[Note: Read the complete story in the book "You Filibini?" Stories and Other Writings by Amador F. Brioso, Jr., published May 2010]
Friday, August 1, 2008
[Note: Read the complete story in the book "You Filibini?" Stories and Other Writings by Amador F. Brioso, Jr., published May 2010]
HERE’S YOUR copy, attorney.”
Boyser grabbed the papers, his hand brushing softly against hers. “You got nice skin. Any spare time for a date?” he naughtily asked.
Susan, Susan. You’re so snazzy and soigne. A rare predatory jungle creature ready to leap at anyone at a slight provocation. Ready to devour with avidity your prey in one swallow.
“Keep your mouth shut, attorney. I’m in no mood this very minute,” she snapped impregnably, flinging Boyser with a murderous stare.
A snippy gal, a certified swellhead. That’s what I like about you. Judge Nonato’s pride. The dapper double-dome from the State U. A stickler to law, impervious to any form of corruption. No wonder pettifogging practitioners curse you no end. You’re a scourge to them, a major stumbling block to their schemes. I have seen you blow a fuse one time at a pesky lawyer who had treated roughly your office underlings over a trivial matter. That scene’s still fresh on my mind. And how I really pity Judge Nonato’s personnel who hardly relish working in an atmosphere where you’re at the helm. Blathering is a total taboo in the office. Work is work. Truancy is meted out with a severe tongue-lashing, of course, courtesy of your brawny mouth. Your Highness, Lady Sourpuss.
But you can never lay your hands on me. I am untouchable. I hold Judge Nonato by his scruffy neck.
Boyser steeled himself and held her valiant gaze. “Thank you for my copy,” he said, his voice tinged with sarcasm. He walked off, conscious of her piercing eyes. He raised the papers, now rolled, in his hand and gestured to the court sheriff seated behind a small desk that stood on a corner, to indicate that he was leaving. “Thanks,” he said to him as he held the door wide open. Out of the staffroom, he sauntered along the corridor, which was now cold and empty. He felt for his wristwatch, its metal contours making him proud of being its owner. A few minutes of glancing at it made him realize that it had taken Judge Nonato almost the whole day to prepare and finalize the five-page court decision now in his possession. He stopped under the glare of the fluorescent light above him and unrolled the papers, his eyes scanning their contents:
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
Regional Trial Court
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
-versus- Criminal Case No. 1121
ANICETOO R. ROQUE,
(Detained c/o Antipolo
Municipal Jail, Antipolo,Rizal)
D E C I S I O N
The accused, Aniceto Roque, stands charged with the crime of robbery with serious physical injuries committed according to the information as follows:
"That on or about the 14th day of May, 1994, in the Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, Philippines, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a bladed weapon, with intent of gain, by means of force, violence and intimidation, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and rob from one Rica S. Valdez her personal property, to wit:
One (1) Rolex wristwatch
all with the value of P3,500.00, belonging to said Rica S. Valdez to the damage and prejudice of the latter in the afore-mentioned amount of P3,500.00, Philippine Currency;
"That on the occasion of the said robbery and in pursuance thereof, the said accused, did, then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab said Rica S. Valdez, thereby inflicting upon the latter physical injuries which required medical attention for a period of more than thirty (30) days and incapacitated the said Rica S. Valdez from performing customary labor for the same period of time."
When this case was called for arraignment this morning, the accused, duly assisted by counsel de parte, Atty. Ricaredo Boyser, manifested to the Court that he was willing to enter a plea of guilty to the information afore-quoted provided that the charge against him would be changed from robbery with serious physical injuries to simple theft.
When asked, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Esther Yuhilok informed the Court that she has no objection that the accused be allowed to plead guilty to the lesser offense of simple theft. However, she manifested that there was no necessity of amending the information considering that the crime of simple theft was necessarily included in the crime of robbery with serious physical injuries charged in this case.
The State, through the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, having expressed conformity to the manifestation of the accused, the Court accordingly arraigned the accused in Tagalog, a language known to him, for simple theft, and thereafter, entered a plea of guilty thereto.
After making the afore-said plea, the Court, through the Branch Clerk of Court, Atty. Susan Hornicio, inquired from the accused whether he understood the nature of the charge against him and that by entering a plea of guilty thereto, the Court will impose upon him the penalty prescribed by law. The accused, in answer to the query, manifested to the Court that he fully understood the nature of the charge against him and his plea of guilty was voluntarily made.
As provided for in Article 308 in relation to paragraph three of Article 309 of the Revised Penal Code, the crime of theft when the value of the article stolen is over P200.00 but does not exceed P6,000.00, the same is punishable by a penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.
WHEREFORE, upon a voluntary plea of guilty, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of simple theft and hereby sentences him, pursuant to the afore-cited law and in conjunction with the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from four (4) months and twenty-one (21) days to six (6) months and one (1) day; to pay the complainant Rica S. Valdez the sum of PESOS: THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED (P3,500.00) as and by way of reparation of the damage caused her, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; and to pay the costs.
