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Hit and Run
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 
Driving under the influence, Cagayan de Oro councilor Alden Bacal bumped 14-year-old Junrie Balingit in barangay Carmen in July 2008. Bacal left the scene of the accident and went to vice-mayor Vicente Y. Emano, apparently seeking protection. The boy died.

Apparently, Bacal was concerned that the family of the victim would retaliate. There was that possibility, but it doesn’t happen always. Not everyone in the Philippines are muggers. I was a passenger of two vehicles that figured in collisions, and in both cases, the driver stopped but the witnesses didn’t subject us to harm.

The first incident occurred when I was still information officer of the Department of Trade and Industry of Region 10. I was with my boss Liza Alcantar and Kenneth Haguisan. We were on a highway in Bacolod, Lanao del Norte when we saw two men tottering in the middle of the road, about 100 meters away.

One looked towards our approaching car. They stopped. But when we were near they suddenly walked right in our path. Our driver hit the brake, the car slowed down, but the two were bumped nevertheless, and fell on the road, right in front of thel vehicle.

Kenneth told the driver to stay put while he and I went out. I took a camera and clicked several times while people nearby ran towards us. Kenneth said, without hesitation, and while the crowd was getting thicker around us, that we should bring the men to the nearest hospital. And we did.

One was sober but the other smelled of alcohol and was unmistakably drunk. About an hour later at the emergency room, he woke up with a confused expression. He called his friend and asked: "Bai, kinsa may nagkulata sa ako nga wa man koy sala?” (Pal, why did someone beat me up when I did nothing wrong?")

***

The second incident happened when I served as guide to a video team from Manila. A motorela stopped in the distance, an elderly woman came out and suddenly ran across the highway while his younger companion tried to pull her back. It was too late for our hired driver to stop his car. The impact was much stronger this time.

We brought the victim to a hospital. The team leader, an Italian, and the driver proceeded to a police station to report the matter, while I volunteered to stay in the emergency room as “collateral”.

I saw the woman slumped on a bed. She was breathing deeply, her body heaving like a machine, disparately fighting for oxygen. The nurse beside her said: “Manang, kung makadungog ka sa ako, mag ampo ta.” (Lady, if you can hear me, pray with me.)

Another lady joined and they prayed, reading from a booklet. They asked for the forgiveness of sins. I sensed that that this event had occurred many times. The workers in that room knew exactly what to do when a person was about to die.

A few minutes later, the woman was still. Her relatives came, made a quiet look at her and me. Expecting the worst, I had removed my glasses to protect my eyes in case I would get direct hits to the face. But it didn’t happen.

***

The case of councilor Bacal made headlines in the local papers. But there is a less dramatic incident in the city that involves the life and death of the poor.

In October 2007, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that the former City Hall administration overpriced medicine purchases in millions of pesos. COA said City Hall bought antacids at P671 per bottle when these were supposedly P52; also Cefuroxine at P648 instead of P170, Nifedipine at P4.5 instead of P1.20 and Amoxicillin Trihydrate at P24 per 500mg capsule instead of P7.

The overpriced medicines were brought from one supplier without public bidding, and classified “erroneously” as office supplies.

If this is not a hit-and-run, what is it?

 
A week after the incident, councilor Bacal, vice-mayor Emano and the Balingit family settled the case amicably. As of January 31, 2012, Bacal is head of the committee on utilities in the city council.| This article is a revision of one printed in Mindanao Goldstar Daily, July 2008. Revised further on January 31, 2012 7:11 AM . Copyright © Elson T. Elizaga.