Anchored on Principles

“LIGTAS SA KARAHASAN Jemimah G. Crismo, 13 yrs old 15” x 20”, oil pastel on board

Meet Rigor, born and raised in Bicol. His grandfather is a lawyer. His father is a lawyer. They are a clan of lawyers. His mother always says that it’s about time that they put an end to their clan’s practice of fighting for the rights of the poor pro bono. Rigor has met and known all kinds of people: politicians,actors, workers… all sorts of people coming from all sectors of society.

Because of the people surrounding him, his eyes were gradually opened to the true colors of people, the true colors of the world. True, his predecessors were always associated with human rights issues. But, his own knowledge about such things seemed lacking.

He couldn’t help but be involved in the human rights movement. If you look closely at its advocates, you will see that most of them are workers looking for justice after suffering from abusive elements of the rich and bourgeoisie. They are workers looking for something to lean on and energize them during those times when the movement seems devoid of hope. In them, Rigor found a friend, a family that he considers his own.

But in any struggle, it is difficult if not impossible to prevent violence and crimes from taking place. Fabricated cases hound the workers. Times like these, Rigor’s “family” needs him most. He did all he can to make things right , to fight for the rights of others. In the process, he had to face powerful adversaries in court people who were highly influential.

One day, Rigor was on his way home from a hearing when armed men suddenly blocked his way. He was forcibly dragged into a car with no plate number. The driver immediately revved its motor to take Rigor to their safehouse as quickly as possible. Rigor was blindfolded before he was made to get off from the car. He was taken to a room where the only sounds he could hear were the armed men saying things like, ” I don’t think this one will still be alive by the time the sun rises.”

Rigor felt himself start to sweat as he focused on staying alert, trying to get a feel of his surroundings. Understandably worried, he prayed that he be given just one slim opportunity to escape. He would have no second thoughts about grabbing it.

Everything was quiet for a few minutes. It turned out the silence was a portent of Rigor’s calvary. His captors made him a human ashtray, putting out their cigarettes onto different parts of his body. They crushed his fingers with bullets, submerged his head in a drum full of water repeatedly, and electrocuted him. They did these over and over, that he felt his body was about to give up. The questions and curses hurled at him began to sound like faraway echoes in his ears.

Nobody had to tell him who was behind his abduction and torture. He already knew who to blame should he die in the hands of his captors. But he told himself that he wouldn’t let that happen. He knew that outside this torture chamber, he had a family who must be looking for him, and he needed to go back to them. He thought there were still many workers who needed his help, and he needed to go back to them too.

There was a short span of silence. Rigor’s captors had taken a break from torturing him. He rested his tired, beaten body. Then silently, painfully, he worked to break free from the ropes  that bound his wrist together. As he felt the ropes came loose, his blindfold came off next, and he saw that his captors were oblivious to what he was doing. They probably thought that he was almost dead anyway, so he must be too exhausted to move. He almost was, but he forced himself to make a run for it. Luckily, there was a nipa hut nearby and he was able to ask for help from the people who lived there. They were able to contact the authorities and miraculously Rigor was able to go home safely.

Rigor is such a cool guy. He even manages to laugh when he narrates his harrowing experience. The question is, how many more Rigors need to suffer at the hands of their captors before the long-awaited and long-overdue justice for all is finally served?

Edson Estojero

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