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Rizal Day bombing survivor elated over verdict

- Dino Balabo -

HAGONOY, Bulacan – His amputated legs are a grim reminder of the tragic bombing that rocked the Light Railway Transit (LRT) station in Blumentritt, Manila on Dec. 30, 2000.

Last Friday, when the court handed down life sentences to the three terrorists who masterminded the bombing, 35-year-old Joel Atienza was both jubilant and relieved that justice had finally been served for him and the other victims of the terrorist attack after eight long years.

“I am happy and relieved that justice was finally served,” said Atienza, a resident of this coastal town.

Eleven people were killed and scores of commuters were injured in the Rizal Day bombing.

Atienza, who was only 27 at that time, lost both his legs. His friend also died in the tragedy.

Now fondly called “Brother Joel” by his neighbors in Barangay Sto. Nino, Atienza said the life sentences for Saifulla Yunos alias Mukhlis Yuno, Abdul Fatak Paute, and Mamasao Naga was a triumph of justice for him and the other victims.

“You can say that at least, we have attained justice. If the three were sentenced to death, I think that not even their deaths would change our destiny. I have forgiven them but I wish they would say who were the other people involved in the bombing,” Atienza said in Filipino.

For six years, Atienza has followed the hearings and came to the point of almost giving up hope. He even thought the case had been forgotten.

Atienza said in the beginning, he was asked to submit an affidavit, but heard nothing about the case since then.

“I thought that nothing would come out of the case anymore because we were not updated by the court on the hearings. In fact, I only heard about the verdict on television,” he said.

The bombing is still fresh in Atienza’s mind. He and his friend were supposed to take the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) plying the Edsa route, but opted instead to board the LRT going to Caloocan at the Buendia station.

They were supposed to get off at the Doroteo Jose Station but missed their stop and decided to get off at the Fifth Avenue Station to board a bus to Bulacan.

But they did not reach Fifth Avenue. A bomb exploded in their LRT coach at the Blumentritt station. He remembered crying out in pain and seeing mangled bodies and bloodied women and children.

Atienza’s wounds might have healed but he would always remember that fateful day. He was glad that the justice system is still working for innocent victims like him who only wished to have a safe ride home.

ABDUL FATAK PAUTE

ATIENZA

BARANGAY STO

BLUMENTRITT

BROTHER JOEL

BULACAN

DOROTEO JOSE STATION

FIFTH AVENUE

FIFTH AVENUE STATION

JOEL ATIENZA

LAST FRIDAY

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