By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
“Huwag na sanang madaling-araw!” reporter Raffy Santos said over his mic. “Pagkatapos ng live ko sa Bandila, tapos na rin duty ko.”
Raffy was preparing for his 9 p.m. live update for Studio 23’s Iba-Balita from the Makati City Jail. Our work day began too early and was not yet over. My ENG van crew and I were in for the overnight—a repeat of our storm vigils the week before.
I was telling Raffy via override that it would do us a world of good if our news subject arrived during the late-night newscast. That way everyone could catch some recharge time before the slew of morning show lives. Raffy hoped it would not breach the end of his shift.
“Huwag ka mag-alala,” I replied. “Sakto, habang nagli-live tayo darating yun.”
We were waiting for Janet Lim-Napoles, long-hunted suspect in a scam that funneled P10-billion from the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of legislators.
The night before, she surrendered surreptitiously to Pres. Benigno Aquino III. Before the public learned about it, Aquino quickly escorted her to the national police headquarters in Camp Crame.
Now the court in charge of Napoles’s illegal detention case ordered her moved to the Makati City Jail. Her transfer could happen any time.
We knew Napoles was in government custody through stills released to the press of her visit to Malacañan Palace and her mug shots. But we had yet to see her in person.
News vans surrounded the narrow driveway from Lawton Avenue to the gate of the City Jail. Far from the outlying, spacious images of others like Bilibid, this detention center was practically perched along the main road, neighbored by a barangay hall and sari-sari stores.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and police chief Alan Purisima had arrived earlier to check Napoles’s quarters. They said she had to be separated from the other prisoners—among them a former maid of Napoles she had locked up for theft.
Roxas and Purisima’s SUVs stopped a few meters from the gate and had the VIPs walk in. Fortunate for the cameramen who feared they might end up with shots of cars shuttling in and out.
To no avail, my team tried catching a break. After Iba-Balita, we were at a nearby eatery when ANC’s coordinator called. Raffy had another live report. We had to leave our uncooked orders. Next, Raffy and I had a voiceover package to edit for Bandila. My team returned to finish their meals without me.
Our CB radio grew active by 10:30. Camp Crame was abuzz–Napoles was leaving at a moment’s notice.
We attached a wireless antenna to the camera of Raffy’s shooter Archie Torres. The wireless cam has become a must, albeit a limited one, for live coverage. It allows us to get live video without plugging a cable to the camera, thereby freeing the cameraman to move around.
Bandila opened with Napoles’s exit from Camp Crame before tossing to us in Makati. We were already showing live video of Mar Roxas outside the prison gate. The white police coaster ferrying Napoles was close behind. Clearly, it would arrive during Raffy’s report.
“Let’s play it by ear,” Raffy and I agreed, on when to play his VO package.
The coaster stopped a few meters from the gate, right beside Raffy’s standup camera. Raffy started annotating the shots: Mar Roxas approaching to meet presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and medical personnel; Napoles’s husband and her lawyer Lorna Kapunan following after.
Holed up by the gate, Archie videoed the VIPs as they alighted from the bus and followed them as they walked in. Directing him grew difficult at times. We had to feed him instructions via a cell phone held by an assistant beside him.
After conveying Kapunan to the jail gate, Archie’s lens slowly cruised back to the coaster where as if on cue, Janet Lim-Napoles came out.
She wore pink long-sleeves printed with Peace signs and overlaid by a police-issued bulletproof vest. A white cloth covered her cuffed hands. Two women in police Special Action Forces (SAF) fatigues were latched onto her as they jogged to the gate. One had her hand behind Napoles’s head.
The crucial scene lasted nine seconds, but Archie’s position produced a favorable angle that was soon looped in slow motion as an inset for the rest of Bandila’s airtime.
We also aired Roxas fielding ambush questions from reporters. Then Raffy returned for a wrap-up report. His overdue VO package no longer got to air. After Bandila signed off, ANC and DZMM showed our live shots of Kapunan’s interview.
Finally, we heaved sighs of relief. Our teammates returned to the ENG van to high-fives. The office called congratulating us for the great shots. I could eat my takeout tocilog, still in its silverware.
A few hours’ rest, and it was time to continue the vigil for Umagang Kayganda.
Previously, Janet Lim-Napoles projected an image of defiance while visiting a charity and being prayed over by clergy. Her pious profile returned to our TV screens as a piteous, hounded woman resigned to depend on protection.
Her return was brief yet the contrast of visuals was so stark it had to be replayed. To date, it is the only publicly-shot video of Napoles since her surrender.
Her lawyers later got the court to move her to the police-managed Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Our cameras there only saw a convoy taxiing in, not knowing which vehicle Napoles was in.
We now see her again through press releases. Crews have not yet left the fort, and every report of a possible Napoles trip sends news desks bustling. All of them anticipating another glimpse and even another “money shot” of Napoles like ours in Makati.
Joining Napoles’s name with money sounds distasteful, but the term is merely coincidental. Memorable coverages are defined by images that are hard to set up in advance, yet bring the gravity of an event or story to an audience. And yes, they can be worth a lot.
Did government go overboard in safeguarding a key person in unraveling the so-called Pork Barrel Scam? How different is she being treated from other detainees? Will she spill the beans? Was everything a script played out to protect people in high places? These images are but clues to the answers.
Still, no matter how fortuitous the shots can be, alertness and some anticipation can help.