While the constabulary and the police followed every lead, Jack began his own inquiry. For him, it was cathartic and part of the healing process. So full of rage, he wanted to catch the killers himself. The constabulary and the police seemed too slow to him.
The jeeps that carried the gunmen were found abandoned near the scene. Fingerprints didn’t match any known criminal. It seemed silly to dust for prints, when the attack had obviously been meticulous planned. Even petty crooks knew not to leave prints. Any fair person would’ve been perplexed by the arrest, by a rough count, of some 800 suspects. Though as passions cooled, most of them were later released.
Secret memos and documents in the U.S embassy revealed who orchestrated such a huge roundup, which made it clear that the killings were more than a murder holdup. For the first time, one was faced with an admission that Jack, or the victims (or someone close to them) were valuable assets of the U.S government. Now it was at this point that the constabulary and the police were given patriotic reasons for using their authority to the fullest.
On page three, of the trial transcript, case number 02125212, the record showed that the police picked up empty cartridge shells and spent bullets from the pavement near the victims’ vehicle. Forensic experts matched them with guns taken during a raid of a safe house. Other incriminating items were seized there too. The transcript then went on to say, “but the prime suspects were long gone.” It was remarkable that the constabulary and the police had information that led them to the correct house.
Brick by brick, the case was built. Once caught, the mastermind was shown no mercy, nor were any of the others who took part in the crime. No doubt they were brave men. But they had to face the consequences. Yet the constabulary and the police showed an affinity for them. The assassins wanted to make people believe that they would’ve rather spent more time with their families, but trying to make themselves seem more human didn’t help them. Whether they had families or not was immaterial.
Even before any arrests were made, the police prepared a list of seventy-eight witnesses. Hearsay was certainly admissible; but with a busy street as the crime scene finding evidence was difficult.
Could the suspects be identified? Would their confessions stand up? Mistakes were obviously made, but none of the mistakes made a difference. Perfection was impossible, and the truth could only be approximated. But the main problem with so many mistakes was the loss of time, and the more time lost, the more the trail to the killers cooled.
Suppose the ten men wearing jungle green uniforms had randomly chosen their victims with high-jacking the vehicle in mind, how does that jive with Dr. Ramos’ connections with the Huks? How well known were his activities? Was there a conspiracy? How many people were involved? There were men posted with radios in front of the professor’s house who gave the triggermen last minute instructions. They weren’t worried about how they would stop a moving vehicle. Why didn’t they strike at the professor’s home? Obviously, they were after headlines and intentionally killed the innocent along with the guilty.
They raised the anti by striking in the heart of the capital. Before then traitors were quietly executed.
The public demanded revenge. No one accused the constabulary and the police of mistreating the witnesses. They humbled the party by detaining so many people and forced some of them to confess. The long interrogations gave each suspect ample opportunity to confess. There weren’t many discrepancies. The constabulary and the police were able to crack the conspirators. Honor and a fidelity oath had sealed their lips, which made their confessions seemed inconceivable. The success of the investigations depended upon a tremendous amount of trickery, which the Americans had taught their Filipino associates.
It was hard to imagine a more desperate group. To assassinate, to gun down, to decapitate, to stab, in other words exterminate their enemies, inside or outside their organization, to mitigate with vengeance all the wrongs of the past, was a tall order. The very principles of the Huk struggle (not merely their words or deeds but their heart and soul) gave them strength. Yet they reportedly begged for mercy.
Most of the contagion in Greater Manila could be found within the colleges and the universities. In them professors and students engaged in doctrinal disputes. They often pretended a connection with Maoism. Being at odds with authority was attractive, but don’t mistakenly call them leaders of the movement. With the assassination of a respected colleague and friend, many of them were arrested and their loyalty was put in question. Weak, ineffectual, squeamish, stripped of their slogans, and altogether disillusioned by the sudden turn of events, some of them subsequently betrayed his or her comrades.
