THROWBACK: The fall of Camp Abubakar

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

The MILF flag is brought down after the seizure of Camp Abubakar. (Grab from ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol)

The MILF flag is brought down after the seizure of Camp Abubakar. (Grab from ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol)

[UPDATED] Camp Abubakar, a place firmly associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the long-winded struggle for peace in Mindanao, no longer evokes the immense respect, fear or awareness it once did almost two decades ago.

Until the late 1990s, the camp was not just the stronghold of the rebel group but also its largest settlement and seat of its Shariah-based government.

Its territory stretched to tens of thousands of hectares (initial figures were 2,000, later stretching from 10,000-15,000; in some accounts, up to 32,000), covering the Maguindanao towns of Barira, Buldon, Matanog and Parang. Forests and bodies of water acted as natural barriers around the camp, augmented by trenches and tunnels dug by the MILF.

The group’s leaders—founder and chairman Salamat Hashim and then-military chief Al Haj Murad Ibrahim—lived and held office there. Abubakar contained a school, a training academy, a hospital, businesses, farms and markets, providing for the needs of its fighters and civilian residents.

The camp meant security for those claiming allegiance to the Bangsa Moro, but caution for the Christian locals and armed forces surrounding it. None dared approach or pass through.

All that changed on July 9, 2000 when Camp Abubakar fell into the hands of the Philippine military at the end of a two-month offensive. More than 20,000 residents were affected by the clash. Continue reading


10 events that made headlines on a weekend

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

TV Patrol Weekend's first and current logos 2004 & 2014

TV Patrol Weekend’s first and current logos

Before “TV Patrol Linggo” debuted on the air on May 9, 2004, TV news on weekends was usually relegated to short, late-night rundowns of the day’s events or the week’s top stories. Today, the weekend newscast is a mainstay in a 24/7 news environment. While manned by smaller teams, aired on tighter time slots, and watched by lesser viewers, they provide a needed avenue for public service–especially when the breaking event strikes.

Watch the opening to TVP Linggo’s first newscast here:

As TV Patrol’s weekend edition marks its 10th year, here are 10 of the country’s biggest stories that broke under its watch, proving that patrolling the news never stops:

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Juan Ponce Enrile and history

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

*Read behind-the-scenes stories of the Corona trial verdict day here.

Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President and impeachment court presiding officer banging the gavel on the guilty verdict against Renato Corona.(ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

Click to watch highlights of the Corona trial verdict. (ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

He was not a witness, but many dubbed him the “star” of the trial that ultimately removed Chief Justice Renato Corona from office.

Many followers of the impeachment proceedings found a renewed appreciation for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile: firm, resolute, and–at 88 years old–mentally agile in his role as presiding judge of the court.

He insisted on the judges’ impartiality in dealing with the trial panels, hearing testimonies, and accepting evidence. He strove to maintain order when senator-judges raised hell or participants appeared to act with disrespect.

While he cast the final vote convicting Corona, his justification speech equally scored weaknesses in the prosecution and defense. More so, he bared the pros and cons resulting from either decision his court would make.

Enrile pounding his gavel would become one of the trial’s enduring images.

With high trust ratings, it appeared he was the one who gained the most goodwill and political capital from the trial–even compared to President Aquino, who had a big stake in the impeachment drive.

But JPE, also known more recently as Manong Johnny, was not always publicly seen as this lamp of wisdom and direction.

Political phoenix

Few politicians are widely recognized by their acronyms as JPE. A lawyer, bureaucrat, and lawmaker, the only thing missing was had he become President of the Philippines. And for a time, Enrile was in a position to possibly become that.

Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel V. Ramos withdrawing support for Marcos in 1986. (Footage courtesy of ABS-CBN's EDSA 25 documentary)

Enrile and Ramos in 1986. (Courtesy of ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs’ EDSA 25 documentary)

School history books written in the recent 20 years have cited him as one of the sparks that ignited the bloodless first EDSA revolt.

And it is to his and then Gen. Fidel V. Ramos’ withdrawal of support for Pres. Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 that some align his presiding of the Corona impeachment trial—both preludes to the downfall of public figures.

