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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Visit in massacre site almost ends in bloodbath

It pays to always have a calm mind amid difficulties.

This was proven when former Iloilo fifth distirct congressman Rolex Suplico and a team of capitol reporters visited the site of a massacre in Brgy. Mandu-awak, San Dionisio, Iloilo morning on July 16, 1996 and elected to detour from hell — and lived another day!

Suplico, then a member of the provincial board, invited us for an ocular inspection of the area where a carnage that killed six members of two families — Ayusip and Arabe– happened several days earlier (weren’t those 60 journalists also “invited” to cover an event when they were massacred in Ampatuan in 2009?).

The visit came three days after Suplico filed a board resolution condemning the massacre and seeking the appointment of a new town police chief. Suplico said an ocular visit was needed as he wanted to “look deeper” into the grisly crime.

After spending about an hour talking to some residents in the area and inspecting the houses where the crime was committed, we decided to call it a day. On our way going to neighboring Sara town for lunch, we met San Dionisio mayor Peter Paul Lopez and his armed bodyguards.

 

RESOLUTION

 

Lopez had begrudged the board resolution and accused Suplico of trying to implicate him in the massacre. He also believed the reporters were there to “add insult to his injury” as suspected mastermind. Suplico had quipped earlier that “I have no concrete evidence to link Mayor Lopez” but that the whole Mandu-awak area “is being controlled by the Lopezes.” In other words, a bad blood had been brewing between Suplico and Lopez even before the visit.

We were on board two vehicles when Lopez’s team arrived also on two vehicles. Both Lopez and Suplico, who had not been talking to each other for a long time–and if they ever did the discussion was not cordial– greeted each other and shook hands. They talked.

A few moments later, Lopez was heard admonishing Suplico like a master giving a mouthful to an erring servant about the board resolution Suplico had authored. Suplico, a lawyer who spoke professionally, maintained his cool aware who was king in the area. Lopez lashed at him some more blaming the board resolution to be the source of a “bombastic” article that appeared in the Manila Standard which allegedly referred to Lopez as “murderer.”

 

OBSERVE

 

Unlike the bodyguards from both sides observing their respective bosses like daycare pupils from the start, some reporters, who were not paying attention either because they were hungry or they thought everything was normal, were now glancing at Suplico and Lopez while the two were swapping heavy words.

“Daw indi na ni maayo haw (It seems everything is not normal anymore),” photographer Cicero Omero whispered to me. “Pamati kamo daw ga binaisay na sila (Listen, they are now having argument),” Sun Star Iloilo reporter Nelson Robles interrupted us. “Relax lang ta. Alert lang” (Just relax and be alert),” contributed the late Panay News photographer Felix Agustin. If one of the bodygaurds pulled the trigger of an automatic firearm, there was no way for us to dodge the bullets as we were in open space and could hardly duck.

After a tense moment, Suplico turned his back and boarded his vehicle. This decision proved to be the turning point of what would have been a terrible “after shock” of the massacre if both camps had engaged in gunfight. While Team Suplico was speeding away, Lopez’s mouth continued to blabber with words not audible to the fleeing entourage.

 

INTENTION

 

Over DYFM Bombo Radyo that night, Suplico said he did not have any intention to meet Lopez that day. Suplico decided to leave to avoid trouble, he said, because “I sensed that he was not normal and his eyes were red.” Lopez, a political ally of then and now incumbent Gov. Art Defensor, denied Suplico’s statement. They have not crossed paths again until Suplico became a colleague and eventually ally of Defensor in the House of Representatives (Suplico will soon reportedly assume as Defensor’s provincial administrator).

Then provincial police commander, Supt. Wilfredo Dulay was furious when he heard about the incident. “Mabuti nalang walang nangyari. Naku, dagdag nanaman sana sa sakit ng ulo ko” (Good that no untoward incident had happened. It would have added to my headache),” Dulay said.

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Brawl at governor’s office

When two top officials of the old Iloilo provincial capitol transformed the governor’s office into a boxing arena, I did not only witness the bloody encounter, the event became my baptism of fire as boxing referee.

