[From a conversation with a noted radio broadcaster]
When I told him about it, he did not laugh. Unlike most people who learned about what happened along the boundary of barangay San Isidro in Carmen, Davao del Norte at 9:24 to 9:34 am on Black Saturday, he did not even pass judgment over what we did or did not do, as if there were really some right things and wrong things to do under those circumstances; as if the incident itself was our fault.
Things like that always happen, he said. It was designed to scare you, he said. It also happened to me before, he said. Two times.
The first time it happened to me was back in the 80s somewhere in Ecoland. I never knew I ventured into the territory of intelligence agents.
We were just looking for corpses in a sack because someone called the radio station about the corpses hidden in a toilet of Kabacan elementary school. The one who called said the corpses were hogtied and placed inside the sack. This was in the 80s, when Davao City was the killing fields. I used to work for DXRH and four of us--three regular reporters and a volunteer--took quick notes of it and went to find the corpses.
We did not know where Kabacan elementary school was, so we kept asking.
We went all around the place looking for the goddam school. We reached where the Hall of Justice building is standing now, asking where Kabacan was. There was no SM City yet. There used to be the headquarters of the CHPG (Constabulary Highway Patrol Group) nearby in a building they shared with the police. We were so determined to find the corpses that when we came upon the headquarters, we asked the policemen on duty whether they knew where the Kabacan school was.
"Why?" The policeman asked.
"Someone told us there were corpses inside the toilet there. We want to verify if it was true because we want to report it on air."
The policemen told us to wait. One of them went inside to tell the chief. Afterwards, the policeman who went inside came back. He said the chief wanted us all to go down.
We were using the Pinoy 2 vehicle, the mobile patrol of DXRH, at that time, and the vehicle did not have a lock. We brought along with us the mobile radio base at that time and I was afraid it might get lost if I leave it alone in the car.
So, I told the police, maybe, I should stay in our vehicle to watch over our equipment. But the policeman said, no, the chief asked all of you to go down. All of you, he said. So, I was forced to go down.
But before that, they took our tape recorders, our IDs, even our wallets. When they took our wallets, I was alarmed. Why would they take our wallet? I asked myself. I began to feel helpless. They all forced us all to go down.
“Get inside!” said one policeman who shoved me into the door using his armalite butt because I did not want to follow inside.
Then, we were led into a room in a basement which only had a stair going down. We were practically under the earth, then. When we reached the bottom, we saw the chief. He had a desk. So, I realized, it was his office.
I never knew until then that the building had an underground; and that they used that underground office as base of their operations.
He made us stand in the middle of the hall. All of us, made to stand in the middle. Do you know how it felt? They could just have shot all of us there and nobody would know. We were under the ground. They’ve taken all our IDs.
The next thing that the chief ordered was, take off your clothes, meaning, the upper clothes. So, we took off our shirts. Then, he ordered us to take off our pants and we took off our pants.
Then, the chief asked, “So, what brought you here?”
“We’re just looking for the corpses, sir,” we said. “Somebody told us there are corpses hidden in the toilet of Kabacan Elementary School. We’re only here to cover the news.”
“Ahh,” the chief said. “Maybe, those were dogs.”
That’s all what the chief said.
Then, he said, “You may dress up now.”
Then, he said to his men, “Give them back their belongings.”
On our way home, we were all so shaken no one said a word.
Actually, they always do things like this to scare you. Especially when you venture inside their territory.
It happened to me two times, he said. The second time was when I was walking along Jones Avenue, this black jacket.
Jones Avenue, somewhere in Acacia, used to be the site of big protests in the 80s. This used to be where the protesting groups meet. This was also where the three (or four?) Davao lawyers, among them Lawyer Larry Ilagan, the husband of Luz Ilagan, were arrested.
I was walking through this area wearing this black jacket one day, the recorder clipped in my arm, when a car stopped just beside me, all its windows opened at the same time, with a full-cocked long firearm protruding from each window, all pointed at me. Somebody inside the car ordered me to raise my hands.
I could not immediately raise my hands because my recorder was clipped in my armpit. If I raise my left hand, my recorder will fall.
But they compelled me to raise both arms, so, I was forced to do just that. My recorder fell crushing to the ground. Yes, the recorder fell! I was lucky no one pulled the trigger.
When everything was cleared, they said, “Sorry, Bay, pasensya! These are difficult times, you know.”
They must have mistaken me for an NPA (New People’s Army).
I picked up my recorder. It was totally shattered.
They just sped away.
HE SAID these are the things they do to you when you venture into their territory, their operation base. That is where the body was found. That was also the place where they throw away the corpses. Who said there is such thing as the right thing or the wrong thing to do under those circumstances? You could never guess what’s on their minds!
When they come upon you and isolate you from the rest of humanity, the first thing for you to do is to find connection because you never know what will happen next. When they take away your phone, your last chance is gone.
It’s better to err on the side of caution.
You would never know whether or not your press ID can save you.