Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Chicken

   During the twenty year Martial Law in the Philippines there was a curfew from midnight to 4:00 in the morning.  Bars, disco, night clubs and any kind of nightly entertainment can keep operating during the curfew hours but the customers who decide to stay after midnight can’t leave till after four.  There were military checkpoints in major streets and curfew violation could mean jail time.  Warrantless arrest was common and cases were tried in a military court.  There were rumors of torture and summary executions.  Some of those arrested have disappeared, allegedly released, never to be seen again or may turn up dead in a remote area.

   Nikki was a political activist in college.  Her street protest days ended when she married and had kids.  Still she kept herself informed about the Executive Orders that have replaced the civil laws.

   One night a cousin of hers needed medical attention during curfew.  Most of the relatives didn’t want to brave the checkpoints.  At Nikki’s insistence her husband with his nephew drove her and the sick to the hospital.  They were caught on their way home.  

   The two men in the front seats went pale upon seeing the soldiers carried an M15 riffle.  The soldiers looked into the car with a flashlight, inspected the trunk then started to grill them about their reasons for violating curfew.  Nikki knew that there were exceptions to the curfew law such as taking someone to a hospital.  However checkpoint soldiers may or may not accept the violator’s explanation and throw them in jail anyway.  Without a civil court the military court would not prosecute their own. 

   Armed with what she has learned about the curfew rules, Nikki started to argue with the soldiers.  She insisted that they should be excused for taking a sick to the hospital.  The soldier insisted that one person could have done that, why were they all three in the car.  Nikki insisted that the patient was female so a female companion was needed and one man would not be able to carry the patient by himself.  Her husband was quietly scared seeing how things were going.

   A soldier threatened “What if we arrest you all now?”

   “Do it!  Do it!  Do it!” Nikki said in an angry tone.

   The soldiers let them go.  As soon as they were allowed to leave the two men told Nikki “Next time don’t be arguing when the man has a gun.  What if they shot us?”

   “We’re humans not chickens that anyone can just shoot.” Nikki replied.

   Years later, as soon as her sons married and flew the coop, Nikki left the chicken.

  Checkpoint in the Philippines                         

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