The “My Way Killings” has become a social phenomenon.

To recall, in the province of Rizal, a jobless man was shot dead by a security guard for singing the song “My Way” out of tune in a karaoke bar. Romy Baligula, was halfway through his song when security guard Robilito Ortega yelled at him that he was out of tune. As Baligula ignored his comments and continued singing, Ortega pulled out his revolver and shot him in the chest. He died instantly.

This is just one of the many recorded instances of fatal fights among Filipino karaoke lovers due to the singing of the song “My Way”, popularized by Frank Sinatra.

Here is yet another case (a 2006 Supreme Court case), where the notorious “My Way” song strikes in the province of Pangasinan that sparked a rumble leaving one dead and two others fatally wounded.

In this case of Palaganas vs. People, the Supreme Court, in its Decision, penned by Justice Chico-Nazario said:

“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

The song evokes the bitterest passions. This is not the first time the song “My Way” has triggered violent behavior resulting in people coming to blows. In the case at bar, the few lines of the song depicted what came to pass when the victims and the aggressors tried to outdo each other in their rendition of the song.”

Prosecution’s version:

On January 16, 1998, around 8:00 in the evening, brothers Servillano, Melton and Michael, all surnamed Ferrer were having a drinking spree in their house. At 9:45 in the evening, the three brothers decided to proceed to Tidbits Videoke bar located at the corner of Malvar and Rizal Streets, Poblacion, Manaoag, Pangasinan, to continue their drinking spree and to sing. Inside the karaoke bar, they were having a good time, singing and drinking beer.

Thereafter, at 10:30 in the evening, Jaime Palaganas (Jaime) arrived together with Ferdinand Palaganas and Virgilio Bautista. At that time, only the Ferrer brothers were the customers in the bar.

The two groups occupied separate tables.

Later, when Jaime was singing, Melton sang along with him as he was familiar with the song “My Way”. Jaime however, resented this and went near the table of the Ferrer brothers and said in Pangasinan dialect “As if you are tough guys.” Jaime further said “You are already insulting me in that way.” Then, Jaime struck the back of Servillano’s head with the microphone. A rumble ensued between the Ferrer brothers on the one hand, and the Palaganases, on the other hand. Virgilio Bautista did not join the fray as he left the place.

During the rumble, Ferdinand went out of the bar. He was however pursued by Michael. When Servillano saw Michael, he also went out and told the latter not to follow Ferdinand. Servillano and Michael then went back inside the bar and continued their fight with Jaime.

Meantime, Edith Palaganas, sister of Jaime and the owner of the bar, arrived and pacified them.

Servillano noticed that his wristwatch was missing. Unable to locate the watch inside the bar, the Ferrer brothers went outside. They saw Ferdinand about eight (8) meters away standing at Rizal Street. Ferdinand was pointing at them and said to his companion, later identified as Rujjeric Palaganas (Rujjeric), “Oraratan paltog mo lara“, meaning “They are the ones, shoot them.” Rujjeric then shot them hitting Servillano first at the left side of the abdomen, causing him to fall on the ground, and followed by Melton who also fell to the ground. When Servillano noticed that Melton was no longer moving, he told Michael “Batobato.” Michael picked up some stones and threw them at Rujjeric and Ferdinand. Afterwards, the police officers came and the Ferrer brothers were brought to the Manaoag Hospital and later to Villaflor Hospital in Dagupan. Servillano later discovered that Melton was fatally hit in the head while Michael was hit in the right shoulder.

Version of the Defense:

On January 16, 1998, at around 11:30 in the evening,  Jaime along with Ferdinand (Apo) and friend Virgilio Bautista arrived at the bar and occupied a table near that of the Ferrers’.

After the Ferrers’ turn in singing, the microphone was handed over to Jaime, who then started to sing. On his third song “My Way”, Jaime was joined in his singing by Melton, who sang loudly and in an obviously mocking manner. This infuriated Jaime, who then accosted Melton, saying, “You are already insulting us.” The statement resulted in a free for all fight between the Ferrers’, on one hand, and the Palaganases on the other. Jaime was mauled and Ferdinand, was hit on the face and was chased outside of the bar by Servillano and Michael.

