DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /18 April) – “When the order is shoot-to-kill, it can never be shoot-to-live,” Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte said after a bloody end to a hostage-taking in August 1989, when he was still on his first of what would be seven terms as city mayor.
The 1989 hostage-taking at the detention center of the Metrodiscom (now known as Camp Domingo Leonor), the second involving convict Felipe Pugoy, took centerstage once more following Duterte’s controversial statement – he says it was not a joke – on April 12 at the Amoranto Stadium in Quezon City about Jacqueline Hamill, the Australian lay missionary who was allegedly raped and killed during the hostage-taking.
In a video clip from the April 12 speech that went viral, Duterte said: “Put_ng ina, sayang ito. Ang nagpasok sa isip ko, nirape nila, pinagpilahan nila doon. Nagalit ako kasi nirape, oo isa rin ‘yun. Pero napakaganda, dapat ang mayor muna ang mauna. Sayang” (Son__b_ch, what a pity. What came to my mind was, they raped her, lined up for her. I was angry because she was raped. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a pity).
On Sunday afternoon, amid demands for him to apologize, he told television reporters at his residence in Davao City that he was merely recounting what happened in 1989 which he said was “gutter language” uttered in the heat of anger.
Pugoy’s first hostage-taking at the Davao Penal Colony in Davao del Norte in early April 1989 ended with Duterte exchanging himself as hostage in favor of a three-month old child and the child’s aunt. The hostage-takers and the remaining hostages traveled to Davao City and held Duterte hostage in City Hall.
Eventually some of the hostage-takers surrendered while Pugoy and about three others stood their ground and just as he was planning to shoot them, Duterte said then 1st district Rep. Jesus Dureza, his high school classmate at the Cor Jesu College in Digos City, intervened.
In Duterte’s Sunday interview, he said Dureza, whom he described as “ever the peaceful man,” phoned then President Corazon Aquino who then called Duterte that she wants the hostage-taking solved peacefully.
“Tapos na sana yun” (They would have been finished off), Duterte repeatedly said.
Duterte recalled that a month later (it was actually four months later, on August 13, 1989, a Sunday), when Pugoy’s group again took hostages, including Hamill.
He said he wanted to negotiate again as he did in April but the police and military disapproved because the detention center was not in the line of sight.
The 16 hostage-takers asked for a bus. And everything was set for 3 p.m. Tuesday, August 15.
“Even the hostages are insistent on the bus,” Dureza, then chair of the negotiating panel, told a press briefing early that morning.
Dureza said even Hamill had insisted the previous night that the bus be given because the hostages felt they had better chances outside than being cooped up inside where a shootout was feared.
An assault, Dureza said, would be “messy.”
He said the safety of the hostages was the primary concern, adding they were left with only two options left: hold out inside and shoot it out inside or let them leave. “Chances are (with the latter option) makaka-save pa tayo ng hostages,” he said.
“To be honest with you,” he whispered to some reporters then, “takot na takot yung Australian” (the Australian was so scared).
In his Sunday interview Duterte said: “Sabi nila gusto nila ng jeep. May mga official doon na pumayag, sabi nila okay, payag kami. Sabi ko ayaw ko. Magbarilan tayo dyan mismo sa labas” [They said they wanted a jeep. There were officials who agreed, I said I won’t agree. Let’s shoot it out outside (the detention center)].
Duterte confirmed to The Manila Chronicle that morning of August 15, 1989 that a bus was, indeed, being readied. Dureza said the bus would be given to the hostage-takers at “3 p.m. or earlier.”
At 10 a.m. then Regional Command chief Brig. Gen. Mariano Baccay told a press briefing that the hostages were fine and in good condition. “We hope to keep on with the dialogue.. As long as they’re talking, I think everything’s fine.”
Reporters (including this reporter who was then with The Manila Chronicle) were sent out of the camp after the briefing. They waited outside the Metrodiscom compound.
From outside, reporters could see four batches of troops enter the camp. But a few minutes after the fourth batch entered at 10:30 a.m. the hostage-takers, surrounded by the hostages, started moving out of the detention center, a move that surprised Dureza and company.
Dureza said he was speaking on the phone with Mohammad Nasser Samparani, leader of the hostage-takers, when Pugoy grabbed the line and announced “Lalabas na kami” (We’re coming out).
At around 10:35 a.m., one of the convicts fired a shot in the air, a survivor said.
Four more shots were fired at 10:37. From which side, it was hard to tell.
An exchange of automatic gunfire lasted from 10:38 to 10:42 a.m. where Samparani collapsed, followed seconds later by hostage Julieta Verzosa, 16.
The cluster of hostage and hostage-takers moved back but just as they re-entered the gates of the detention center, bodies fell, among them Hamill. At 10:46 a..m another shot was fired.
A survivor recalled Hamill kept singing Christian praises and praying and coughing as she lay on her back wounded.
At 3 p.m. a dynamite placed at the back of the detention center purportedly to make a hole for passage of the Regional Special Action Forces (RSAF) exploded. Unfortunately, the hole wasn’t big enough for even a boy to enter.
The explosion was supposed to have signaled the start of the assault. Capt. Poblio Gilod, then chief of the 431st PC Company told the congressional committee that probed what happened, that the plan was for the RSAF team and another team to meet in the main passageway of Section 2 of the detention center , where the hostage-takers had holed up.
Since the hole was not big enough for the RSAF to enter, Gildo and his team decided to move on. He said he saw Pugoy clutching a female hostage. Four other female hostages were still in the room.
In the melee, he said, the hostage-takers were “rattled” and scampered. The women were left behind and were pulled to safety by the troopers as they rushed out of the detention center at around 3:35 p.m.
There was intermittent firing from 3 to 3:16 p.m from outside and inside.
Then the lull. At 3:35 p.m. the women rushed out of the detention center. Two minutes later, firing resumed, intermittently until 3:47 p.m.
Dureza told reporters then that the decision to turn over the matter to the military for action was made at around 2 p.m. “after we were informed that the Australian was dead.”
It was clear that when the final assault was launched at 3 p.m. the Australian was dead but five Filipina hostages were sill inside a cell along with the hostage-takers. The women were still vulnerable targets.
Fortunately, they were not harmed.
Last Sunday, Duterte told reporters that after he saw the body of Hamill, he uttered his “gutter language,” got his Uzi and fired the first volley. “Isang magazine inubos ko yun. Bakbakan na kami. Tapos patay na lahat” (I finished one magazine. We shot it out. And everyone was killed).
Dr. Jose Pagsaligan, who performed an autopsy on Hamill said she could have survived had she been retrieved immediately. Pagsaligan reckoned Hamill died between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
He also told reporters that Hamill was “probably shot from a far distance,” a point later taken up in the congressional hearing that followed, to determine if she was hit by a sniper’s bullet.
Duterte, then head of the Regional Peace and Order Council, told a press conference that afternoon that their initial findings indicated that all hostages, including Hamill, were shot by the hostage-takers.
Duterte then uttered his “shoot-to-kill can never be shoot-to-live” statement.
He said the order was to arrest the criminals and “if they offer armed resistance, to kill them.”
Photojournalists from the Manila Chronicle and the Inquirer photographed a hostage-taker who was still alive but was finished off by an officer.
When the bodies of the hostage-takers who held out at the detention center were taken out and laid on the parade grounds in preparation for their transport to a funeral parlor, most of them were in their briefs.
As is usual practice in a prison setting, those who strip down to their briefs do so to show they are not armed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)