Posts Tagged ‘Cassado Bar Shooting incident’

Who is this guy named Mohammad “Bong” Acquia, and why is he being dreaded by many people?

Bong Acquia, as he is popularly known in media quarters in GenSan, was reported to be the culprit in a shooting incident at Casado Bar, a nightspot located inside the compound of Royale Hotel, a three-star luxury hotel in Gensan.

A case was eventually filed against him at the City Prosecutors’ Office, but not after a strong pressure exerted on the police by some concerned citizens here. However, one of his victims deliberately refused to file any case against him, but for whatever reason, his family could not say exactly.

The near-fatal shooting involving Bong Acquia, which occurred at about 3:00 in the morning of October 29, 2010, almost claimed the lives of two young and promising students – one, a six-footer commercial basketball player, and the other, an academic scholar in one of the universities in General Santos City and also a basketball player.

The victims were John Kusmod, 19, and Curt Coronado, 21, both residents of Doña Soledad Subdivision, Barangay Labangal, this same city. They were reportedly celebrating the end of the school semester with their six (6) other fellow basketball players at the Casado Bar when the shooting incident happened.

There were more to this incident than meets the eye, however. The incident literally plunged certain sections of the city’s population into the abyss of fear, resulting to a situation where almost all are adamant or even refuse to delve into the subject, an unlikely deviation from the usual prominence being given to similar incidents in the past.

The incident prominently marked the existence of a serious social error, not because of the graveness of the crime involved in the incident, but of the seemingly unexplainable awesome power that sent a shiver of fear in the collective spine of the public.

Such power is so magical that it is capable of causing the spontaneous emergence of a climate of fear in the city, despite of the fact that Bong Acquia is not reported to be doing anything that could propel the city into certain level of terror after that near-fatal incident.

During a brief interview in his office, General Santos City Police Director, Cedrick Train, a lawyer with a Doctorate Degree in Jurisprudence, confirmed the existence of a public feeling of fear on Bong Acquia, but failed to venture on a specific reason why it existed and how such public impression actually came into play.

In a privilege speech delivered recently during the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP), GenSan City Councilor Dante Vicente also impliedly noted how this shooting incident involving Bong Acquia instills fear on the public mind.

Councilor Vicente also ventured into a conspiracy theory proving, in effect, how the alleged tentacles of Bong Acquia within the military and police establishments are working to eventually absolve him of the crime he had committed.

There is sense in Vicente’s conspiracy theory. The pieces of evidence which are material in proving the crime were nowhere to be found. It was also reported that one of the investigators in the City Prosecutor’s Office complained on how the police had built a case against Bong Acquia.

Vicente claimed that the police case against Bong Acquia is too weak and fatally inadequate. For this reason, City Councilor Dante Vicente indicated that there exists a conspiracy between and among the culprit, the bar owner and some elements of the police department.

However, in an interview, Police City Director Train belied the allegation that the cases filed against the culprit are weak and incomplete. He claimed that their case against Acquia is strong and that they still intend to file more cases against him.

Train also said that the evidences already under the custody of the police are enough to secure the conviction of Bong Acquia.

Candidly, this sort of public fear is not new in the city. It is reminiscent of the realities within certain period in the past when illegal gambling outlets mushroomed, were established and openly operated, like sari-sari stores, on every nook and cranny of this city, to include public transport terminals and public markets.

No one dared then to provide an effective critique on the operations of these illegal gambling outlets even when these were done with impunity before the very noses of police authorities.

People then feared of being assassinated by the elements of a powerful syndicate behind these illegal gambling operations, which is allegedly comprised, among others, by armed elements coming from various state agencies.

“You are a ‘dead man walking’ if you do”, one of the prominent members of the local media here said.

However, although the effects of both circumstances on the public are the same, there is a total absence of information linking Bong Acquia to this gambling syndicate, which is still believed to exist even after the recent clamping down of their illegal gambling outlets all throughout the city.