Ferdinand then ran towards the house of the appellant Rujjeric Palaganas, and sought the help of the latter. Rujjeric, stirred from his sleep by his brother’s shouts, went out of his house and, noticing that the van of his uncle (Jaime) was in front of the Tidbits Videoke Bar, proceeded to that place. Before reaching the bar, however, he was suddenly stoned by the Ferrer brothers and was hit on different parts of his body, so he turned around and struggled to run towards his house. He then met his brother, Ferdinand, going towards the bar, so he tugged him and urged him to run towards the opposite direction as the Ferrer brothers continued pelting them with large stones. Rujjeric then noticed that Ferdinand was carrying a gun, and, on instinct, grabbed the gun from the latter, faced the Ferrer brothers and fired one shot in the air to force the brothers to retreat. Much to his surprise, however, the Ferrer brothers continued throwing stones and the Rujjeric was again hit several times. Unable to bear the pain, he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.

The Trial

Rujjeric was found guilty of Homicide and Frustrated Homicide by the Regional Trial Court while it acquitted Ferdinand explaining that there was no conspiracy between Rujjeric and Ferdinand in killing Melton and wounding Servillano and Michael.  According to the trial court, the mere fact that Ferdinand “pointed” to where the Ferrer brothers were and uttered to Rujjeric “Araratan, paltog mo lara!” (They are the ones, shoot them!), does not in itself connote common design or unity of purpose to kill. It also took note of the fact that Rujjeric was never a participant in the rumble inside the Tidbits Cafe Videoke Bar (videoke bar).

Rujjeric  invoked the self-defense but the trial court did not buy it. It ruled that Rujjeric cannot successfully invoke self-defense since there was no actual or imminent danger to his life at the time he and Ferdinand saw the Ferrer brothers outside the videoke bar.

The Supreme Court Decision:

The highest court of the land affirmed the Decision of the lower court finding Rujjeric guilty.

It ruled that there was no unlawful aggression on the part of the Ferrer brothers that justified the act of Rujjeric in shooting them. There were no actual or imminent danger to the lives of Rujjeric and Ferdinand when they proceeded and arrived at the videoke bar and saw thereat the Ferrer brothers. It appears that the Ferrer brothers then were merely standing outside the videoke bar and were not carrying any weapon when Rujjeric arrived with his brother Ferdinand and started firing his gun.

But the defense said, the Ferrer brothers had provoked him by throwing stones?

The Supreme Court said, if it is true that the Ferrer brothers had provoked Rujjeric to shoot them by pelting the latter with stones, the shooting of the Ferrer brothers is still unjustified. When the Ferrer brothers started throwing stones, Rujjeric was not in a state of actual or imminent danger considering the wide distance (4-5 meters) of the latter from the location of the former. Rujjeric was not cornered nor trapped in a specific area such that he had no way out, nor was his back against the wall. He was still capable of avoiding the stones by running away or by taking cover. He could have also called or proceeded to the proper authorities for help. Indeed, Rujjeric had several options in avoiding dangers to his life other than confronting the Ferrer brothers with a gun.

But the defense said Rujjeric sustained injuries caused by the stones thrown?

The fact that Rujjeric sustained injuries in his left leg and left shoulder, allegedly caused by the stones thrown by the Ferrer brothers, does not signify that he was a victim of unlawful aggression or that he acted in self-defense, the Court explained. There is no evidence to show that his wounds were so serious and severe. The superficiality of the injuries sustained by Rujjeric is no indication that his life and limb were in actual peril.

But the defense said Rujjeric  fired a warning shot but the Ferrers’ continued throwing stones?

Rujjeric ‘s assertion that, despite the fact that he fired a warning shot, the Ferrer brothers continued to pelt him with stones, will not exonerate him from criminal liability. Firing a warning shot was not the last and only option he had in order to avoid the stones thrown by the Ferrer brothers. As stated earlier, he could have run away, or taken cover, or proceeded to the proper authorities for help. Rujjeric, however, opted to shoot the Ferrer brothers.

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So, if you really value your life, avoid “My Way”.  It is factually a killer. And if you can’t scratch the itch, please sing it well and on-key, or, to be safe, sing alone.


Read Full Text: Palaganas Vs. People

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