By Omar Bantayan
I don’t care who killed him! I am just glad that in one way or another, the universe rendered us some form of justice.
As a kid, the mere mention of his name would send shivers down my spine. He was a symbol of how dangerous the times we have lived then. I was ten years old when my father died a violent death. Jun Pala brazenly hinted that he was “in the know” and was an active participant in the murder of my father, Ka Oca, who was then a labor leader of Kilusang Mayo Uno – KMU and the National Federation of Labor.
A couple of hours before my father was ambushed on October 10, 1988, Pala played my father’s favorite song over the radio. Pala then bragged that it was his way of saying goodbye and threw notions into the air that he knew something bad will happen before it happened.
During my father’s wake, Pala threatened workers, unions and progressive organizations that his Ex-Cathedra Venganza and Alsa Masa will do something violent at the funeral parlor where my father’s remains were lying in repose.
Culturally, Filipinos would avoid saying anything to malign someone who just died. But Pala, vile to the bones, went on full blast, attacked my father’s person and justified my father’s death. My uncle, Jing Bantayan, whose voice resembles that of my father’s, called Pala on the phone and pretended that he was Oca to scare Pala off, a ploy which worked for a couple of days.
Some years later, unwittingly, I followed Ka Oca’s footsteps. I became KMU’s regional leader and just like what happened to my papa, Pala wasted air time to malign, red-bait and accuse me of being a communist — making me and others fair game. My mama, who had to endure all the trauma when she lost her husband, asked me why am I making her go through all of the terror again by taking on a job that my father used to hold.
Pala was a crook who hid behind the microphone. Pala was a criminal who used his media ID to extort local businesses. Pala incited violence pretending that he was in pursuit of the truth. As a kid, Pala to me was evil incarnate. As a labor activist, he was a reminder that my daughter, just like me, could lose her father too.
EJKs, salvagings, however, you would call these dastardly acts could not be justified — there is just no way to do it. But, frankly, when radio frequencies all over Davao first reported his death, I felt like Davao became a tad safer. To say that I was happy that morning would be a big understatement.
Life is precious but Pala was a scum of the earth and I would be a hypocrite if I would say I felt bad about the death of someone who laughed at my father’s grave. So, do I know who killed him? NO! But, whoever you may be, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart.
About the author: Omar Bantayan is the former Vice President for Southern Mindanao of Kilusang Mayo Uno. He is now a union organizer in the United States.