“Ganito pala sa Olongapo, parang war zone.”
This was the surprised remark from one of the media personnel from GMA-7 who witnessed what happened that fateful day in November 1996.
All the action were going on inside the SBMA where the APEC forum was being held, so it only makes sense for all the media, local and international, to be there. Fortunately for us, some GMA-7 staff, particularly Luchi Cruz Valdez (from The Probe Team fame) and a cameraman decided to go outside the former US base searching for exclusives.
They have found what they were looking for, the exclusive footages of how we got mobbed. And they were stunned to have witnessed what happened.
This is not just about APEC nor globalization. This incident is a clear proof of how they suppress people’s rights in Olongapo. This isn’t Manila nor Marikina, where administrators can shove their police rights over right of ways, or provide pink street urinals. This is Olongapo, where non-conformity is publicly banned.
Not by any known rule, not by any written law, but by physical intimidation from so-called people monitors and physical harm from alleged spontaneous mobs.
The blood that was shed was proof enough of how they try to suppress civil rights in Olongapo. The huge crack on my head is a living proof that a community ruled by an iron hand who organizes people’s mob fuels fanatics willing to kill their own.
Now the world knows, even for a just a glimpse.
After I discharged myself from the hospital, we went in hiding for a month while I recuperate. We went to Manila to do a thorough CT scan on my head injury and to provide an interview. Jo-Ann Maglipon (now the Editor of Yes! Magazine) was the only media person who dared interviewed us. She had a column back then at the Manila Times.
Back in Olongapo, we were charged with illegal assembly by the local government which, as expected, was dismissed by the courts. Illegal assembly is just like vagrancy, the establishment with police power usually uses it, but had minor if not no legal bearings against civil rights.
We sued for attempted homicide against the henchmen, but later the fiscal dropped it to physical injuries. We went to CHR and filed human rights violation against the city government for their participation (paying the alleged attackers, the use of SBMA and City Hall’s vehicles to mobilize such personnel) in the attack.
The cases we filed died a natural death. It had been dragging on for too long, the suspects don’t attend hearings. Postponement after postponement, we lost interest. After all, the people who did us harm were just henchmen. The CHR case went nowhere too. I now wished we had CHR chief De Lima then.
But with a renewed sense of hope, we went ahead with our daily tasks of organizing the disenfranchised people of Olongapo. Only this time the community was less hostile and more open in embracing our cause which is their cause… a free Olongapo.
And the city’s dreaded culture of fear… begins to fade.