Iloilo cites poor but upright cabbie
- Leo Solinap () - December 17, 2002 - 12:00am
ILOILO CITY — Ronaldo Pantillo, his wife, and six children share a two-story nipa hut — which they rent for P400 a month — in Barangay Dungon B, Jaro district here. A nearby deep well supplies them with water for drinking and washing; they get their electricity from a neighbor. The first floor of their hut is soil packed into a hard mass by the tread of so many feet.

Pantillo, 45, came to Iloilo City in 1994 with his family and five children. He has been a taxi driver since then. He actually has seven children — his eldest child, a son, is married. His six other children are all female.

Despite his need for money, Pantillo returned ¥2 million (about P860,000) and P4,000 more given him last Dec. 10 by his Japanese employer, Chikahiro Yasuma.

Yasuma wanted Pantillo to kill him, or find someone to do the job.

Pantillo, for returning the money, received a commendation from the city mayor yesterday morning during the flag-raising ceremony at City Hall.

The erstwhile taxi driver never expected such a commendation from the city government, and nearly cried when he was presented to more than 100 employees and policemen. All he wanted, Pantillo said, was to return the money to Yasuma because he did not want to be a suspect should anything happen to his employer.

He added that his family’s pride and dignity are worth more than the money given him.

Pantillo used to drive a taxi for 24 hours every other day, and his daily earnings range from nothing to P1,000. Most times, however, he went home with only P200 for his family.

He is the sole breadwinner for his family. His wife Celia, 40, stays at home and takes care of their six daughters – Sheryl, a high school student; Agnes, grade six; Jackie Lou, grade three; Sheila, grade two; Jessa, in kindergarten; and Rona Mae, who is just six months old.

All Pantillo wants for himself and his children is for them to finish their studies while he holds down a decent job.

Pantillo is an elementary graduate, while his wife graduated from high school. He can communicate with his employer in stilted English.

Last October, Pantillo was promoted to dispatcher of Hiro Taxi by Yasuma as a reward for his loyalty and honesty. With the promotion came a regular salary of P300 a day.

Yasuma, on the other hand, has been depressed due to his Filipina wife Lilly’s alleged affair with a Filipino. She often did not come home for a week or two at a time. Yasuma first attempted suicide last Oct. 23 by hanging himself with a necktie.

He attempted suicide three more times after that. His third and fourth attempts were made last Dec. 10, but were unsuccessful. He then gave Pantillo money to kill him or find a person who is willing to do the job.

Yasuma’s wife was not home at the time and has not returned as of press time.

Pantillo went to Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, a local radio station of Manila Broadcasting Co. (NBC) where he was entertained by John Paul Tia, the station manager. The radio station arranged for the police to return the money to Yasuma the next day.

Pantillo said that if he only knew that as a dispatcher, he would be the "shock absorber" for the couple’s problems, he would have remained a taxi driver. Money gained from anything less than hard work, he noted, is not a solution to poverty.

Last Friday, Pantillo told his employer he was resigning, but Yasuma would not let him go.

Iloilo City Councilors Antonio Pesina Jr., Joshua Alim and Arman Parcon will pass a resolution on Thursday during the council’s regular session also commending Pantillo for his good deeds.

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