NUEVA ECIJA–The day was marked with blasts of gunfire–high decibels of pierced air, heard up close and in rapid succession.
We did not experience, though, the dread we felt at our last stint with it. That was August 23, as shot after shot rang from that ill-fated bus at the Quirino Grandstand.
There, we feared what would happen next. Here, we knew the shots were nearer, yet were controlled and would not likely hit us. Much that we didn’t mind the ringing in our ears after a pistol or rifle’s burst.
For the first time too, we saw President Aquino affirm in front of cameras his own gunfire affair.
He faced a muddy Western-themed firing range as large as a basketball half-court, clutching a handgun.
The press and the military entourage watched the commander-in-chief fire shots quicker than the uniformed officers did before him.
This range is but a patch in vast Fort Ramon Magsaysay, the President’s last stop that day. For more than two hours, we followed him through rain and sunshine up and down the 35,000-hectare base.
Fort Magsaysay holds some sentimental value for the President. His father, the late great Senator Benigno Jr., was jailed at a schoolhouse here.
President Aquino visited the shrine to Ninoy and his co-detainee Sen. Jose Diokno, but after all else was said and done. No media was allowed to shoot, and the visit relegated to a side trip.
It was at the firing range we thought they might bar our cameras.
The President’s favorite hobby is common knowledge, but its association with violence and the President’s political appointments has made it a touchy issue preferred unseen.
But no one was told to stop rolling as PNoy secured the magazines for his shooting turn. Presto–the day’s best footage.
Earlier at another field, we saw hidden snipers take out watermelons perched on dummies at a hilltop more than 400 meters away.
PNoy and Co. then walked downhill to observe a “light reaction” response to a mock hostage-taking.
No media person was given a closeup view of the army battalion after it blasted into a two-level covered court. My team stayed behind and stood beside those watermelon snipers as they fired at two more dummy targets on the top bleachers of that court.
Popoy, our cameraman, tried sneaking in a side view, but was rattled by the boom that followed a voice on the radio: “5..4..3..2..1..fire!”
President Aquino was visibly impressed while answering our reporter Jorge Cariño.
PNoy had flown in from Cavite, where the Navy staged another hostage response simulation. The day before, he saw the police’s Special Action Force demo a siege on a hijacked bus.
It seemed a succession of should’ve-beens to the security issues brought about by the August 23 crisis. The message: We had the resources and know-how to respond effectively then.
If so, the President asked, why weren’t they used?
Gunfire marked the day’s output–audio meters peaked with shots and blasts, moving video of swift military maneuvers, and the action-star stance of the President waiting to draw out his gun.
Reminiscent of the hostage fiasco? Inasmuch as it was action-packed, yes. Considering the resolve to use that action quickly and decisively, it wasn’t.