(An excerpt from my coming book I WALKED WITH PRESIDENTS)
President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was elected to succeed President Fidel Ramos. (FVR). He served only three (3) years from 1998 to 2001 of his six (6)- year term as he was forced to resign.
Upon President Erap’s assumption into office in 1998, I promptly relinquished my post as FVR’s Presidential assistant for Mindanao. My friend, Dabawenyo Anthony “Taras” Sasin took over my post.
I was again back in the private sector and back to my work as a journalist. At the same time I continued to assist FVR as his private sector spokesman while he was running the Ramos Peace & Development (RPDEV) advocacy group.
1999 AFP ABDUCTION- Sometime in 1999, a big incident happened in Davao when the New People’s Army, headed by then “Kumander” PARAGO abducted two ( 2) high- ranking Philippine Army officers, GENERAL OBILLO and Major EDUARDO “Ed” MONTEALTO.
Having previously met and dealt with the CPP/NPA/NDF leaders in Europe while Davao congressman, I organized together with Davao Bishop Fernando “Nanding” Capalla and Bishop Manlapaz of Tagum, Davao del Norte a group called “humanitarian mission” to work for the release of the two (2) abducted AFP officers. Father Pete Lamata and another priest from Tagum joined us on a trip to the Netherlands in Europe hoping to negotiate for the peaceful release of the AFP officers. Due to my previous engagements with Joma Sison and other NDF leaders, arrangements were quickly made for our “humanitarian mission” to fly to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We flew and immediately upon arrival in Amsterdam called on the NDF leadership in a nearby city called Utrecht, at the outskirts of Amsterdam where the NDF “main headquarters” were located. In no time, a deal was sealed with NDF leaders JOMA SISON, LUIS JALANDONI, FIDEL AGCAOILI and other NDF leaders. They agreed to immediately release the abducted AFP officials.
I cannot forget that Sunday when our “humanitarian mission” was in Amsterdam. Bishop Capalla, Bishop Manlapaz and the priests went to a church in the center of the city with the intention of hearing mass on that Sunday morning. Unknown to them, the churches were already closed for years since the Dutch no longer attended masses and other religious events. I previously knew this since I had been there during previous “peace talks” . When they found out that the church was closed, I told them I would act as their “tour guide free of charge”.
I then intentionally ( naughty me) guided the group where brothels or prostitute houses called “escaparati” lined the whole length of Amsterdam’s “canals”. In those long row of buildings, prostitutes displayed their “wares” in glass show windows evidently to “invite customers”. At first I noticed the bishops and priests appeared shocked. But I suspected ( yes, suspected only.. lol) that they were enjoying the “walk” secretly, relishing the scenery.
When I knocked at one of the doors of the show window and had a brief conversation with one pretty lass, the bishops and priests were surprised, perhaps thinking I wanted to be a “willing customer”. When I re-joined them after that brief chat, I merely told them: “No worries. I was only inquiring about rates in “euros” , the length of time per “engagement” and other information. It’s called ‘social investigation’! “ ( They all laughed!)
By the way, prostitution was , and I guess still is, legalized in the Netherlands with licenses issued by the Dutch government to those “plying the trade”.
After successfully convincing the NDF leadership to release the two (2) AFP officials, we flew back home to Davao. We learned later that they contacted through their channel “Kumander” Parago for the immediate release.
I recall climbing on foot the hills of Marilog in Davao City together with the members of that “humanitarian mission” to recover the AFP officers. We were joined in that climb by then Senator Loren Legarda who happened to be also in Utrecht during our meeting with Joma Sison and the NDF leaders . A “ceremonial formal turnover” in those Marilog hills was done with the NDF flag on a make-shift stage prominently displayed and fluttering in the wind.
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