The brawl between then deputy governor Ruben Bermudo and provincial tourism chief Manny Benedicto at around 11 o’clock in the morning on July 3, 1990 exploded while DYRI “Radyo Agong” reporter Arsenio “Kamlon” Ang and this writer were doing interview inside the governor’s office with Vice Governor Robert “Bob” Maroma, then the acting governor.
There were only five of us inside the governor’s office present– Maroma, Bermudo, Benedicto, this writer, and Ang, who had just won a labor case in the Supreme Court against the defunct DYRP “Radyo Tagring.”

DAGGER

Even before the interview with Maroma started, we noticed Benedicto and Bermudo, then in their mid-50’s, swapping dagger looks like Crassus and Spartacus.
At one moment, Bermudo removed his eyeglasses like Eddie Garcia to plant a sharp stare at Benedicto, who reciprocated with his own Pacquito Diaz-style look.
While Maroma was answering our questions, the two disappeared surreptitiously. They entered inside the conference room about four meters away on Maroma’s right side.
Minutes later, we heard a loud commotion.
The noise didn’t stop Maroma from talking but our eyes–Maroma’s, Ang’s, and mine–started to exchange tacit signals alternately like actors in a silent movie.
When the conference room’s divider started to shake violently and two angry voices dished unprintable, Maroma stood up and rushed to the scene.
I grabbed my camera and followed suit. Kamlon scrambled to prepare a tape recorder.

THROATS

Inside, we saw two gladiators literally holding each other’s throats on one hand, and throwing rabbit punches on the other hand.
The sight was reminiscent of two Tokyo Dome somo wrestlers.
Blows rained from all angles–a chaotic scene.
Maroma tried to separate the two but was in awkward position, and could receive one of the flying fists on the face if he forced the issue.
So determined were the two Capitol bigwigs to maim each other they refused to let go of their grips–Benedicto’s shaking fingers came closed to drilling holes on Bermudo’s neck; Bermudo locked Benedicto’s jaw with a tight Steven Segal grip.
Both were gasping for breath like sprinters in the 100-meter dash, their false teeth threatening to jump out.
Maroma lost balance on his second attempt to act as third man in the ring.

PHOTOS

Instead of taking photos, I grabbed Benedicto’s hand to prevent his fingers from committing cannibalism.
Having lost much energy, he obliged.
Bermudo, also fighting for air in his lungs, let go of Benedicto’s jaw–but not after leaving some souvenirs on his skin.
“Tama na ina!” (That’s enough),” Maroma, who was himself losing some energy–and patience, shouted while scratching his head in disgust.
When the smoke had cleared, the protagonists could manage to release Mona Lisa-like smiles as if King Kong did not vandalize their mangled faces.
Either the pain from their violent physical activity did not yet take its toll, or they were ashamed for acting like kindergarten pupils and tried to suppress it.
No arrest was made even as Maroma hinted of slapping the misbehaving officials with administrative cases.
Kamlon, who hit a jackpot with his tape recorded “eye-witness account”, had a field day repeatedly playing the violent episode to friends and politicians, including Bermudo and Benedicto, who just grinned to hide their embarrassment.

MISS RP-GUAM

We found out their conflict emanated from the province’s preparations for the arrival of the Miss Philippines-Guam in Iloilo that year.
As tourism boss, Benedicto, of Dumangas, Iloilo, begrudged Maasin, Iloilo-based Bermudo’s decision to bypass his authority and disapprove some items in the budget, among other reasons.
If there was one person so terribly upset and mournful that awful morning, it was neither Benedicto nor Bermudo, who had kissed and made up.
It was Maroma, whose interview with us had been cut off unceremoniously, thus he failed to deliver an important message to people as news the following day was dominated by the skirmish of his warring subalterns.

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

How abduction of newspaper editor was foiled

It has been 21 years since our colleague, former News Express editor Teopisto “Pet” Melliza, escaped from would-be abductors by the skin of the teeth one afternoon on July 6, 1990 outside our editorial office at the Immaculate Concepcion Bldg. on Ledesma St., Iloilo City.

Had it not been for staffwriter Fems Pedregosa’s cleverness and our presence of mind (we call it “grace under pressure”) during the crisis, Atty. Pet Melliza would have been “captured” and God knows what would have happened next.

