Monday, June 05, 2006


The Lieutenant

A mutual friend introduced me to Lieutenant Rudy. Lieutenant Rudy was the head of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) forces that maintained peace and order in Cotabato City.

Normally, a city had its police department to maintain peace and order. If a city’s police department was deemed inept or corrupt, the Philippine Constabulary would be ordered to take over the city’s police function, with the police department now reporting to the PC Commander. In the case of Cotabato City, it was probably a case of the city police being both inept and corrupt.

At the time I lived in Cotabato City, the political situation in the city was volatile. Cotabato City had just elected its first Christian mayor, Mayor Teodoro V. Juliano, who had unseated the powerful Muslim incumbent Mayor Datu Mando Sinsuat. His political enemies had sworn that Mayor Juliano would not survive his term.

Mayor Juliano moved about the city in a long convoy full of armed men. He rode in a custom-built, armor-plated vehicle that looked like the forerunner of the humvee. In front was a driver and two armed bodyguards. He sat in the middle row flanked by two bodyguards. Behind him sat another row of bodyguards.

Directly behind his vehicle was an armored car with a mounted machine gun. His security consisted of regular military soldiers, city police, his own security detail and free-lance gunslingers, called “djangos” in Cotabato City.

On top of that, there was always the possibility of another Muslim versus Christian conflagration, and open fighting could break out again.

Lieutenant Rudy had his hands full.

But we found time to have a few leisurely lunches. He would come to lunch in full battle gear, with grenades hanging from his uniform while we dined at the restaurant of the plush Imperial Hotel II. We would discuss politics, history, careers, business, money and delectable women.

I found Lieutenant Rudy to be intelligent, sophisticated and articulate. He was after all, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the Philippine equivalent of West Point, and was now a commissioned officer of the Philippine military, attached to the Philippine Constabulary branch with a very visible assignment.

Aside from the military uniform and the grenades, and an occasional digression into military life, for me it was just like lunching with another business associate.

Less than a year into our relationship, I was out in the field, by the roadside. An army convoy approached, and in the lead jeep was Lt. Rudy. He was probably keeping an eye out for me, and as soon as he espied me, he ordered the convoy to halt, stopping right at their side of the highway.

He alighted from the jeep, and we walked to a shady part of the road. The conversation went something like this.

Lt. Rudy “Hi. Have you heard the news?”
Jay “No. What’s going on?”
“I have been reassigned. Just next province, to Davao. Just
for a while.”
“Why? What happened?”
“President Marcos caved in to some politicians who wanted
me out of Cotabato Province.”
“Why do they want you out?”
“Have you heard of the (name of Cotabato barrio)
Massacre that happened a couple of years ago?”
“No. That was before I got here.”
“Well, I ordered it.”

Briefly, he told me the story. Before being PC commander of Cotabato City, he was an army operational officer in Cotabato Province. One day, one of his patrols got fired upon in an outlying Muslim barrio in Cotabato. The patrol took cover, radioed the camp and waited for reinforcements. Lt. Rudy came personally with heavy reinforcements.

By the time Lt. Rudy arrived, the armed men had fled from the barrio. All that was left were old men, women and children. Lt Rudy then ordered the barrio inhabitants massacred.

I remember him saying, “We killed every living thing in that barrio—old men, women, children, and animals.”

“So what will happen to you now?”
“Nothing. I will just sit it out in Davao for a while. If it was
up to Marcos, he would give me a medal for the massacre.
But he has to play ball with these Muslim politicians.”

We said our goodbyes, shook hands and the convoy moved on through the construction site.

That was the last I saw of Lt. Rudy, and I have no idea what eventually happened to him. Within a year, I was back in Manila, and within a couple of years, I started life anew in a new land, the United States.

Occasionally I think about him—a dashing military officer, educated, intelligent, resourceful, articulate, passionate, ambitious and patriotic.
I always wonder though if he ever asked forgiveness for, or even noticed, the blood of innocent people on his hands.


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