Considering that the accused is a detention prisoner, in the service of his sentence, he shall be credited with the full benefits of the preventive imprisonment undergone by him pursuant to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 6127, if he agrees voluntarily in writing to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners.
15 December 1994.
(Sgd.) EXEQUIEL J. NONATO
Roque. That Dude. He should be grateful I handled his case. Without my forensic acumen, he certainly would have landed in jail anew. But the dirt-bag would not have to spend any single minute in jail anymore. I was able to work out a deal with the Judge, the prosecutor and the private complainant. Thanks to my uncommon lawyerly skills. Roque’s now scot-free. The felony was changed, the imposable penalty lowered. So that the period of his detention during the pendency of his trial far exceeded his sentence. No lawyer in this side of the archipelago could have possibly accomplished such a rare feat. Never. Nobody’s gifted as I am. ABSOLUTELY NO ONE. I can deliver with ease any argument espousing my client’s cause so convincing that even the judge could hardly utter any word whatsoever. Some have tried to disagree with me but they regretted it. They sure did.
Like what I did this morning. I harangued for almost an hour to the delight of the mesmerized courtroom assembly and drove home the reason why Roque should be allowed to cop a plea to a lesser crime. The public prosecutor’s protestations were reduced to a mere whimper. I peppered her with every conceivable assault I could lay on without any letup. She found herself voiceless, flushed with embarrassment, unable to extricate herself from a web of incoherence. She stammered and halted in her speech. Her mythical lawyerly derring-do was shamelessly demythologized. She was pathetic. Served her right. I wonder how she got her position. Connections, of course. But this morning’s encounter gave her the lesson of not crossing paths with me. I thought I saw the private complainant squawking, cursing her for her incompetence right after the session.
Nor could Judge Nonato deny my verbal motion.
The old man’s at my beck and call. He’s on my payroll list. Attaboy, Judge.
Of course, Roque will still have to pay the complainant the value of the wristwatch as reparation. But that’s his problem now. No need to concern myself with that. The poor guy was insisting that he was innocent. He claimed he was framed by his gangmates. He had sworn that the wristwatch in his possession was his and different from the one owned by the complainant. He gotta be kidding. I’m no sucker. Nobody’s gonna con me. He said he would be leaving. He said he would go to Samar, their province, to start a new life and leave this thing behind him. The guy even got mushy before he left the courtroom, saying he would treasure my lawyering for him. Iffy lip-service.
But he was lucky. I did not charge him with my usual attorney’s fees. What I got as payment was his offer to mop and polish my car. Were it not for Mayor Loreto Amay. Mayor’s a good provider of big clients. He controls Antipolo. He’s the goddamn owner of every gambling joint in the town. Amay said that Roque was a household intimate, a former servant. Could be that Roque was innocent. I trust every word of Amay. Wait till he gets hold of this court decision. He’ll certainly be mighty glad I freed his boy. He should be. And he ought to be ready with another client as my reward for my effort. I’ve wasted my whole day just for this case. My body’s completely beat to the ground. God, I need a rest.
Gotta get home. Tomorrow’s gonna be another tiring day.
There’s this slovenly building guard again. Geek. This fathead’s at it again, waiting for some spare cigarettes.
“Hey, attorney. Kinda late, huh?” The guard’s cracked lips broke into a wide grin. He was leaning against the door sill of the entrance door.
Boyser took out a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket. “Here, you can have it.” He tossed it to the begging palm of the guard.
The guard straightened his body, wiping his sweaty hands against his sides. “Oh, thank you, sir.” His eyes seemed to bulge out of their sockets. “Want to have one, sir?” he asked while his hands fumbled unwrapping the pack.
Boyser, ignoring the guard, brushed past him and stared out at the shrouding darkness outside the courthouse portals. He stretched out his neck, drawing heavy air to refill his nicotine-ravaged lungs.
I’m having difficulty breathing again. I must have consumed three packs today. This is what I like here. Cool Antipolo zephyr, pristine and uninjured.
“Your car’s the only one left here,” the guard said, his gaze leveled at the Nissan Altima parked in stodgy silence at the far side of the rough concrete space fronting the dilapidated courthouse.
“Where’s Judge’s car?” Boyser asked.
“His driver will fetch him and Atty. Hornicio later,” the guard said, his mouth puffing heavily.
Boyser’s feet trudged on the rough ground, his legs wobbly under the weight of his body. “Take care, attorney,” the guard’s trailing voice trekked inside his ears.
The door on the driver’s seat now wide open, Boyser climbed inside. He turned the ignition key and stepped on the accelerator pedal. The engine stirred and convulsed, emitting an irregular splutter. Boyser pressed the pedal continuously until the roar became harsh and steady. He adjusted the gearshift lever and began to slowly steer the Altima off the rough parking lot into the front street where curiously not a soul was in sight. The usual rackety street noise had taken off from this part of the road after the town authorities had ordered its temporary closure and commenced diggings the other day. The passenger jeepneys plying this route had sought temporary passage on subdivision roads. The closure would take at least two weeks before the road would be available to the motorists.