This gambling syndicate is reported to now compose an influential clique, operating as an abstract substructure within the local police establishment with strong support from high officials of the PNP, rendering the regular police command structure wholly ineffective.

“This clique is so powerful and so influential that it could even reduce the police city director into a mere pushover or a hapless prop on the scheme of things”, one local official said.

It was reported that all the gambling outlets which were established here before were under the same syndicated network, but it was then public knowledge that those gambling outlets with a code name “Ground Zero” were owned by one of the popular political figures in the SOCSARGEN area.

The shooting incident involving Bong Acquia is dwarfed in terms of level of heinousness and savagery by the Maguindanao Massacre but its deadly impact on the public nerve is almost the same.

Immediately after the incident, a virtual threat, in the form of an informal news account, began to travel along the underground information highway and this spread like wild fires, especially in the place where the victims reside.

The “news”, which became the subject of loose talks among the victims’ peers in Doña Soledad Subdivision, posited that someone is hiring an assassin for P1, 000,000.00 against any person who would help pin Boy Acquia down. Worse, the “news” is spread with a caveat “during this time and age, persons could kill for P5, 000.00.”

“We don’t know where these rumors come from, but invisible hands seem to cause them to spread so fast”, one resident in Doña Soledad said.

Whether this “news” is true or not, the fact is that the impact of the loose talks is fatal to the victims and their families. They are not so expressive about this, but how the victims and their families are dealing with their fate lately indicate unequivocally that fears for the unknown hover over their heads.

We can decipher this when we attempted to interview them and failed to avail of their cooperation. While they act as normal as they can be, we know that, beneath the fortress of their innate love for justice, something more powerful is influencing their dispositions.

In fact, some of our friends in the media even advised us to handle this incident with extraordinary caution. Their logic was that this Bong Acquia is a well-connected person and has been reportedly in control of an armed infrastructure that, while operating clandestinely, has gained tolerance from some powerful sections within the police establishment, which may also be a part of such armed formations.

Bong Acquia’s alleged control of an armed formation cannot be confirmed by independent and official sources, although Train confirmed that really such public impression exists. But, of course, we know that a public impression cannot always be equated with the truth.

Personally, we are convinced that, by delving on this subject, our safety is not wholly ensured. In fact, we asked Director Train whether or not our safety is secured if we decide to dip our fingers into this issue. His commitment was not assuring, but he emphasized the need for media to be vigilant if society’s welfare is to be protected.

Nevertheless, we have decided to challenge our fear and come up with a public discussion on the incident, rather than to wait for society to defend and correct itself, if indeed what the public fears about is really correct.

Society has its own natural way of correcting the excesses of individuals, like how the Maguindanao Massacre did to the Ampatuans, but society’s self-correction processes are oftentimes extremely violent and costly, and, therefore, for us to wait for such process to take place is to find glory in our sadistic self-inflictions.

We have tried to get the side of Bong Acquia to lend certain objectivity on our discussion, but access to him is simply difficult at this time.

Nevertheless, this should not serve as an obstacle for this discussion. After all, our motive here is not to cast aspersion on the integrity of the person or persons involved in this discourse, but to protect the security and safety of the individuals, in particular, and the welfare of the public, in general, considering that the shooting incident is committed with certain level of impunity.

The election gun ban was still in effect when the shooting incident happened.

Our background information on Bong Acquia is rather sketchy. We first heard of him while he was directly intervening in the politics of Sarangani Province, where he seemed to have been given some crucial roles.

The basis for the privilege given to Bong Acquia by prominent politicians in Sarangani is not easy to decipher. He neither belongs to any prominent clan in Sarangani nor to any organization which is big enough to deliver a substantial number of votes to any politician.

But still, prominent politicians in Sarangani Province had entrusted him some high profile political roles.