It was actually a combination of luck, right timing and a little guts on the part of Fems, who bravely faced and confused the pony tailed male visitor we learned later to be one of the hired killers that arrived from Mindanao with task “to abduct the editor of News Express and teach him a lesson (this statement had been confirmed by former Zarraga mayor Orlando Lacson).”

 

LESSON

 

What lesson? Lacson told a small group of “trusted” reporters (he must have trusted me also because I was there) months later in the ballroom of Hotel del Rio that the would-be abductors had been dispatched by a political warlord in the fifth district of Iloilo “in sympathy” with then San Miguel mayor Simeon Suero, who was on warpath with News Express.

According to Lacson, Suero was “fuming mad” when he narrated to the political warlord how News Express had “tarnished my reputation as mayor of San Miguel.”

Suero was referring to a headline story a week before the foiled abduction in the paper’s Hiligayon section entitled “Mayor namago, baylehan naputo” (Benefit dance went bankrupt when mayor didn’t pay) which he claimed had pictured him in bad light.

 

KILLINGS

 

Even after Marcos fell and President Tita Cory assumed power, extra judicial killings continued unabated victimizing mostly political activists and community journalists.

Lacson admitted he was privy to the plot as he was present when Suero and the political warlord discussed the abduction. In fact, Lacson didn’t oppose the plan, he said, as he also had a score to settle with the newspaper, which had criticized him along with a hard-hitting DYBQ Radyo Budyong anchorman (was it Rani Jangayo?) as protector of illegal gambling in his town.

At this juncture, Jangayo’s colleague, the late broadcaster Tony Laniog, who had one drink too many, berated Lacson. “Yots, ano kamo mamatay taga media? Patyanay na lang ta di ho” (So you want to kill us, mediamen? We might as well start killing each other here). Gus Bacabac, a former Capitol official and friend of both Lacson and some mediamen present, pacified Laniog. “Ton, tama na ina. Hinaya lang tingog mo” (Ton, that’s enough. Just minimize your voice).

 

TENSE

 

The situation became tense when Lacson stopped talking and turned his back like looking for somebody. One Francis Terania later approached and whispered something to Lacson. Bacabac pointed his finger at Terania and ordered him in a loud voice to “Go out! You are not included here.”

Lacson and everyone in the group knew Laniog, then president of Capitol press corps, had a .45 caliber gun tucked in his waist.  The atmosphere was so tension-filled that everyone started leaving as soon as silence beckoned. “Upod lang ta ya pre puli a (I will go with you, buddy),” the late Alex Sumagaysay, a colleague of Laniog and Jangayo, told me. No untoward incident happened. We dispersed at past 1 o’clock in the morning.

Atty. Melliza had nothing to do whatsoever with Suero’s supposed agony. It was Fems, in charge of the Hiligaynon page, who wrote the story about the benefit dance after being tipped off by an SK official whose association had hosted the benefit dance.

In the SK official’s allegations, Suero and his bodyguards did not pay when they entered the dance hall. Because many of them were armed, residents who wanted to join the dance, shied away.

 

UPSTAIRS

 

The visitor, who was allowed to go upstairs by printing press workers, was looking for Pet. Fems became suspicious when he refused to give details about his purpose, and did not identify himself. She excused herself from the visitor and whispered to me, “Lex, sugataa to si Pet sa dalum  e kon e nga indi anay magsaka kay diskompiado gid ko sa tawo nga ini (Lex, go wait for Pet downstairs and tell him not to enter our office yet because I don’t trust this guy here).”

I went downstairs and saw the visitor’s other cohorts some 50 meters away (their vehicle was parked near a barber shop) from the Malones Printing Press. They were restless and looking from one direction to another like fans in a “live” tennis match.

I went back inside and exited through the back door (going to the now Mary Mart Mall) where I met the unsuspecting editor. “Pet, indi ka anay magsaka kay delikado (Pet, don’t go upstairs yet; it’s dangerous),” I told the editor. We left the area.

The thugs had to endure about two to three hours waiting for nothing. They left empty handed.

While we were drinking coffee at Central Market several years later, Suero, who was no longer a mayor, confessed to me his knowledge about the issue. “Wara ron to a. Nadala lang ko to sa emosyon ko” (Let’s forget everything. I was only then carrried by my emotion).