The car slowly rattled along the rough road.
This nasty engine’s continuing to spurt out abrupt reports. Somebody must have fiddled with the car while it was parked this afternoon. I’ll be in for a rough night if this thing’s gonna conk out in the middle of the street. Bastard. Somebody must have did me in while I was inside the courthouse. Gotta drive this thing real slow and smooth. Home’s still an hour’s drive from here.
Damn it. No! Something’s terribly wrong with this goddamn Altima. It’s beginning to peter out.
Bitch. I don’t know a thing about engines. How would I fix it?
Boyser turned off the ignition and pulled out the key, his clenched fist unconsciously hitting the steering wheel.
Out of the Altima, Boyser mounted the hood on the hood support and tried to make out something in his mind, his eyes inspecting the dead engine. He walked around to the rear and opened the trunk lid. Undecided, he stepped back to the front of the car.
What would I do next? Think. Damn, damn, damn. How could this possibly happen? I had a monthly check up on this car just a week ago. I was right. Somebody screwed up this goddamn Altima. Wait till I get my hands on that bozo. Shit. I should have stood in bed.
Boyser’s eyes swam inside the engine compartment where the radiator, the battery, the blower fan, the brake fluid reservoir, the intake muffler, the air filter and the cooling water pipe crowded one another. He shook his exhausted head in disgust and turned around, his eyes peering through the darkness that had now blanketed the street. Only the beams of the car’s headlights gave illumination to Boyser’s tired eyes. Hands on his hips, he stepped near the door on the driver’s seat.
Gotta call somebody. I need help here. I’m in trouble. Gotta call the house.
Boyser opened the door, his body bending inside the car to reach for his cellular phone.
Ouch! What’s this? Oh!
“Hey!” Boyser shouted, his hands instantly grabbing his painful nape. He tried to turn and step back but he was pushed inside. Two strong clenched fists from outside dropped violently again on his bruised scruff. “Please!” he pleaded. “Who are you? It’s painful! I’m hurt!” Boyser cried, his eyes nearly closed, his voice choking, shuddering in the cool night breeze. The balled fists pounded on the neck again, this time harder.
Oh, my God! It’s awfully painful! My neck! Oh, I’m spinning...around...
The man outside stepped forward. His muscled biceps hauled the unconscious Boyser out of the car and dropped the body on the rough asphalt road.
Ah...Ouch...That’s painful. Oh, I can’t move my neck. Where am I? It’s dark here. My neck. It hurts.
The sprawled body that had been lifeless for a quarter of an hour beside the Altima began to stir. Life was beginning to find its way in Boyser’s weak torso. Slowly, Boyser curled, his eyes squinting, rubbernecking. He groped for his neck. He stayed in that position for several minutes, then tried to rise up and rest on his haunches. He looked around, fearing his attacker might still be there. His heart throbbed intensely inside his ribs; beads of cold sweat crawled on his forehead. Certain that he was alone, he gradually stood up, his hands weakly stroking his neck. He hobbled forward to the open door on the driver’s seat. Seated inside, he lay an elbow across the steering wheel, his clammy forehead resting atop the elbow. He was breathing fiercely. He lifted his head.
Ah...Who could that be? A robber? Yeah, could be. This place’s a robber’s lair. I was so stupid. Hey, my wallet. Thank God, it’s still here. Where’s my case? My cellular phone? There they are. Funny, everything seems to be here. Nothing was taken. He’s goddamn crazy if he didn’t take any. Hey, where’s my...my wristwatch? My wristwatch, my Rolex wristwatch. It’s gone. That bastard took it. Shit. That bastard. I just got that watch this morning. It was given to me as payment for my services. For handling a robbery case. What the...No...Shit. Only one person knew I have that watch. No one would take interest in that watch more than my wallet, no one except...except...SHIT!
“ROQUE!” Boyser’s pained stentorian voice tore through the cold dark night. *
The sweet-scented apple of your eyes
Brings me dreams without any price.
And the scarlet color that adorns your lips
Fills me with wishes in rainbow blitz.
Your aura of charm floats and pirouettes
In the air with dusky and silvery silhouette.
A word or two marshal to a tune
And dance at night in rainless June.
With heavenly thoughts that sparkle and shine:
Someday somehow I know they will become mine.
Like your hair so luxuriant, so lithe, so lissome,
It cascades in winter to keep me warm.
There is endless magic in the way you smile,
To be cherished with care like glass so fragile.
With you with me I can cut through the universe,
With Mercury’s verse carrying poetic verse.
I need to touch, to feel your silky skin:
In my world of fantasy you are my queen.
I can let others chase the gliding butterfly,
But I can never let you pass me by.
In the company of the birds in the trees
I find solace and unrelenting bliss.
No, nothing can tear my feelings apart;
You have simply stolen and taken my heart.
There is truly something in you
Which the world cannot construe.
I must say this quite sincerely
For you have pierced me so completely:
To you I shall entrust my destiny,