On what seemed a lazy afternoon some 21 years ago, a green Pajero was negotiating the winding road through the lonely landscape of North Cotabato. Inside was my father, two of his other officemates and the company driver. They were on their way to the Midsayap airport to meet the new Assistant Administrator. After exchanging a few stories, their afternoon lulled into a peaceful and quiet drive until… suddenly, the Pajero careened and fell into a deep ravine.
My father was luckily spared from certain death despite not wearing his seatbelt. But aside from undergoing several major surgeries at the local hospital, he needed to be transported to Manila for a crucial procedure that had to be performed by the only spine surgeon in the country at that time. A Harrington Rod was attached to a portion of his spine because his T12-L1 vertebrae had a crack. Up to this day, it still is there.
Several months after that crucial surgery, my dad asked the surgeon if he could walk again. The doctor told him, “Engineer, only a miracle could make that happen.”
It took my dad almost six years before he realized that he has to move on with his life. The Lord somehow amazingly made His presence known to my father at this point of dire need. Amidst looming financial problems that included being swamped with medical bills, tons of encouragement and support poured in from people we least expected to show up at our doorsteps.
But thankfully that dark chapter is already behind him now. My father has already wholeheartedly accepted the truth that he will be bound to his wheelchair for quite a long time. But even so, my father got to places where his wheelchair would not have permitted him: the top of the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Bataan, the Killing Fields in Cambodia and Camp Busrah somewhere in Lanao del Sur. He has dined with powerful and controversial figures like no less than President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the infamous COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcilliano of the "Hello Garci" fame , and a top-ranking official in the MILF.
He did not let his disability dampen his hopes to turn his life around. He now holds a degree in Management Engineering from a reputable local university. He also passed the Career Executive Service Officer (CESO) examinations (which is really not a surprise because afterall, he placed second in the 1975 Civil Engineering Licensure exam). And to top it all off, he was appointed OIC-division manager for an engineering unit in a regional government office. He constantly performed his duties well as reflected by his annual performance assessment and reviews.
Apparently, other division heads of the office were not happy with his leadership. Early this year, when the regional director was relieved of his duties because of a stroke, the newly-appointed replacement stripped off from my dad all of his responsibilities, including being the head of the engineering division. My dad is now back to his old post: a design engineer which had been his designation for the past 25 years.
Of course this sudden turn of events caught him by surprise. He later knew that a “survey” was made to question his leadership and it reflected a poor performance rating for my father. This is the exact opposite of the results of his latest periodic performance assessment and reviews.
I do not know how bureaucracy works. But prudence and common sense dictate that you cannot easily relieve anyone from duty based on mere hearsays and surveys. Even those occupying higher positions in the government cling dearly to their seats and brazenly survive several bouts of impeachment and anti-graft complaints. What about and where is due process? At the very least, it should have been applied to my father’s case.
While the government is bent at enforcing the Human Security Act anytime soon, it grossly failed at protecting the rights of small citizens like my father. We would probably win the war on terrorism by silencing militant journalists, pinpointing elusive communists’ hideouts and capturing religious extremists. But basic issues on good governance have never been effectively addressed even for the past administrations.
I felt the strong urge to sue everyone who conspired and signed that survey form. I wanted to tell the current OIC that the question of his legitimacy as a director will continue to hound him like his own shadow. I told my dad to quit the small group he heads in our church since all of the members are his co-employees and I consider them to have betrayed my father when not one of them bothered to inform my dad when the surveys were passed around.
But my dad advised me to do the exact opposite, and instead "turn my other cheek." It is indeed amazing how the gospel would present itself especially in our most vulnerable time in our life. Although, it took awhile to accept, I realized that revenge is a dish best served cold.
I just want my father to know that he did not fail again. He has, by far, accomplished more than most of the able-bodied professionals of his league. I believe my dad would have given in to their demands to vacate the OIC post. All they really have to do was to politely ask. They do not have to destroy the credible reputation my father has humbly built for the last two decades.
I just do not know how much more my dad could take all of this. He keeps on sending text messages that everything is already OK, and to trust that everything is already in God’s hands. I worry, however, because he sent the same message three times.
I believe my dad has learned quite enough lessons to know his strengths and his limitations. There are just some people who are not humble enough to accept the difference between the two.
Twenty-one years later after the accident, the Harrington Rod is still stuck at the back of my dad. The doctor assured him that it is made of titanium which will never rust or decompose through time. But there are just some wounds that would never heal.