The high points of JPE’s public life are a string of reviled decisions and redemptive actions. Falls and rises.

Political phoenixes are no stranger to the Philippines. But Enrile’s career spanning half a century is perhaps the biggest testament to this.

Continue reading

#CJonTrial: Last full show at the Senate

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN News live setup outside Senate (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The excitement over Day 44 of the trial deciding the fate of Chief Justice Renato Corona, as expected, spilled way past the Senate grounds.

Outside the gate, the long line of prospective watchers was up for a final effort. As before, only 40 green passes to the Session Hall would be given out.

And no ticket more, this last full show already full. Not even for actor Pen Medina, who showed up with a “Convict Corona” shirt. He took it off to comply with regulations, yet still missed the cut.

Farther off at the Senate security checkpoint beside the Manila Film Center, three news vans were parked near a barricade and a throng of anti-riot police.

This spot was the closest any groups wanting to amass in protest or support could get to the Senate.

Close to noon, nearly 50 members of a health workers’ group arrived with “Guilty!” signs. They brought out effigies of Corona, his benefactor Gloria Arroyo, and of President Aquino.

They wanted a Corona conviction, but hoped the alternative was not a Supreme Court controlled by the President. They left after 30 minutes.

Akbayan members brandish "Convict Corona" signs outside Senate during impeachment verdict (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A group of the same number, this time from Akbayan, a party allied with Aquino, later came with yellow placards that all repeated “Convict” and “Guilty”.

Unlike before, only one side came out that day. Many of those praying for an acquittal for Corona remained at the Supreme Court to watch the Senate verdict via an LCD projector.

The Akbayan assembly stayed on to monitor the votes cast by the 23 senator-judges through a radio piped into their mobile speakers.

ABS-CBN’s cameras were trained on both spots for live reactions to the moment of decision.

At ABS’s Senate OB van control, it was business as usual, yet spiced with the excitement of a final sprint.

The crews manning the facilities that broadcast the trial sessions and live reports for Channel 2, ANC, and DZMM had been at it since January. And except for infrequent session lulls, their work routines for four months have been 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., all to and from the Senate.

Continue reading

Erap’s big move

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Change of address. More fun in the Philippines. In picture: Joseph Estrada driving his Jeep ni erap

(Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News; c/o

Manga Avenue rarely sees the bustle of the nearby residential areas in Santa Mesa, Manila.

While the buildings along this street are bounded by big gates and high walls, it isn’t part of any subdivision. There are few stores close by, and the traffic it usually gets comes from passing tricycles.

The quiet at Manga Ave. may soon change with the transfer of its newest and likely most illustrious resident.

If the house-move last May 9 gave any hint, hubbub won’t be stranger to this place in the next year. Former President Joseph Estrada has brought the noise of Philippine politics to his new territory.

As early as 4 a.m., the one-lane street was already choked outside the gate marked Number 589. News vans parked a pace away were culprits. Their portable generators injected a steady hum to the silence, as TV crews prepped for advancer live shots in the morning shows.

By mid-morning, around a hundred people in white, orange, and green shirts had gathered, holding up the traffic.

The prints on the shirts gave their aim: “Welcome to Manila Mayor Erap”. Others read “Manila ♥ Erap,” “Erap ♥ Manila.”

By then, Erap had left his Polk Street house in Greenhills and was driving to Santa Mesa in his pimped out “Jeep ni Erap.”

Impending showdown

This day would answer if Estrada would follow through on his next reported conquest—this time for the top seat of the City of Manila.

Riding beside him was Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, who with other members of the city council had transferred allegiance to Estrada from his former ally, incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Estrada had hinted recently of challenging Lim in the 2013 midterm elections. The only deterrent to his qualification for running was his registered address, famously in San Juan.

The transfer convoy, which included three trucks laden with wood cabinets and hard-plastic containers, all timed to the year before the polls.

