|Left: Punong Barangay Mercy Sueno, Right: Sympathizers calling for justice|
Elmer Labiano, the eyewitness, had been suffering from trauma since the massacre, Punong Barangay Mercy Sueno narrated in an interview by BICOL STANDARD.
He succumbed to death on the way home from the office of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila.
Sueno said that Labiano had been suffering tremendously after the massacre. “He told us that he couldn’t sleep; even at night he would be haunted by the gunshots and the blood-drenched bodies. He could neither eat nor work well,” she related.
Now seven months after the massacre, she still could not stop herself from shaking when she talks about the incident.
She finally broke down in tears as she recalled the struggles that Labiano faced before he perished.
“He was repeatedly rushed to the hospital to calm his nerves when the symptoms became too severe. But he insisted that his conscience wouldn't let him be until he accomplished what he needed to do: to sign the affidavit revealing what he saw during the massacre,” she said.
Sueno also mentioned that the DOJ had offered to help Labiano undergo medical treatment for his trauma, but the witness refused.
“He said that he knew his condition was getting worse, and that he was about to die, but he was fulfilled knowing that he was able to sign the affidavit,” she said.
“Elmer wasn't only a neighbor or a friend to the victims. He was a blood relative. That is why he was in so much pain over the murder,” the village chief explained.
The punong barangay also confirmed the reports that there were people who were trying to offer huge amounts of money in exchange for the silence of the eyewitnesses.
While she would not reveal the exact amounts, she said that they were substantial sums.
“But they [the eyewitnesses] would never take the money. Even if we are from a poor community, we know in our hearts that justice can never be bought, not by any amount,” she insisted.
To travel to Manila, Sueno and the witnesses had to go around begging people to spare some cash for their fare.
“Many were willing to give their share because they understood that we were fighting the good fight,” she said.
Despite the immense struggle, Sueno recognizes that their experience has taught them significant lessons.
“Sa likod kan kadikloman, igwa nin liwanag, (Behind darkness, there is light),” she declared.
She also said that the experience proved to her the existence of a government that is willing to help.
“With Elmer’s death, we have lost not only four, but five lives to that massacre. In my twenty years as barangay captain, I have never imagined this horror to be possible,” Sueno shared.
But, she said, she draws inspiration from the courage and resolve of people like Elmer, the families and friends of the victims, and all those who are helping them seek justice.
“We will not lose hope,” she said. “We make sure that justice is served.”—BICOLSTANDARD.PH
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