Pope Francis sent out this tweet yesterday: “The road from love to hate is easy. The one from hate to love is more difficult, but brings peace.”
This papal message is apt given the many acts of senseless violence that have engulfed us. One particular case involves two groups of young people, drinking and hanging out with friends in a Quezon City bar that ended in the brutal and senseless killing of a 28-year-old OFW. Fritz Mohammed, Cyril Rada, Earl Grande, and a certain Jammil are the main suspects in the murder of seafarer Abigail Gino Basas.
I met Gino’s father, Agapito, a few minutes before his son’s casket was brought to Mass and then onward to the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park in Quezon City. ACTS OFW party-list representative John Bertiz, whose stepson was also beaten and shot to death several years ago by members of a frat gang, joined OFW advocate Luther Calderon and myself in paying our respects to Gino on the day he was buried. We saw Gino’s weeping friends and relatives; his father kept saying that he wanted to guard his son, be with his son, stay with him.
The father told us that Gino had just come home from a six-month contract aboard an Australian cruise ship where he worked as a photographer. His son was excited about the future, and absolutely loved his job. More than anything else, the young man was looking forward to helping his family more as an OFW.
One must understand that a seafarer, especially when hired by an international cruise ship, has a good chance of being promoted, especially when the customers provide favorable reviews. Gino was a likable kid, and an artistic one as well. He had a full career as a seafarer ahead of him.
But his killers didn’t know that. Fritz Mohammed only felt someone touch or perhaps even push his elbow, which was provocative enough for Fritz to call his gang so they could teach the “enemy” a lesson. The beating didn’t even last two minutes. I saw the video. Gino never stood a chance.
When people close to us die, it’s not just the body that we lay down to rest and cry our hearts for. It’s the absence of that special person in our lives, in our future. It’s the opportunity to love and be loved by that special person. In the case of the Basas family, Gino was their only son.
He had yet to start a family of his own. He will no longer be in family photos every Christmas hence, and in all special occasions. He won’t be walking down the aisle, or witnessing the birth of his firstborn. His parents won’t see him grow old as they grow older. He won’t be able to take care of them as they did of him when he was just a little boy. No more “selfies” as he sails the high seas.
People die all the time but not because their elbows touched someone else’s. If the Quezon City police fail to arrest these suspects, that arrogance and self-entitlement will grow like giant boulders crushing the little pebbles of conscience that they used to have.
People close to him say that Gino Basas was a good kid.
The bereaved family shared with OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac a memory about how Gino saved the life of a drowning boy. I am sure there are more anecdotes about Gino, from friends and family members who love him. The photos he took reveal a steady hand, an artistic, gentle eye. He may have been far from perfect, but there was much hope in him and about him.
Gino was out drinking that night. His father said that his son was in a celebratory mood after finishing a six-month contract with his manning agency. A friend of main suspect Fritz Mohammed, using a pseudonym, (“Charlie Jacob Manahan”) commented on the page of Pro Death Penalty Philippines that Gino intentionally elbowed “Pits”. “Si Gino ang nagpasimuno at kung di nya ginawa yun hindi sana sya nagkaroon ng pinaglagyan!” (“Gino initiated it first and had he not done so, he wouldn’t have ended up that way.”)
Whatever Gino did or said that night could never justify the taking of a life. In anger, just like in love, there are boundaries in the affliction of pain. For those men to gang up on a single guy because of a hurt ego and a grazed elbow, meant drawing on a sea of rage against someone they didn’t even know existed prior to that fatal encounter. That rage and sense of entitlement were already there – it was just Gino that helped unleash it. In other words, any one of us could have been “Gino”.
The families of Fritz Mohammed, Cyril Rada, Earl Grande, and a certain Jammil must know where their sons are. I appeal to them now, please cooperate with the police. Let justice take its course, because there will never be peace or joy in your lives otherwise.