There were breaks in the case that led to the arrest of the tall man and the short one, who witnesses pegged as leaders. With Jack’s help, the constabulary and the police seized important exhibits: as mentioned, weapons and then disguises traced to a specific market vendor. The immeasurable grief and pain from the loss had the blinding effect of galvanizing Jack even more, and he couldn’t have stood the ordeal had he simply sat idly by. He couldn’t disguise the bitterness and the hatred that he shared with mothers and wives, fathers and husbands, brothers and sisters, and orphaned children who had also suffered the loss of love ones. He couldn’t cry. He would if he could; only he couldn’t. Given his grief, the opposing forces within him weren’t surprising.
In the middle of the rainy season, Jack trooped through Kandala swamp and up Mount Arayat. He knew his picture had been printed on leaflets and distributed throughout the region. Similar notices spread falsehood about Jo-Jo, who pleaded his case to his parents in a letter. He told them that he finally decided to surrender. He said he hadn’t foreseen the rash of crimes that followed in the wake of Jack’s appearance, and damaged the movement beyond repair. Why couldn’t they stop the hemorrhaging? On a long list of crimes, betrayal ranked high; and given the chance, both sides practiced it.
Given the confusion and the passions following the assassinations, the blame couldn’t be placed squarely on anyone. Jo-Jo never supported the policies of his country, far less her imperialistic agents. Therefore, his betrayal was based purely on an emotional response.
Enduring foul weather and trudging barefooted through knee-deep mud, the two friends were drenched and with each step their feet became heavier. In the mud, discouragement came easily. In the mud, Jo-Jo realized his reputation had been destroyed. In all of his life, Jack had never seen so much rain, slanting down, causing mould, mush, rust, and mildew and then, revulsion. A few days of rain would be followed by several hours of steam. Nothing escaped the ooze. On the other side…. scolding, cursing, and threatening to kill one another….there were men stalking the two Americans who were thoroughly at home in the swamp. The highest ranking rebel leader, Jose de Leon, offered a thousand pesos for their capture. The Secretariat then held an emergency meeting and more than doubled that. A peso equaled a half a dollar, which would’ve been the preferred currency. In those days a thousand dollars represented a small fortune. Many men tried to cash in. During their trek through the Candaba Swamp, had he had anything to give, and without hesitation, Jack would’ve given his friend anything. All they had to swap were stories about growing up.
Surrender then! It was made possible; and surrender to Jack’s horror led to the maximum sentence for his friend. No one was going to let the crimes go unpunished. Even though Jo-Jo helped solve Dr. Ramos’ and his daughter’s murders, they insisted that he plead guilty and told him that his conviction was just a formality. They evidently didn’t appreciate the sacrifice he made for a friend. He had expected too much; and even so, he had few regrets.
After his surrender, for security sake, Jo-Jo was placed in a solitary cell with a heavy steel door. He was sent to the New Bilibid Prison in Rizal, some miles outside of Manila. It was a tough place. Murder and riot were common. Here was incarcerated a son of a couple, who lived with the Huks, and taught them and never acted unkind, or expected special treatment. Recently returning from fighting, these peasants loved Jo-Jo’s parents as if they were family. Their boy now couldn’t go home. In order to protect him, Jack was frequently moved around, but officially the U.S. embassy never helped him.
The two friends sadly joked about squandering their lives away for filthy politics. Nothing seemed right except the status quo. Fighting for democracy where even the birds and bees voted seemed to require repression and toughness. All the king’s men couldn’t fully explain why these two boys ever chose sides.
Jesting seemed to have taken over. They searched for something embarrassing to say about each other. The last thing they did together was to sit and wait, as their time ran out. Braving the flies and the mosquitoes, they sat on the seawall that night with two smiling women. In particularly Jack displayed mute anguish. The murderers were caught; but with the confusion in the country, some of them were soon set free.
Both of them lived to regret Jo-Jo’s surrender. In order to publicize the impending collapse of Communism, the right wing press widely covered the American’s duplicity, while the left wing denounced him as a traitor and a class enemy. For the sake of peace, national unity, and reconstruction, Jo-Jo was promised amnesty but was instead given a life sentence by a court influenced by a skeptical public. (See court documents for the judge’s rationale.)