Missing a ‘brother’
His companions were not so lucky. Killed in the ambush were Archival, Candido Miñoza and driver Alejandro Jayme.
Cortes, a father of four, can no longer move his left arm or flex his elbow.
“Pasalamat ta sa Ginoo, sa akong guardian angel, naka-survive ta. Nindot ta kon ang tanan naka-survive (I thank God and my guardian angel that I survived the incident. It would have been better if we all survived),” he said. “Pero kon diha ra ka, anha lang ka kutob (But if that’s your destiny, you can’t do anything).”
Cortes, who will turn 55 on Friday, said he misses Archival and the two other victims.
He thought of Archival as a brother, not just an employer and friend.
“Maayo tong tawo (He was a good man). Naa kay gamayng problema, mosulti ka niya motabang to (He would help you when you had a problem),” said Cortes.
Archival’s family will offer a mass today to commemorate the first anniversary of the fatal incident.
Call for surrender
Cortes urged the three former Highway Patrol Group 7 members--Senior Supt. Senior Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, Senior Insp. Joselito Lerion and PO1 Alex Bacani--to surrender and face trial.
The officers are facing multiple murder and frustrated murder cases, which were formerly handled by Argao Regional Trial Court Judge Maximo Perez, but he inhibited himself.
Cortes’s lawyer Rameses Villagonzalo said they are still waiting for the Supreme Court to appoint a new judge.
“Kon dili sila guilty, moatubang sa sila sa korte (They should face trial in court if they are not guilty),” Cortes said.
Right before the ambush, Cortes said they were talking about lunch. They planned to eat in Archival’s favorite restaurant in Argao. The group had just come from Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental where Archival had a court appearance.
“I told Jayme to drive fast because we were already hungry,” said Cortes in Cebuano.
He later noticed a red car in front of their vehicle.
Cortes sat beside Archival in the back, behind Jayme.
Archival was on the phone, when armed men inside a gray pick-up truck fired at them.
Cortes got hit in his left elbow and fell on Archival’s feet.
“I did not breathe for about 40 to 50 seconds,” he said in Cebuano. “I also wiped myself with blood.”
He then heard Jayme moan. “Kumusta ka diha (How are you)?” Cortes asked him. “’Buhi lagi ta (We will live).” Then all was quiet.