By Herbert Vego
TODAY marks the 36th anniversary of the assassination of the late Evelio B. Javier, a former governor of Antique. What happened on February 11, 1986 has been permanently etched in history books as a prelude to the People Power revolution a few days later on February 22-25, 1986 that led to the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos and the rise of President Cory Aquino.
In that period in history, I was editor-in-chief of a local newsweekly and had just been appointed stringer of Reuters, a British news agency, for Panay Island. A regular Reuters reporter, Casiano Mayor, had recommended me to his British boss. They were on nationwide snooping for hot stories related to the February 7 “snap election,” where President Ferdinand Marcos appeared to have beaten widowed housewife Corazon C. Aquino as a result of “dagdag-bawas” cheating.
On the day Evelio Javier died — February 11, 1986 — I played a role which must have contributed to the build-up of a historical record. It remains vivid in my memory.
At about 11:00 a.m. of that day, I was mulling what to write about for Reuters when the telephone rang. On the line was a Reuters deskman in Manila.
“Have you heard the news?” the deskman asked. “You must go out now and cover it.”
Although I had no idea what it was all about, I snapped, “Yes, Sir!”
As I put down the phone, it rang again. Calling was Imelda Griengo, an employee of a printing press.
“Have you heard the news? Evelio Javier was shot dead,” she hollered, crying.
Now realizing I really had an urgent job to do but was running out of time, I turned on the office radio. I was toying with the idea of “borrowing” the radio report. But even the local radio stations could not beam first-hand information yet.
I heard the anchorman of DyRP-Radyo Trompa (now defunct) paging its mobile unit to rush to the scene of the crime in San Jose, Antique.
I decided to join its reporters and arrived just in time at the radio station’s compound to catch up with its service vehicle.
Two hours later, we were inside the bullet-riddled comfort room of a business establishment where Evelio Javier had been shot in cold blood. His body, no longer on the blood-drenched floor, had already been taken to the provincial hospital’s morgue for autopsy.
We proceeded to the morgue and took pictures of the lifeless Evelio lying on a morgue table. I joined the foreign correspondents, who had come on private jet, in interviewing eyewitnesses,
Back to Iloilo before 5:00, I typed my report fast and dictated it to a clerk at Reuters’ Manila office by telephone. It was the fastest way to transmit a story from Iloilo to Manila in those days when fax machines and cellular phones had yet to be invented.
After taking my dictation, a Reuters clerk appeased me not to worry about sending my roll of film on the last flight because she had already bought a photograph from a foreign photographer.
I woke up the following day in time to see the Metro Manila newspapers being spread out on Iloilo sidewalks. Some of them carried my story — alongside a common photograph of the lifeless Evelio — which began with three quoted words, “Run, Evelio, run!”
Those were the unforgettable words of an eyewitness who had desperately wanted to save Javier from hooded men who were chasing him at the capitol plaza. While I could not retell my published story in its entirety, it chronicled the attempt of Javier to dodge the bullets while running to the comfort room of the nearest building about 50 meters away. The CR’s tin door, unfortunately, proved to be no match to the bullets of the assailants’ Armalite rifles.
I would eventually learn from Reuters’ Manila office that my story had also graced the front pages of newspapers abroad.
The Javier murder on February 11, 1986 – attributed to the military — was one of the major crimes that eventually led to the four-day People Power revolution that drove away the dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos, to Hawaii on February 25, 1986 and ushered in the revolutionary government of President Corazon C. Aquino.
Six years later, on June 3, 1992, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 7601, declaring February 11 as the “Evelio Javier Day,” a special non-working public holiday in the Panay provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, and Iloilo.
SHARE BLOOD, EXTEND A LIFE
INTERESTED in extending somebody else’s life?
If so, then you are invited to join a blood-letting activity on February 15, 2022 (starting at 8:00 a.m.) at MORE Power’s General Luna Building on General Luna St, Iloilo City.
This is a joint project of MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) and the Philippine Red Cross, Iloilo Chapter.
Qualified donors will be required to bring a ball pen, an ID, vaccination card, face mask and Red Cross card if available. For further information, please call the landline number 330-6673. Blood-letting is just one of the activities being lined up to celebrate the third anniversary of MORE Power as the exclusive power-distribution utility in Iloilo City.
One recalls that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act 11212 on February 14, 2019. It’s a franchise law granting MORE Power the authority to empower the city for 25 years.
More on MORE’s third anniversary later.