It was tragic that veteran Philippine newsman Joel Palacios died unexpectedly, but what was shocking was that his death was violent and senseless.
As one of the many friends of Joel, 70, I feel deep pain over his death and the manner he died. He and four other persons were stabbed to death by a jealousy-crazed man who ran amuck in a condominium building in Pasay City last Aug. 29.
There is also this feeling of helplessness in the search for justice for Joel and the other victims. There is no one to bring to the bar of justice because the killer was shot dead by responding policemen. And so, it is now considered a closed case.
A well respected journalist, Joel was a former news reporter of Reuters, Associated Press and various national newspapers in Metro Manila and former desk editor of Manila Standard. He had just come out of his condo unit on the 16th floor of Central Park Condominium to jog when he was spotted by the assailant, Robert Garan, who was armed with a long kitchen knife.
Before Joel knew what was happening, he was stabbed several times by Garan. Joel fell to his knees, begging for his life and shouting for help.
Delpris Elorde, Palacios’ common-law wife, heard the scream. “I rushed outside our condo unit to help him,” Elorde said in an interview with Ben Cal of the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
“I saw a helpless Joel down on the floor. When he saw me he told me to go back inside our condo unit. But I ignored his warning. ‘Run to save your life, I’m dying, so be it,’” Elorde quoted Joel as saying.
“But I was determined to help Joel, and when the knife-wielder thrust his knife towards me, I used my hands to parry the thrusts. I sustained five wounds in my left arm and one in my right palm. Still, I held my ground,” she said.
“Then he stabbed me twice again, hitting my hips. Despite the wounds, I managed to run to the exit door then I fell down the stairs. Luckily he did not pursue me,” Elorde said.
“When I turned my head, I saw him going up to the 17th floor where he stabbed and killed a 12-year old girl who was walking on the hallway,” she added.
Elorde said her sister Resmy arrived and brought her to the hospital.
“Joel was on his way to jog along the hallway of the condominium as he used to do every afternoon but on early Tuesday evening, death came like a thief in the night,” she said.
Elorde said that during the incident, Abegail, their three-year-old daughter, arrived at the scene, unmindful of what was happening. Fortunately, Elorde’s sister hurriedly whisked the child inside before the knife-wielder saw them.
The Pasay City police said that aside from Palacios, the amok stabbed to death four people and wounded four others.
Before he ran amuck, Garan had a quarrel with his girlfriend, Emelyn Sagun, in their condo unit. In a fit of jealousy, he stabbed and killed Sagun. A CCTV recorded the horrifying attack. He lifted the body and dropped it on the pavement below.
Garan was shot dead by policemen when he resisted arrest on the 22nd floor of Central Park Condominium on D. Jorge Street, Barangay 132 at about 11 p.m., some five hours after the man ran amuck, said Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office. In a televised interview, Abayalde said, “The policemen have to kill him because “talagang hindi magpapahuling buhay (he does not want to be caught alive).”
Palacios will be remembered by his peers as a media icon in his own right. Ben Cal, a close friend of Joel, said that Joel’s competence for news writing and editing is at par with the best.
Other peers of Joel echoed similar comments in social media. He was indeed a great loss to the media industry.
Joel, who was a native of Negros Occidental, was a news writer for Reuters and Associated Press before he was named chief of the public affairs department of the Social Security System (SSS), a position he occupied for over two decades. He retired from the SSS five years ago.
After his retirement, Joel returned to the mainstream media and joined Manila Standard.
Last year, he called up Ben Cal to say he was going to Cambodia to work as a writer. However, he returned to the Philippines early this year as he had decided to write a book. Palacios had already written six chapters of his book when he met his death.
His peers will long remember Joel as a good friend with a humble heart.
Joel and his wife Remy were friends of my family. When he and his first family still lived in Cavite, they used to visit us on weekends in our house in Bacoor. Joel and I would have a beer or two, and our conversation would focus on the state of the Philippine press.
The last time we met was in his office at the SSS. He suggested that we jointly publish a weekly newspaper to be circulated in the Calabarzon region. We were unable to push the project through because a few months later I migrated here in Michigan.
Remembering Joel during those good old days, I felt a sharp pang of sadness gnawing my heart. But for now, I can’t do anything but to bid goodbye to my dear friend.
Farewell, Joel, farewell! I hope to see you again somewhere in the infinity of time.