How many journalists have been murdered in cold blood only because the likes of Suero were “only carried by their emotions?”

He was weak and limping. He has died.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Pacquiao says ‘thank you’ after earthquake

Several days after earthquake hit sourthern California on July 29, 2008, Rep. Manny Pacquiao sent me a personal email: “To, kumusta ka na? Salamat gid ha” (Boy, how are you? Thank you so much). Pacquiao and I talk in Hiligaynon dialect because we both speak Ilonggo.

We were inside Pacquiao’s apartment at the Palazzo in Park La Brea East in Los Angeles, California when a magnitude 5.8 earthquake rocked the United States’ largest state.

We ordered Pacquiao’s two kids — Jemuel and Michael — to hide under the table.  Danny Halibas, Pacquiao’s LA-based aide who is the apartment’s caretaker, secured the duo when the tremor disturbed the building at around 11: 42 in the morning (L.A. time).

I was writing a story in the table when Danny herded the boys under the dining table while their parents —  Manny and Jinky — were at the second floor.  Jemuel, who did not understand what was going on, initially refused but when we goaded him to dive and follow Michael to the floor, he obeyed.

TABLE

 

“Go, hide under the table, c’mon, kids hide under the table,” shouted  Halibas, a resident of the boxing champion’s unit in the penthouse floor of the 4,000-residence luxurious building located on 3rd Street.

The children were in the sala near the dining table while Pacquiao husband and wife were preparing for their flight to Las Vegas scheduled at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

Present in the sala together with the children were former WBC international bantamweight champion Jovy Halog, his wife Gemma and their daughter Jolene, 6; NABF champion Bernabe Concepcion, hospital instrument technician Alex Oreto, this writer, and Halibas.

Minutes later, Jinkee and twin sister Janet came down to report what they felt in the second floor and checked the kids who appeared puzzled and still did not understand what was happening. When the shaking stopped, the kids resumed their activity.

PROPERTY

 

Sensing there was no immediate damage on his property and family members, Pacquiao stayed in his room in the second floor and did not bother to go down.

He played dart alone hours earlier while I was sleeping on the floor. Pacquiao chided the kids for being noisy. “Pssst, huwag kayong maingay may natutolog.” (hey kids, minimize your voice somebody is still sleeping)

Oreto, one of the couple’s most trusted assistants and was cooking at the time of the earthquake, warned everyone of the coming aftershocks. “Watch out for the aftershocks,” he quipped. “This had happened before here.”

DUTY

 

Oreto, who drives the couple when he is not on duty at the White Memorial Medical Hospital, said California experienced the last strong earthquake in 2001 when he was still working as security guard. “There was also a strong earthquake in Malibu two years ago and in Northtridge,” Oreta said.

The jolt was felt from Los Angeles to San Diego, and slightly in Las Vegas where it was initially reported as “slight shaking”.

When Pacquiao came down to take his lunch some 15 minutes later, he asked Jemuel and Michael if they had already taken their lunch. “Upo kumain na kami,” the two chorused.

INFORMATION 

Preliminary information from the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the quake at magnitude 5.8, centered 29 miles east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said there were not immediate reports of damage or injury in Los Angeles.

The quake struck at 11:42 a.m. PDT. Buildings swayed in downtown Los Angeles for several seconds.

Minor damages in the runway of Ontario and John Wayne were also reported, while Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) reportedly lost one of its radars.

The city council, which was holding a regular session in downtown, called for a 15-minute recess while witnesses reported some crying and moaning in nearby buildings.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

http://www.viddler.com/explore/Alexpvidal/videos/2/

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

PLEASE FORGIVE ME, ANGELITO!

BY ALEX P. VIDAL

I have a confession to make. I was instrumental in the torture of a man we shall call Angelito, a member of society’s hoi polloi, and innocent victim of a wrong accusation and police brutality to boot.
Angelito’s human rights and dignity as a person had been grossly violated — all because of me, my error both as a victim and false witness in a simple act of misdemeanor committed inside a dark place: moviehouse!
The incident happened at around past 4 o’clock in the aftenoon on July 14, 1995 inside the balcony section of Cinema Theater (now a merchandise store selling “Made in China” products) located at the Plazoleta Gay in Iloilo City.
I did not enter the moviehouse to sleep on purpose as I did in the past–although I would have wanted to if opportunity presented itself. As we all moviegoers normally do upon stepping inside, I paused and waited for visibility to change from total darkness.

