Photo of Virgilio “Bilyong” Miguel Garra when gunned down in the middle of the street by the New People’s Army last July 24 in Matnog, Sorsogon, Philippines. (Facebook of the NPA’s, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006470253173)
Photo of Virgilio “Bilyong” Miguel Garra when gunned down in the middle of the street by the New People’s Army last July 24 in Matnog, Sorsogon, Philippines. (Facebook of the NPA’s, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006470253173)

CHICAGO – The .45 caliber pistol was invented by John Browning to stop raging “juramentados,” who were armed with a “kris” (which is a jagged knife) on a suicide mission to kill Spanish and American invaders in Mindanao at the turn of the 19th century. The “juramentados” were the predecessors of the suicide bombers in some Middle East countries.

But I had never thought that my once pilyo (mischievous) but lovable younger cousin, who had become a policeman in my mother’s native town of Matnog, Sorsogon, Philippines, would be killed by bullets fired from a .45 caliber pistol. He was treacherously shot from behind allegedly by “suspected communist rebels.”

My cousin was not even a juramentado or a suicide bomber. And he did not deserve to die in such a cowardly manner.

If reports that my cousin, Virgilio “Bilyong” Miguel Garra, had drawn the ire of the rebels were true, I don’t know how he had earned their ire.

From what I know, the rebels go only after the big fish in the community, who oppress the poor. They usually go after ranking military officers, chiefs of police or mayors, who violate rampantly human rights. But not Bilyong. He no longer wielded any power and influence as he had already retired from the police.

Bilyong did not make any illegal income as policeman. He was unlike some of his rich neighbors, who made big piles after brief stint with the Bureau of Customs and other government offices. Nor was he on the take in the lucrative Matnog ferryboat franchise, a favorite milking cow of some mayors.

Bilyong ran for councilor of Matnog in the last election. As expected, he lost because the only thing he could offer was public service. He wanted to be like his late father, Jose “Papa Tote” Garra, who was Matnog’s long-time municipal secretary. Bilyong had no money to buy votes.

If his enemies were politicians, why would politicians still go after someone who is already down?

I do not know who shot and injured him when he was in the police force in 1998.  Perhaps, police investigators probing his murder could revisit this old case that reached the court.

According to my sources in Matnog, Bilyong was shot at the back of the head in front of his house, which is near a Highway Patrol Group office.

If Bilyong were shot near the Highway Patrol Group, why would the shooter/s be too brazen to fire shots within the hearing and visual distance of the Highway Patrol Group? Were the shooter/s in cahoots with the Highway Patrol Group? Did the Highway Patrol Group people pursue the shooter? If not, why not?

Usually after rebels conduct an operation, they immediately claim responsibility for the killing. But I have yet to hear any claim of responsibility from the rebels for the slaying of Bilyong.

If military reports were true that Bilyong was felled by bullets fired from a .45 caliber pistol, was the gun a “colorum” or “paltik? If it is, the chance of identifying the gunman is next to impossible.

If not, the serial number of this government-issued firearm could be matched with the serial number of the murder gun. This kind of guns is issued only to military officers.

In the U.S., all registered firearms are “test fired” twice. One shell is sent to the owner of the firearm and the other shell together with the expended bullets is sent to the FBI.

If the gun is used in a crime, the slug recovered from the crime scene could be matched with the bullet and the gun formation that the manufacturer sent to the FBI — that is if the recovered slug is not completely messed up.

A Filipino-American friend, who is also a gun owner, told me, when it is being manufactured, “rifling impressions” (the inside of the barrel where bullets pass through) of the gun are different from another gun of the same make. Although, built by the same factory, using the same machine and material, the gun’s “firing pin and shell ejector mechanism” are unique just like a man’s fingerprint or DNA.

If only the shell casing is recovered near the crime scene, gun matching is still possible as the gun leaves very distinct marks on it. The ballistic investigation will focus on the firing pin and shell ejector mechanism.

But if the slug was recovered from the body, the investigator could compare it with the rifling impressions of the gun’s barrel.

I hope the Philippine government has a good inventory of firearms in its database. This would make it easy for homicide investigators to trace the owners of firearms used by hired killers.

I told my relatives that if they happen to have guns, they have to be doubly careful as their enemies would not be confronting them face-to-face but they would treacherously attack them from behind. And they should always pray.

Goodbye, Bilyong! May you rest in peace!

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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