Bong Acquia has lately served as the Chairman of the Oplan Kalikasan which is known to be the pre-2010 election campaign tool of the now incumbent Sarangani Congressman, Manny Pacquiao. As Chair of Oplan Kalikasan, he was reported to have engaged in a serious skirmish with Malungon Mayor Bong Constantino, resulting from their stern tug-of-war for the attention of the internationally famous member of the House of Representatives.

There are people who postulate that the alleged armed infrastructure, which is allegedly under the control of Bong Acquia, is the reason why some big-time politicians in the province were so interested with him, then.

In a province characterized by vast mountainous terrains and rugged political contours, armed infrastructures are necessary in all electoral battles. These terrains and contours resemble that of Sarangani Province.

Bong Acquia also served as the Chair of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) in Mindanao. It was reported that it was because of this influential position that he had been able to recruit many “anti-smuggling agents” from both the uniformed and civilian armed formations within the SOCSARGEN area.

We cannot, at this time, avail of any reliable information which could prove whether or not this group of “anti-smuggling agents” was later formed into a privately-operated armed formation, or it is just mistaken to be one.

It was also reported that it was because of his powerful position in PASG that Bong Acquia has succeeded to establish strong connections with high military and police officials at the national and local levels and solid networks among prominent and powerful business groups and institutions in the city and in some other parts of the country.

In fact, he is frequently seen with a prominent businessman-politician in General Santos City since the 2010 national and local elections.

Bong Acquia’s eventual replacement as PASG Chair did not result to the depletion of his influence among the powerful sections of the local military and police establishments. He was even reported to be currently wielding strong influence among high military and police officials.

City PNP Director Cedrick Train said he does not personally know Bong Acquia but confirmed that he has so many “friends” among the city’s police officials. “It is probably because he has been mingling with them for too long”, Train said.

However, he failed to explain the nature of Acquia’s business in the local police establishment and the reason why these police officers find him a “good company.”

There are those who suspect that Acquia’s connection is actually with police officials who acted as protectors of the gambling outlets which had openly proliferated in the city before, but which were closed down lately. While these police officers are said to be hibernating for now, they actually remain intact as a group, and are only waiting for an opportune time to revive their illegal ventures.

Meantime, they are reported to be working hand-in-hand with other social forces working for the ouster of anti-gambling officials from local power, with alleged backing from known gambling lords in Central Luzon.

Again, following the maxim that it would take a scoundrel to catch another scoundrel, this suspicion cannot still be proven by material evidence. But the powerful state’s protective and coercive apparatuses, unless they are among the tentacles of a gambling syndicate, must do something to unearth the truth, rather than passing the burdens to the media or to hapless private citizens.

Bong Acquia has no known business in the city, save his dealership of non-popular brands of four-wheel vehicles, but he remains capable of financing vast networks within the military and police establishment. He can even afford an expensive lifestyle and maintain a phalanx of armed bodyguards.

How he procures funds to maintain and finance expensive networks, coupled with a luxurious lifestyle, remains to be a guessing game for many.

The story that we told here may not be perfectly accurate. But, somehow, we are sure that it approximates the exploits of a man, somewhat feared by many and allegedly protected by some powerful hands.

We can only hope that this will start the full public unleashing of a man whose life, at least a substantial part of it, remains a mystery to many of us.  Certainly, his story is a great saga of a man, with an outstanding feat.

Our role here is only to ensure that such feat would benefit, and not prejudice, the public.

Do we put ourselves into danger by doing this? There might be possibility that we do, God forbids. But history has taught us that there are times when people are called upon to offer themselves into the altar of sacrifice to serve others and straighten out society.

Almost always, they were forgotten, with their families wallowing in the filth of poverty by their untimely demise, and with society unmindful of their pains and travails.

But, that is the reason why they are called heroes. Their offerings should always be for selfless motivations; otherwise, they do not deserve the social grandeur.

Heroism is a powerful drive that occurs on an individual in a given moment. The moment calls for it now!