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Killed by Sniper After Rally : 'Foot Soldier' Archie Dies as He Lived--for Aquino

February 12, 1986|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — Presidential candidate Corazon Aquino never heard of Arcenio Toribio--not even after he died for her Monday.

The 21-year-old hairdresser, known to his friends only as Archie, was one of the millions of nameless faces who have packed Aquino's campaign rallies, stood guard over ballot boxes and formed the human base of her support--just one foot soldier in a movement based on "people power."

Archie was there again Monday night, chanting "Cory, Cory, Cory!" during a parking lot rally in Manila and screaming his support for a candidate now struggling to claim a victory she says people like Archie have already given her in last Friday's crucial presidential election.

During her speech that night, Corazon (Cory) Aquino told the crowd to go to the National Assembly building, to stand guard over the continuing final vote canvass ordered by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

So Archie went. But he didn't get far.

Two blocks from the rally site, Archie Toribio was killed by a sniper. He was sitting on Aquino's bright yellow campaign van holding a sign over his chest that read, "Marcos Concede," when a shot was fired from the window of a high-rise building.

The bullet went straight through the sign into Archie's heart, and he died on the spot.

Police have no suspects in the case, but investigators and Aquino's supporters have little doubt that Toribio's killing was just one of several slayings in a wave of post-election violence they believe is meant to punish those who have stood by the opposition candidate during the campaign and the present uncertainty over the result.

Knew He Was Marked to Die

On Tuesday, in a revenge killing on the central Philippine island of Panay, Aquino's top campaign organizer--a man who knew he was marked for death by a ruling party warlord--was shot more than 20 times while on his way to city hall to pick up copies of election return forms he was carrying to Manila.

Evelio Javier ran as an opposition candidate for the National Assembly in a local election marred by what an independent analysis later said was blatant fraud and murder by supporters of a top Marcos aide. Ten days ago, he predicted his own death.

"We're going to be killed anyway, one by one perhaps, so we just have to make this election our one last-ditch fight," Javier had told reporters, adding that he was changing houses every night to avoid a private army he said was run by Marcos strongman Arturo Pacificador.

"We consider this election an all-or-nothing game for us . . . our last opportunity to restore democratic institutions in the Philippines," Javier had said.

Shortly after Javier's slaying Tuesday, Aquino called a press conference and condemned the murder. Her press spokesman, Rene Saguisag, read out a message of condolences, listing Javier's credentials as a Harvard graduate and local supporter of Aquino.

Aquino planned to travel to Javier's island today to pay condolences. The Philippine prelate, Cardinal Jaime Sin, said he will celebrate the funeral Mass.

But there was no mention during the press conference of Archie Toribio who, his friends said, was also willing to die for the ideals of freedom and democracy he believed were the heart of Aquino's candidacy.

And when the press conference had ended, a reporter asked Saguisag what Aquino and her staff were doing for Archie Toribio.

"Now who, may I ask, is he?" Saguisag said.

They know all about him at the Hair Boutique on Quirino Avenue in the Paranaque district of Manila. It was there that Archie cut hair, told jokes and talked the politics of the street, earning 400 pesos (about $20) a month.

And at the boutique, their biggest worry Tuesday was where to get the money to ship Archie's body back to his family 500 miles south on the island of Mindanao--that, and the lingering memories of a "pawn in a political war."

"He spoke often of the ills of our people--the escalating prices, the suffering of the poor and the harshness of the regime," said Jun Guzman, who runs the tiny hairdressing salon.

Two yellow candles--the color of Aquino's protest movement--graced Archie's station at the boutique Tuesday, near the sign that advertised manicures for 5 pesos and pedicures for 10.

"I told Archie not to go to that rally Monday night--it might be too dangerous," Guzman said. "I should have been with him, but I decided not to. Now, I wish I had gone, too."

Asked whether Archie was willing to die for Aquino's cause, Guzman, who described himself as one of Archie's close friends, said, "Yes, definitely.

"It was frightening how Archie used to defy Marcos' people. Three days before the election, the ruling party had a rally down the street in front of the shop. Imee Marcos (the President's daughter) was there. When Archie saw her, he dashed out the door and shouted the dirtiest things at her. He cursed her."

But Guzman said his friend's violent death will not deter others from throwing their support behind Aquino.

Died 'for Good Cause'

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