He is Jason Brul, also known as Ka Butch. He was wounded in an encounter between Army soldiers and a group of communist rebels that he led in Barcelona, Sorsogon. He survived because he raised his arms to surrender after the 10-minute exchage of gunfires. This photo was taken during Christmas in 2010.
One year after I first met Ka Butch, I am reminded of the story of a man who almost died a few days before Christmas.
I am also beginning to ask a very difficult question: When will be the time that we can celebrate the most meaningful Christmas?
The adventures of Ka Butch
I was interested to know this man and learn his thoughts about the communist movement. His father (in white shirt) was not able to send him to school due to financial constraints.
He met a friend and tried their luck in Manila. Finding some odd jobs, he was unhappy.
Later, he found himself being recruited in the ranks of the rebel group where he met and married his wife.
From a community organizer, he rose to become the Secretary of Front Committee 79 which has jurisdiction of eastern part of Sorsogon. He assumed his post in the 3rd Quarter of 2010 when his superior died in an encounter with Army troops.
He almost met the same fate when he experienced that fierce firefight with government forces that fateful day in December 2010. He was thankful that the leader of the soldiers let him live.
"I thank him for giving me another lease of life. I appreciate them for respecting my basic rights," he said.
Inside the room was one of his two young children. He said that he didn't want his child become a communist rebel like him.
"I wanted him to finish school and earn a living peacefully," Brul said.
Through him, I was enlightened about the plight of our poor kababayans in the countryside. Without any chance of gaining employment, the lucrative income from the extortion activities was the effective way to lure them towards the Maoist rebel group.
This is also the reason that I realized that the communist insurgency could not be solved by pure combat operations.The poor people in the countryside must feel that they are being taken cared for by the government.
The local government must be the one that must take center stage in addressing the root causes of the conflict, supported by the military. (I am wondering why the soldiers are always blamed for not ending the communist insurgency)
I am saddened that some of our fellow Filipinos question the wisdom behind our CMO-heavy campaign strategy. Poverty and social injustice are among the main factors that fuel communist insurgency. The military does not have all the mechanisms that can address these aforementioned issues. Making war is not the appropriate solution to this problem.
My prayer for a true 'merry' Christmas
Christmas day is only hours away and I am reminded of the likes of Ka Butch who were made to believe that armed rebellion is the answer to their woes.
I am also reminded of my fellow soldiers who have continuously performed their mandates of protecting the infrastructure projects that are implemented in the countryside. While serving the people, some of them have offered the ultimate sacrifice.
I pray that the next Christmas will be a joyful moment for all.
I pray that there will be no more fighting and soldiers do not have to fight our fellow Filipinos.
I pray that there will be lasting peace. That is the only time that I can wholeheartedly say, "Merry Christmas!".
Note: This article was originally published by the author in his blog 'Faces, Places & Voices'