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PUBLISHER’S NOTES | APRIL 1989 DAPECOL HOSTAGE-TAKING

(Excerpt from my still-to-be published book, I WALKED WITH PRESIDENTS)

I WAS then Davao City congressman in April, 1989 when a crisis situation happened. It was the first hostage- taking incident in the Davao Penal Colony ( DAPECOL) in Davao del Norte, a plantation-type national prison facility for sentenced prisoners.

As a matter of fact, there were actually three (3) DAPECOL hostage-taking incidents where I was directly involved:

1) in April, 1989 led by Felipe Pugoy while I was Congressman
2) in August 1989 also led by Felipe Pugoy after I just ended my watch as Davao Congressman , and
3) In March, 1998 or 9 years later during the presidency of President Ramos.

APRIL 1989 INCIDENT — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was Davao City mayor and I was Davao City Congressman at that time.
A jail break at DAPECOL took place where prisoners took with them hostages in their planned escape. The hostage-takers were escaping on their way northward to Agusan province with some hostages, including a 3- month old young baby and her aunt when they were blocked in a bridge along the highway by AFP & PNP troopers. Unexpectedly, City Mayor Rody Duterte arrived by helicopter on the scene (which was outside the boundary of Davao City) and to the shock of everyone, he offered himself as a hostage in exchange for the baby and her aunt who were promptly released. He was seen by onlookers boarding the vehicle of the hostage-takers with a knife pointed at his throat. The convoy turned around towards Davao city after they were convinced by the mayor to discuss their concerns and issues at his office at the city hall.

I was in Davao City then and closely monitoring the events on my car radio. I promptly proceeded to City Hall and met up with Mayor Duterte when the convoy arrived to see how I could be of help. Those were tense moments. The Davao media was covering every movement on live broadcast from the time Mayor Duterte offered himself as a hostage until the convoy reached city hall, a good 2-hour travel. Bystanders and curious onlookers were milling around the city hall grounds.

The escaped prisoners went inside a room at the city hall where they were still menacingly holding other hostages with bladed weapons. I was surprised when Mayor Duterte, who was literally “released” by the escapees upon reaching City Hall, told them through a mobile speaker microphone that he would enter the room with me to talk to the hostage-takers to find a solution to the stand-off for a peaceful settlement of the “impasse”. He told them from the door of the room that both of us would enter unarmed with no other purpose but just to listen to their complaints and perhaps end the crisis peacefully. Finally, after several attempts of trying to convince them, to our great relief, the prisoners agreed!

To show that I and the mayor were really unarmed, we stood by the door of the room to openly show to them as we removed from our waists our tucked firearms. ( Those were the days when without a tucked firearm was like feeling naked and helpless.)
We then talked with them inside the holding room and listened to their grievances. Finally they agreed to release their hostages and gave up peacefully. They complained of the alleged bad handling by DAPECOL authorities of prisoners, among other things. As a concession to them, we agreed to transfer them to the Metrodiscom detention area nearby and not returned to Dapecol.

(It was at this Metrodiscom detention area where four (4) months later in August, they again took hostages that ended up in tragedy. My next episode.)

But here’s something worth disclosing. Unknown to the hostage- takers, Mayor Rody and I still had one handgun each hidden and tucked inside our boots, just in case things turned out for the worst! (Sssshhh…. Secret! Hahaha!)
We both laughed about this later when we reminisced together those bygone but unforgettable days!

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