NATURE OF CASE: Murder/Assassination
VICTIM: Evelio Javier, 44
INJURY DESCRIPTION: Two bullets to the torso
INJURY EXTENT: Fatal
DATE/TIME/PLACE OF OCCURRENCE: San Jose, Antique / 10:00 AM / February 11, 1986
SUSPECTS: Arturo Pacificador and supporters
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The man was dead.
There was no question about it, the way he lay at the center of the frame – his right arm extended perpendicular to the body and bent at an almost 90° angle, head lolling to the side, shirt crumpled and dirtied. The man was dead.
He had been shot: two bullets to the torso – two monochromatic points dutifully labelled 1 and 2. Bullet hole 1 (right intercostal 5th mid-clavicular line) was black and bullet hole 2 (middle epigastric region) was white as if the man’s chest had been a multiple choice test and someone had shaded the former as an answer to a question.
The lifeless body lay upon a Philippine flag. Below, a disembodied hand rose from the shadows, the index finger and thumb feebly forming an L. The pale hand touched the bottom corner of the flag and pointed upward toward thin horizontal lines and a dim, dirty full moon.
Who was this man’s killer? Small slanted glass windows hung beneath the victim as if to offer an answer. But a closer inspection revealed only the hazy silhouettes of two faces, one too close to the glass to be distinguishable and the other wearing a cap and a pair of shades. Beside the nondescript windows stood a humble four-walled structure with corrugated roofing.
Darkness surrounded the man, shrouding the murder weapons which emerged as little more than shadows from the lower left corner. Rising from the edge were at least three guns pointing diagonally towards the victim. The largest assault rifle, however, hovered above the victim’s side, its barrel jutting out as a distinct shadow over the man’s white shirt to get a clear shot of something else entirely: the eight-rayed golden sun of the Philippine flag. The hand that carried it was just visible, but the arm that it belonged to and the eyes that pointed the gun to its straight-line target fell beyond the frame, its absence as palpable as the body of the dead.
The man was Evelio Javier. Evelio Javier: Atenean. Lawyer. Harvard graduate. Antique’s youngest governor. Campaign director for the Unido-Laban Party. Bright, brilliant, promising, brimming with potential, well-liked by all.
Also Evelio Javier: An advocate of good governance. An opponent of the dictatorship. Attacked by masked men on February 11, 1986 on the steps fronting the provincial capitol building in broad daylight. Dead at 43, his death sentence pronounced by twenty-four (some say twenty-six) bullets to the body.
All these were gleaned from witnesses’ accounts.
He was “too much the optimist” said his friends.
“Run, Evelio, run!” His companions had screamed at him when they saw the gunmen emerge from the white van.
The chase, they said, had ended in a public comfort room where Evelio thought he would seek respite. But in a spray of bullets he was gone.
”Evelio is not lifeless!” a Jesuit priest had exclaimed.
The framed image proclaimed otherwise. The eye that was turned towards the glass was shut, the lips slightly parted as if it had just drawn in one final breath. But the main mystery that surrounded this man’s murder lay neither in the circumstances of his death nor the identity of his killers, but in the number of bullet holes etched on his torso. Bullet hole 1 and bullet hole 2. Two of the twenty-four shots fired – but where were the others? And more than the absence of the other twenty-two, how could the wounds, both non-fatal, kill him?
Was this crime scene to be taken seriously? Had it been tampered with? Did it present an accurate picture of actual events? If so, where were the blood, the tears, and the vengeful cries? The witnesses had their own side to the story and I, late to the scene, had only this image to go on: the man’s body, the weapons and its shrouded gunmen, and the two bullet holes.
Bullet hole 1 and bullet hole 2. Two points determine a line. But a line is made of an endless number of points. An endless number of options and outcomes for a man, who, when it came down to it, realized he had only to choose between two.
He was too much the optimist.
Run, Evelio, run!
Or was it meant to be a study in movement? A map of the man’s short sprint to his grisly end, from the capitol steps to the public outhouse. Was it more symbolic: the movement from bondage to freedom – the historic shift of an entire nation imprinted on a dead man’s chest? For in that case, he is forever changed; despite his appearance (right arm extended lifelessly, head lolling to the side, shirt crumpled) the man, even in death, is a man of action. The lurid details of his murder fall away into the peripheries as vulgar shadows and unsolved mysteries; they are inconsequential now. He alone remains clear and visible, never to be forgotten.