As Ibarra walks home that night, the lieutenant catches up to him. His name is Señor Guevara, and he explains the circumstances of Don Rafael’s death: because Ibarra’s father was the richest man in the province, he had many enemies. This was exacerbated by the fact that he refused to go to confession, which Father Dámaso greatly resented. As a result, the angry friar made “veiled allusions” to Don Rafael in his sermons. Still, Don Rafael didn’t relent, for he believed in following his own moral compass rather than pretending he believed in the power of confession simply to appease church officials.
This scene is the first time in Noli Me Tangere that the tensions between the church and nonreligious Filipinos is explicitly acknowledged. Given Don Rafael’s fate, it’s clear that refusing religion can be a fatal decision in this community. Not only can it lead to death, it also seems to lead to social isolation, considering that Father Dámaso made “veiled allusions” to Don Rafael, thereby spreading word of the man’s transgression throughout the churchgoing society.
Lieutenant Guevara explains that around the time Don Rafael refused to go to confession, there was a tax collector employed by the government who was very stupid. This tax collector had been an artilleryman before being fired because of his idiocy. Not knowing what to do with the man, the government had him go door-to-door collecting taxes. It soon became evident to the townspeople that this man—a Spaniard—couldn’t read, and they started making fun of him. One day several schoolboys mocked him for his illiteracy, and he chased them in the street until finally catching one and severely beating him. Don Rafael happened to be passing by, the lieutenant explains, and he intervened by pushing the tax collector away from the boy. Unfortunately, the push was a little too hard, and the collector fell backward and dashed his head open on a rock.
Señor Guevara’s story about the tax collector illustrates the privileges Spaniards enjoy in the Philippines. Even though this tax collector was an imbecile, the government still made sure he had a job. This suggests that even the lowliest of Spaniards benefits from his or her national affiliation, regardless of whether or not he or she deserves the various luxuries the government provides.
Continuing his story, Guevara explains that Don Rafael rushed the collector to the courthouse, but it was too late. The man died shortly thereafter, and Ibarra’s father was thrown into a jail cell. At this point, his enemies and detractors came out of the woodwork to slander his name, accusing him of heresy and subversion. These, the lieutenant says, are serious accusations; “To be a heretic anywhere is a great disgrace, especially at that time, when the mayor made a great show of his religious devotion,” he says. Guevara assures Ibarra that he did everything in his power to save Don Rafael, even contacting the Captain General and hiring a lawyer, but unfortunately the government was too corrupt to afford any assistance, and by the time Guevara successfully cleared Don Rafael’s name, he had died in his cell.
Although Rizal has clearly developed a sense of enmity between the government and the church, here he complicates that dynamic by showing that government officials like the mayor actually answer to the church. A heretic is somebody who believes something that goes against Christian doctrine. That the mayor—who isn’t even part of the church—views this as a serious infraction worthy of punishment denotes just how much influence the friars have over the local bodies of government in the Philippines. To be sure, anybody—especially a Filipino—who isn’t devoutly religious finds himself isolated by both the church and the state.