By JOAN GARCIA
PAGUDPUD, Ilocos Norte — With the sound of Tibetan gongs and the chatter of family and friends, the reunion of Dom-an Macagne-Manegdeg and her in-laws served not only to commemorate the death of her husband Pepe, but more importantly, his life of service and love.
It has been five years since Dom-An last went to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, the hometown of Pepe. As a safety precaution after Pepe was killed, Dom-an thought it best to temporarily refrain from going to Pagudpud as the threats and harassment on their family persist.
Jose “Pepe” Manegdeg was the Rural Missionaries program coordinator for the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. On November 28, 2005, while Pepe was waiting for a bus at the highway of San Esteban, Ilocos Sur, he was shot at 22 times. He just came from a speaking engagement at a paralegal training and was about to fetch Dom-an at the airport when he was killed.
The case against the suspect in Pepe’s killing, Capt. Joel Castro, was dismissed in 2007. The provincial prosecutor of Ilocos Sur dismissed it due to the lone witness’s retraction of his sworn statement.
However, the pursuit for justice continues. The gathering, which was attended by about 30 of Pepe’s relatives and friends, was a way of remembering Pepe and in reiterating their call for justice.
“It has been five years, there is still no progress in the case,” said Teodora Riveral Manegdeg, Pepe’s mother. However, she is thankful for the people who came.
On that day, an outpour of memories of Pepe was recounted by those who love him.
Dom-an shared that when she was courting Pepe, she played the nose flute for him. At this, Teodora teased her daughter-in-law that after all this time, it was only now that she found out that it was not Pepe who courted Dom-an. Dom-an then explained that their courtship was mutual so that when someone asked, their reply was that they both wooed each other.
Dom-an then proceeded to play the nose flute.
According to Pepe’s sister, her brother loved to talk to people. She said Pepe always chatted with their farm workers whenever he visited their house.
She also acknowledged that among those present at the gathering were Pepe’s favorite nieces and nephews whom he always bonded with.
According to Rod Tajon of Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA), the case of Pepe and other victims of human rights violations are still not resolved despite the Aquino administration’s promise of resolving these cases. “It is important that the people do not forget what happened to Pepe. We must remain steadfast in seeking justice and in fighting the culture of impunity that is very much still implemented today”, Tajon said. “The best way to remember Pepe and to celebrate the life he lived is to continue what he has started and that is, to fight for the rights of the oppressed.”