“Among others — being kidnapped, and being cited for contempt by the Supreme Court.”
As I look back to my more than seven decades as a journalist, I am reminded of the many events I have gone through as a journalist. They have defined me as a true member of the press.
After my graduation at the old Ateneo de Manila at the Padre Faura ruins in 1950, having taken a four-year course in Bachelor of Arts and taken electives in law, an Oblate priest from Cotabato City came asking for volunteers to handle a weekly publication called The Mindanao Cross.
Rudy Tupas, who was then editor-in-chief of the school publication, pointed to me as another volunteer after he raised his hand as a volunteer. Yes, I said. I must have had an adventurous spirit.
I stayed on for two years as an associate editor of The Mindanao Cross, covering every beat for the weekly newspaper, now a daily, from the province to the town proper, and almost everything about Mindanao.
I soon learned about the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In addition to my information, I also learned that the pilgrimage was arranged every year by a Muslim politician who had a travel agency. It was actually a monopoly attended by a large number, costing millions of pesos for the pilgrims. I headlined that story in The Mindanao Cross, which was picked up by Manila newspapers.
Santa Banana, the next day, several Muslims came to The Mindanao Cross office and invited me to have a talk with that Muslim politician I identified in my story. After a short talk, all he wanted me to do was to write his story to clarify things, which I did. That was also picked up by Manila newspapers. That Muslim politician became a very good friend.
After my stint in Cotabato, I returned to Manila to pursue my studies in law. I also got a job at the old Ateneo, now in Loyola Heights in Quezon City. I taught English, history and literature while I was finishing my law studies at the old Philippine Law School in Intramuros. Santa Banana, I still recall those days when I had to drive my old surplus jeep along EDSA, which was then bare on both sides. After I took the Bar, I also taught law.
When I joined The Philippines Herald as Business Editor, I started to realize that I was deemed by God to be a journalist, not a lawyer.
Having the old Central Bank as my principal beat, ever the inquisitive person that I was, learned from my sources that three of the seven members of the Monetary Board were playing the stock market and had for themselves quota allocations. At that time, quota allocations were given to those who needed to import. It was a privilege that made those three Monetary Board members violate the law. So, I wrote it, making it the headline story for the day. It was considered a scoop. Congress followed with a series of investigations and soon the three board members resigned.
One evening after I had my business page printed, as I went down the stairs of the building, two men from both sides came and pointed their guns on both sides of my body. They were like gangsters in the movies!
A car soon came by and the two men forced me to get inside. Santa Banana, I never prayed as much until we reached the old Hotel Filipinas along Padre Faura where I was taken. I guess, it was a suite, where I saw a fat man, who I recognized from an old photo. He had killed somebody, according to the newspapers. When I asked him what I was kidnapped for, he told me frankly he was just doing it for a friend, one of whom I identified as one of the three members of the Monetary Board engaged in unlawful activities. He told me that he just wanted me to stay overnight at that hotel suite until morning. At this age, I was no longer worried about myself, but my wife, who must be wondering where I was. I was usually at home by seven at night.
About six the following morning, I heard somebody enter the room. I could not sleep that night. Who would be able to, in that predicament? But I was given a plate of pancit for dinner that night. The same man who I know was a mobster said he wanted me to write the side of the story of his friend, which I promised I would. I was told to go home.
Before I went home I went to the Philippines Herald to give my story and I phoned my late brother Willie, and he told me he would seek the help of President Magsaysay. At about 10 that morning, the President said he would like to see me, and I arrived at the Palace. The President took me to his bedroom where I told him the whole story. He then asked me who I would recommend to replace the three resigned board members. Without any hesitation I told him three names. The President said: “Done.”
In that meeting, the President picked up a revolver, a .38, and gave it to me. It was his personal gun with his initials “PRM” engraved on it. He ordered his secretary to call up then Chief of Staff Mac Peralta to provide bodyguards for me and my family — one for me personally, a female sergeant for my wife, and another female for my daughter, and one each for my three sons who were going to school.
Those were difficult times for me and my family. But with God’s blessings we went through it. The bodyguards lasted for about a year — I had to feed them and give them headquarters.
There was also the time when I gave the Philippines Herald another scoop when I found out that the time when President Macapagal was President, there were rumors that the Philippine peso was going to be devalued. I know from the Central Bank that the peso which was then P2 to $1 was overvalued.
For all the scoops I had, I was cited by the National Press Club as Newspaperman of the Year.
Santa Banana, I also had my fights with the Supreme Court where I was cited for contempt, not once but many times.
First, I wrote a story about a Chief Justice going to Hong Kong with 17 members of his family billeted at Hotel Peninsula, all expenses paid for by a notorious Chinese in Binondo. In an executive session I refused to name my sources. The court cited me for P10,000 and for one year imprisonment. But I refused to pay. I had wanted to go to jail but a friend had paid my fine.
The second case of contempt was when an associate of the Supreme Court told me in confidence about an unpromulgated decision against then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile that the crime of “rebellion with murder” was a non-existent crime because murder was already included in rebellion. That justice also told me who was delaying the promulgation — a female justice and very good friend of then President Cory Aquino who had filed a case of “rebellion with murder” against Enrile and had him arrested.
I wrote that story, and the Supreme Court said I was guilty not as a journalist, but as a member of the Bar. There is supposedly a rule that unpromulgated decisions of the Supreme Court should not be reported.
I found that decision crazy, because I wrote that story as a journalist. I never paid the fine, nor went to prison. The case made me famous when it was asked in a Bar question in “In Re Jurado.”
Continued on Tuesday