You may want to read CHAPTER 9 first.
Lt. Antonio was standing before a court martial. There were only 13 people in the room. The 11 were high ranking officials, while the two were guards.
This was an event that the government wanted to conceal from the media.
” After careful deliberations, this General Court-Martial unanimously declares and hereby adjudges the accused – Lt. Rodolfo G. Antonio Jr. – guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charge covered by Article of War of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. This General Court-Martial hereby imposes the following sentence upon the accused -Lt. Rodolfo Antonio Jr. – to be discharged from the military.”
Maj. Gen. Henry Gorospe, president of the 11-member military tribunal, folded the crisp paper and handed it to the Judge Advocate.
Lt. Antonio’s face was expressionless. There was a dreamy, peaceful look in his eyes.
Benny learned about this news through the underground’s grapevine. His escape and Lt. Antonio’s case had never found their way to the media’s headlines. Lots of people still believed that Benny was still in the hands of the military. This the government conveniently kept silent about – not denying nor confirming.
Benny wanted to rescue Lt. Antonio but he knew it was safer for him not to keep in touch. Carting him off to the mountains would not be a good idea also, because it would be extremely difficult for Lt. Antonio, as he had grown up in the city.
Benny had a fitful sleep that night, thinking of how he could help Lt. Anotnio. In the morning, he sent a letter through a courier expressing his heartfelt gratitude for all the things he had done for him and that if he so desired to join him in the mountains, he would gladly fetch him – no matter.
Lt. Anontio’s reply was brief. ” I’m just one person Ka Benny, don’t worry about me. I have other plans. Continue pursuing your dreams for your people.”
Benny however had doubts about the path that he was pursuing now.
The NPA’s leadership was slowly corroding because of misunderstandings between their own beliefs. The ideals and principles Benny once fought for were taking in a different, darker shade.
There were atrocities and senseless killings now done by the rebels themselves – not in Benny’s unit- but by rebels nevertheless and the higher ranking leaders opt not to notice them – just to maintain their rank and file.
More and more undisciplined rebels, turned violent at the mere hint of hesitation by the people to give “tax” (in kind or in cash), to support the rebels’ cause.
They started requesting foreign military aid too which Benny did not approve. This was an internal problem and asking for foreign intervention would endanger the country from opposing forces of powerful nations – the extreme right and the extreme left.
This made Benny started doubting the path that they were treading on. Was this the path to equality, freedom and justice that he so valiantly fought for from the start?
In his hearts of hearts , he knew the course they were following now was definitely not his dreams for his people.
There had been a peaceful call from the government for rebels to lay down their arms and return to the folds of society without any danger of prosecution. This was called the “General Amnesty”. “Surrender or Die” -the message of the government was loud and clear.
” What’s bothering you?” Julia caressed his nape.
Julia could still take his breath away, Benny thought, “It’s nothing” he replied, taking hold of her hands and holding them tight to his chest.
“I’ve got good news for you,” Julia said.
” Let’s hear this good news,” he tried to sound exultant.
“I’m pregnant, ” she intoned happily.
The world seemed to come to a standstill as the unexpected news slowly sinked into Benny’s consciousness. The extreme joy of the moment took his breath away and tears began to well up in his eyes. He had to inhale heavily to suck in air. He gave a long, loud whoop and carried Julia in his sinewy arms. He lifted her high up in the air and buried his face in her soft thighs. He was jubilant and overjoyed beyond words.
They were both laughing and caught up in the unadulterated happiness that they alone understood. Ina and Ama would be happy too, Benny thought.
Photo by fauxto_digit
The following week, Benny received a letter from Fr. Belucci through one of their couriers.
My Dear Benny,
It is more peaceful now that Martial Law has finally stabilized. You’ve been doing a good job looking after your own people. The peace pact has been unbroken even after Julia’s father had passed away.
The peace pact that he established together with the other tribal elders is still respected by all tribes.
The government has also ceased pushing through with the dam project altogether, because of your bold stand. In fact, Major Abunda had been relieved from his post.
There’s no longer any need to stay in the mountains. Take advantage of this peace offering and come down. This way, you could help your people more.
I heard Julia is heavy with child. Your Ama, Ina and mother in law plead with you to come down. Do this because of your child.
God bless you my son,
(TO BE CONTINUED)