Monday, March 12, 2007

Iloilo City Boy in Pasig City Jail (Day 2)

At 12 past midnight, the police informed Gemma's visitors that visiting time was over and that they were locking up the precinct. A "thoughtful" policeman even said "kailangan na po magpahinga ni Gemma" (Gemma needs to rest) perhaps to make the visitors get out faster. One by one, friends and colleagues hugged Gemma and gave her some last minute encouragement before leaving the police station. I prevailed upon the police to let me stay to accompany my wife inside, along with her Newsbreak colleagues Glenda Gloria and Carmela Fonbuena. After everyone have left, the four of us talked for a while (I took the time off to reply to unanswered text messages) but eventually dozed off right there in our respective seats one by one.

I woke up at around 5:00 am to see Glenda and Carmela gone. Gemma was already awake (we both were not able to sleep soundly) and she told me that they had gone home a few minutes earlier to freshen up. At around 7:00 am, my good friend Peter arrived bringing with him coffee, freshly-baked Pan de Pidro bread and some personal effects (i.e. our toothbrushes, some fresh clothes, etc.) which I asked him the night before to pick up in our apartment. By this time, radio reporters Edwin Sevidal of DZMM, Sam Nielsen of DZBB and Michael Rogas of RMN were already at the Pasig Police precinct angling for early morning news. Other reporters and newspaper photographers started arriving soon after and the precinct once again took on the "circus" atmosphere of the day before. The Pasig City police chief, Senior Superintendent Francisco Uyami Jr., arrived to look on Gemma (probably because he heard Anthony Taberna and Gerry Baja of DZMM radio lambast the Pasig PNP over the arrest). Gemma was also interviewed on radio by Mike Enriquez of DZBB and Ted Failon of DZMM.

At around 9:00 am, we were informed that Marites Vitug, Maan Hontiveros, Lala Rimando and Aries Rufo were already at the Pasig RTC together with their lawyer Atty. Rogelio Vinluan of ACCRA (ACCRA is handling the case pro bono) to surrender themselves before the judge. After their "voluntary surrender," the group were then brought to the Pasig City police station for processing of their bail where they were finally united with Gemma. Dressed all in white to symbolize their innocence and clean consciences, the media soon labeled them "The Newsbreak Five." More interviews followed, with reporters alternating between Gemma, Maan, Marites and Atty. Vinluan. As Governor Singson filed the libel case in Vigan, Atty. Vinluan in his interview said that he will petition the judge in Vigan, a person ominously called Judge Arquelada (no kidding!) for a change of venue citing that his clients cannot possibly get a fair trial because of Chavit's influence in that province. Maan Hontiveros, a veteran media practitioner who became famous during the 1986 EDSA Revolution, revealed that it was her first time to be arrested and booked in jail. Marites Vitug, another multi-awarded Filipino journalist who used to write for the defunct AsiaWeek Magazine, said that they will not be cowed and will continue to write investigative reports in the interest of the public's right to know. She also insisted that there was nothing libelous in the article they published on Governor Singson and that they will never apologize for reporting the truth.

I even made a cameo appearance on TV as the loyal husband (see my earlier post). Someone told Carlo Lorenzo, the GMA 7 reporter covering the story in Pasig that Gemma and I were supposed to celebrate our 10th anniversary as a couple last March 7 and he liked the human interest angle of the story ("inanguluhan" in industry parlance). As a person used to arranging media interviews (but always for clients and always behind the scenes), I still experienced some stage fright. But all in all, I think my TV debut came out alright and we came off as dignified and unafraid, lackadaisical even, of the libel case filed by Chavit. I just wish though that I could have taken a bath first for my very first TV appearance (there was a CR in the precinct but who really would dare take a bath there? The police might think we were getting "too comfortable" that they might just decide to lock us up for good).

At around 11:00 am, a police officer told Gemma that her release order has been approved and that she can already leave the precinct. But she decided to stay on to accompany her other four colleagues. It was already past 1:00 pm and each of us have not eaten yet and everybody was getting anxious to get out of the precinct. Everyone felt that the Pasig RTC was taking too long to receive the "Newsbreak Five's" bail money and process their release orders. Finally at around 2:00 pm, we were informed that the four journalists' release orders were already on their way from Pasig RTC (which is about 10 minutes away) and that our group could leave as soon as the police are in receipt of the the said orders. Just when everyone was in a jolly, celebratory mood, somebody arrived to spoil it. A certain Delia Bontuyan, who claimed she was the wife of Army Colonel Alan Bontuyan, arrived in the police precinct and verbally attacked Marites Vitug for writing an adverse article on her husband (read it here). She said that as a result of the Newsbreak report, her husband's career and reputation was ruined and that she was very thankful that someone finally had the courage to file a libel case against her. When pressed for more details about her identity and her husband's story, Mrs. Bontuyan refused to speak any further which lead some covering journalists to question her credibility. She also could not comment on questions na baka pakawala siya ni Chavit to destroy Vitug's reputation as a journalist. She was eventually escorted out of the precinct by Pasig police.

At around 3:00 pm, the "Newsbreak Five" finally were released by the Pasig police. After eating lunch in Podium, I brought Gemma home for a much-deserved rest. After a quick shower, I was off again to attend several meetings and finish some important matters. I went home past 3:00 am that day.

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Here is Gemma's article which Chavit found libelous. Read more related stories here, here and here which discusses his links to the Metrowalk property in Ortigas, Pasig and his various properties in Ilocos.

3 comments:

mlq3 said...

this is very much belated but your wife's experience has heightened the droopiness level of everyone discussing it.

Dominique said...

Hi, Oliver: this is coming in a little late, but I hope you all pull through this. Rooting for you guys.

Oliver M. Mendoza said...

Thank you for your kind words.