Last Monday, people were still talking about another successful and orderly Sinulog grand parade that drew record-breaking crowds estimated at 4 million. The day’s hot topics were about the winners, the tons of litter left by the revelry, and suspended governor Gwen Garcia’s dance participation and her unimpeded return to the Capitol.
Acting Governor Agnes Magpale who chose to be scarce during the celebration managed to get her share of the limelight too. She was applauded for being true to her promise not to lock out Gwen from the Capitol.
By Tuesday everybody was well into work mode but the news still revolved around the grand celebration.
And then the shuddering jolt came a few minutes before 9 in the morning.
A Canadian national shot dead two people inside the Municipal Trial Court Branch 6, then went out, shot and seriously wounded a lady prosecutor in the hallway. The assailant went about the building looking for three male prosecutors but was cornered by local policemen as he was coming down the stairs. Law enforcers tried to disable him but somehow he knew how the bloody scene would end – by shooting himself to death.
The killing of Dr. Rene Rafols and his lawyer, Juvian Achas and the wounding of Asst. Cebu City Prosecutor Maria Theresa Casiño devastated the Cebuano community especially in the medical and legal circles who knew the victims to be decent professionals and devoted fathers.
A report published by the Inquirer yesterday told about the long standing conflict between Dr. Rafols and the killer, Canadian national John Pope. They both live in the same residential neighbourhood in Barangay Guadalupe where Rafols is association president.
Pope had complained that someone would knock on his door during unholy hours but there’s no one around when he opens it. He suspects the physician is driving him mad. Reports say Pope threatened the doctor inside his clinic by pointing a gun at him.
Their conflicts escalated when Rafols filed cases against the Canadian. This happened after barangay officials tried but failed to have their differences resolved. Rafols tried bringing the problem before the Canadian Embassy in Manila but nothing came out of it.
The physician filed cases of malicious mischief, unjust vexation, grave threats and qualified trespassing to dwelling against Pope before different branches of Municipal Trial Court in Cities. Lawyer Juvian Achas served as counsel for Rafols.
Pope’s former live-in partner had also filed a case of violence against women and children in the Regional Trial Court. The Bureau of Immigration was also after Pope but he was able to dodge deportation by filing an appeal before the BI in Manila.
As the families of victims grapple with their loss and the community tries to look for answers on why the carnage took place, it might be useful to view the incident from the perspective of psychological and law experts in the United States, what they call “pseudocommando” mass murderer because John Pope’s shooting rampage seems to fit the description.
Interesting information from an article published in the Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, (Knoll, 2010) describes the pseudocommando “a type of mass murderer who kills in public during the daytime, plans his offense well in advance, and comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons”.
The article, which is available online through the Journalist Resource, also reviews the psychology of revenge, with special attention to revenge fantasies.
“It is argued that revenge fantasies become the last refuge for the pseudocommando’s mortally wounded self-esteem and ultimately enable him to commit mass murder-suicide,” according to the article.
“Pseudocommando” was in reference to the Virginia Tech mass murderer, Seung-Hui Cho. A student at Virginia Tech, Cho wore a military outfit when he went on a rampage, shooting and killing 32 people, wounding 17 others in two separate attacks before committing suicide. The massacre, which took place in April 16, 2007on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute in the United States is considered the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.
The article describes the pseudocommando having “no escape planned and expects to be killed during the incident. Research suggests he is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment, flowing from beliefs about being persecuted or grossly mistreated. He views himself as carrying out a highly personal agenda of payback. Some mass murderers take special steps to send a final communication to the public or news media; these communications, to date, have received little detailed analysis. An offender’s use of language may reveal important data about his state of mind, motivation, and psychopathology.”
As we know, Pope turned his legal woes into some kind of “crusade” by attacking judges, prosecutors and policemen before the media. He pictured himself as waging a lonely battle, locked against violent forces.
In fact, he had a letter sent to the media, in which the pseudocommando seemed convinced “Gitabangan siyas tanan” (everybody was ganging up on him).