[2ND UPDATE]BAYBAY CITY, Leyte – It was August 13, Sunday evening, nine o’clock.
Three friends—two Visayas State University (VSU) students and one alumnus—were making their way back to VSU campus from Barangay Pangasugan. A barangay adjacent to the university. Mr. Noel Collano and Mr. Ricar Maglines, occupants of Mabolo Men’s Home, were helping Mr. Reggie Monta move into his new place in Pangasugan.
As they walked through a dark part of the highway, a rider in a yellow motorcycle asked them to halt. Moments after, a group of individuals arrived—among them was Pangasugan’s Barangay Chairman, Mr. Dexter Magan.
Suddenly, Magan approached them, and no questions asked, hit Monta in the face and abdomen. Collano, confused, approached another barangay official and pleaded. But, like Monta, the captain struck him.
According to the victims, about 15 people were around during the assault, but none of them intervened to stop the commotion.
Collano, Maglines, and Monta did not understand why they were being clobbered by the barangay officials, they accounted. Only after such “swift justice” was dispensed, when they were brought to a waiting shed in Pangasugan, instead of the Barangay Hall, did they understand why:
They were accused of breaking the busted streetlights at the dark part of the highway where they were sighted.
“The whole time, I was crying hard. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I wanted to run but I can’t,” said Collana.
They were then forced to sign a blotter document, without the presence of a guardian or a legal adviser, for allegedly destroying public property.
Half an hour later, Magan and another official dropped them off to Mabolo Men’s Home.
“We were afraid of talking about the incident because it really traumatized us,” said Collano.
“They’re accusing the wrong person. It wasn’t us!”
Mr. Derek Alviola, victims’ dorm adviser, lodged a blotter complaint to the Baybay City Police following the incident, but was told by the desk officer that a medico legal report has to be submitted first before the complaint be entertained. Another injured person later arrived in the police station, claiming, Mr. Magan and company have also beaten him.
The morning after, Mr. Magan along with his Peace Officer, visited the victims and begged to be pardoned from the previous incident. He cried and offered to kneel just to settle the issue. But the students insisted to have none of it.
“We want justice,” said Collano.
“I’m even afraid to look at his face,” he added. Since the incident, he has experienced regular palpitations at night. He said the event has already affected his studies.
The victims has since been tendered by the University Students Services Office (USSO) for psycho-social support after the traumatic incident.
“Naguol ko para sa ako anak,” [I worry for my child] said Collano’s mother, Rosanna Collano who immediately rushed to VSU, to her son’s aid upon hearing the incident.
“Ang ako lang ba, ngano wala to gipaagi sa sakto,” she continued “unta gidala sila sa Brgy. Hall ug gipa-explain. Isip opisyales, dapat kabalo sila unsa dapat angay buhaton.”
[I just don’t understand why they couldn’t handle the situation properly. They should’ve brought them to the barangay hall and made them explain. They are officials, they should know how they’re supposed to handle the situation.]
Mrs. Callano expressed her desire for justice and said that she will be taking legal action against the involved officials. The victims are lodging a complaint to the local DILG Office, the Office of the City Mayor of Baybay and the Office of the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
The primary suspects who allegedly destroyed the streetlights have since been apprehended, a day after the assault.
Magan has not responded to Amaranth’s repeated requests for comment.
Disclosure: Mr. Alviola is an adviser of the Amaranth, but has recused himself in Amaranth’s coverage, investigation, and publication of this story.