LODGE

In about three to five minutes, heads of patrons sitting on the more expensive lodge section in the lower portion from where I was standing were now visible aside from four red “Exit” lights on both sides of the walls.
Then I heared a slight giggling and shrieking coming from more than two people. I glanced at the source of noise and saw somebody who looked like future metro police Supt. Vicente Neptuno together with two young ladies. “Neptuno”, who is a good man, was not giggling and shrieking, the two ladies did–one of them gyrating like doing a slow motion hula hoop.
Anyway, why they were giggling and shrieking–and gyrating- when it was not a comedy film was none of my business. As I walked on the left side to find a seat, I suddenly felt being sandwiched by two bodies on both sides of my shoulders.

BACKWARDS

When the man on my left side moved away backwards, I checked my pocket on the left side of my shirt (I don’t carry a wallet on my pants until now). My Staedtler pen was missing! I gave a chase to the man in white t-shirt. Outside, I saw the fleeing person enter the men’s room. I followed suit and saw at least three of the many men inside with white t-shirts relieving simultaneously in different urinals.
I hollered at the first one who made eye-to-eye contact with me: “Give me my Staedtler pen back!” Sensing a potential fisticuff, others not included in the provocatory agitation made a mad scramble to the door and called the security guard who called the cop manning the traffic on corners J.M. Basa-Iznart-Ledesma Streets.
“What Staedtler pen?” the man in white t-shirt retorted, his voice loaded with lugubrious intonation, his eyes transfixed in astonishment. “Just return it; you just snatched it from my pocket,” I pressed angrily while blocking the door. The security guard’s timely arrival prevented the aggrieved man in white t-shirt from planting an uppercut and right hook on my face.
The guard turned us over to the cop who brought us to the Plazoleta Gay obelisk. Curious bystanders and usiseros bursted into laughter when the suspect made a sign of the cross, held both hands in a praying position pleading to release him “hay inosente takon; wara takon gani kakita kang stidlir nga re-a. Ano ra man?” (Please, I am innoncent. I don’t even have any idea what is a Steadler pen or what does it look like).

TRICYCLE

Unconvinced, the cop brought us to the city police station (Police Precinct 1) on board a tricycle. In front of police investigators on duty, he knelt down and pleaded he was innocent. I saw a punch from an impatient prober landing on his breadbasket. As he grimaced in pain, he turned to me and pleaded once more he was not the Real McCoy.
Punishment is supposed to be a penalty levied by society on individuals for our misdeeds. The purpose of punishment is supposed to be retribution for the wrong done–tit for tat, an eye for an eye, or a suitable fine or prison term for an offense.
According to the view, justice is done when the criminal suffers a pain–in body, purse, or freedom–equal to the wrong he did. Any other function punishment may serve, for the individual or society, is, in view, irrelevant.
According to another view, punishment should reform the criminal and deter others from similar acts. But was he really a criminal? Police asked me to go back the next morning “for further investigation.”

SLEEP

I couldn’t sleep the whole night. At past 9 o’clock in the morning the following day, I returned to tell police to let him go. He spent the night behind bars. When he was brought back to the investigation room, a horrible scene greeted me: his white t-shirt had been soaked with blood, his lips busted and his eyes cut to ribbons. He was weak and speechless. He had no more shoes. He missed dinner. Did he miss breakfast too?
A fat cop saw a blue tattoo mole under his foot and blared, “Ano ni ang alom mo sa tiil? En pe eh (NPA) ka no?” (What is this tattoo under your foot all about? You are an NPA (leftist rebel), aren’t you?” When the fat cop hit him with a chair for refusing to answer, I turned my back and ran away fast and boarded the Jaro Liko route jeep. Fellow passengers saw me in tears.
It’s been a long time since it happened but my conscience has been bothering me every now and then. Wherever you are now, and if you happen to read this article, please forgive me, Angelito!

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

http://www.viddler.com/explore/Alexpvidal/videos/1/

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2011 in Uncategorized