It happened 30 years ago but it is still vividly remembered!
At dapecol – It was morning of April, 1989. I listened intently to a broadcast in my car radio which was covering an on-going hostage-taking incident. Sixteen (16) sentenced prisoners of the Davao Penal Colony (DAPECOL) in neighboring Davao del Norte province took hostages, mostly wives and children of DAPECOL employees. In their attempt to escape northwards to Agusan, they were blocked in the national highway by police and military authorities.
RODY HOSTAGED – Then Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte arrived in an Air Force helicopter and landed in the middle of the highway where government forces were on a tense stand-off with the prison escapees. The mayor alighted from the chopper and started talking to the prisoners by megaphone. Then he was heard offering himself as hostage in exchange for a 3-year old child and the child’s aunt. After a while, the hostage-takers agreed and released the two hostages but refused to release the other hostages. To the shock of the public, the mayor boarded one of the commandeered vehicles, an open jeep , and was taken hostage with a knife pointed at his neck in full view of onlookers all throughout the 5-hour trip back to Davao City hall where he offered to discuss with them further their grievances and demands.
AT CITY HALL — I was Davao City congressman at that time. I proceeded to the Davao city hall while listening to the full coverage of the live radio broadcast. When I arrived there, the escaped prisoners and several hostages already occupied the mayor’s office while the mayor was outside conferring with some officials. I had a brief conversation with him and volunteered to help in whatever way. Then, we both decided to personally talk with the hostage-takers inside the room which they allowed but still holding menacingly their hostages with bladed weapons.
NEGOTIATIONS — While inside the room, we both pleaded to end the stand-off and told them that we would take care of their reasonable demands. They complained of alleged abuses by DAPECOL guards, the sub-human conditions in jail, their claims of alleged injustices they suffered. In fact at one point, we are able to arrange for a phone call between the leader, Felipe Pugoy and his mother who was then in Cordova, Cebu.
To make the story short, the escapees agreed to peacefully end the stand-off and released their hostages.
UNARMED? — But here’s an interesting untold sidelight worth disclosing. In order to convince the prisoners to allow the 2 of us to enter the room and win their trust, I and the mayor loudly announced that we would enter the room unarmed. I dug into my pocket and took out my handgun and showed it to them as I openly handed it over to my aide as I entered the door. Mayor Rody did the same by pulling from his waist his sidearm in full public view and left it by the door to his security aide. We both entered and kept the conversation going until at some point, Felipe Pugoy agreed to give up with some mutually acceptable conditions.
TWO HIDDEN GUNS — When they all left for the MetroDisCom headquarters, the mayor and I had a little chat. I told him that while the leader Pugoy was menacing there was another prisoner who was more dangerous whom I watched closely during the entire negotiations. To my surprise,
Mayor Rody replied: “I was also watching him closely and I could easily take him out if he made the move!” Then he bent down and reached for his boot and took out another loaded handgun hidden there!( Hahaha! )
But here’s another untold fact. I ALSO had another back-up gun also hidden in my right boots but I kept the info to myself!
(Note: This Pugoy hostage-taking incident is the first episode. The same Pugoy figured in another hostage- taking several months after where several hostages, including a young woman Australian missionary was killed in the assault operations. But that’s another story to be told.!)