Erap poster and brass band outside Estrada house in Santa Mesa Manila May 9, 2012 (Shots Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

At Manga Avenue, a brass band, complete with dancing girls, had marched in to perk up the welcoming throng. Ice cream and corn vendors had also stopped by.

Placards were passed around. Their messages ranged from the familiar slogans–“Erap para sa mahirap”–to the shout-outs–“Bawal ang Dirty sa Maynila”. “Dirty” an aside against Mayor Lim, nicknamed “Dirty Harry” for his hard-line stance against crime in the 1990s.

Erap had his own action star moniker: Asiong Salonga, after the mid-20th century local gang leader he portrayed on the silver screen.

The impending showdown in Manila has now been lent ready references to action movies.

Continue reading

Second-guesses at the Gloria transfer

ABS-CBN exclusive video - GMA arrives at VMMC December 9, 2010

After a month of stakeouts, the much-awaited move finally had a date: December 9.

It meant the news media could relax a little and even reassign momentarily some of the OB vans or people that have long-guarded the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.

One station appropriated its St. Luke’s van for the “Occupy Mendiola” protests that diverted attention to the Palace doorstep days before the scheduled transfer. The van returned to find its spot intact and still reserved.

Reporters from the so-called “St. Luke’s press corps” could soon say goodbye to their joked-about Christmas party, and also to the air-conditioned waiting area complete with hot water and the occasional gratis snack courtesy of the hospital.

Media waiting outside St Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

But while everyone finally knew the day, no one knew the hour former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would be brought to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City, where she was ordered by court to spend her hospital arrest.

And despite the frequent ambush interviews at the media area–all carried live on ANC–no spokesperson would drop a clue.

“Probably between 12 midnight and 11:59 in the evening,” said Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer to Arroyo’s husband Mike, and now infamous for humorously answering media queries and jesting with reporters.

Continue reading

Finally, Garci’s ‘Hello’

(Shot by Marco Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News)

BAUNGON, BUKIDNON–Ryan Chua and I were just out of high school when we first heard “Hello Garci.”

It was a looming question to the legitimacy of then Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 win, and we saw journalists take pains to get it out and officials take pains to discredit it.

We now remember just the soundbites: the greeting turned into a myriad ringtones and the line “Will I still lead by one million?”

The controversy signaled a loss of trust in the administration. Back in college, it meant incessant rallies and suspicions of government moves to quash opposition and stay in power.

Arroyo nonetheless finished her six years, not without making a televised apology for “talking to a Comelec official”.

Meanwhile, we barely heard from Commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano since.

Ryan and I had already graduated to the media and covered our first elections. Ryan broke news from the Comelec during Halalan 2010, while I was sent to top election hot spot Maguindanao.

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

This weekend, Garci invited our team and a score of other media people here, an hour’s drive south of Cagayan De Oro.

What he had to say, we did not know.

Continue reading

Big switches

Fast forward two weeks later.

The country, after the euphoria of witnessing a speedy election count, now takes a sober look back.

Its big jump to automation has produced one of the most interesting switches–or re-switches–of our leaders yet. The roll of public officials attaining or resuming power in 2010 will confuse anyone trying to put a pin on the Filipino’s fluid voting standards.

Start with the 15th Congress. In Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition style, only 2010 will bring together the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Imelda Marcos, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in one House.

The new batch of senators are a bunch of old names–reelectionists, returnees, and relatives.

And as if one was not enough, our “president-apparent” is another offspring of another former president.

We’re seeing history repeat itself with a twisted sense of humor.

Many point out the irony of an incoming President Aquino III along with an incoming Senator Marcos Jr. And the horror of a State of the Nation Address with Aquino talking, Marcos and Arroyo behind him.

Picture of Pres. Gloria Arroyo surrounded by Maguindanao governors Andal Ampatuan Sr and Datu Sajid AmpatuanMaguindanao governor elect Esmael Toto Mangudadatu hours before he is proclaimed in Shariff Aguak

Other victories portend the possibilities of change. In Maguindanao, a widower is picking up the pieces half-left by the regime that murdered his wife.

Continue reading

Strictly politics*

Orange bottles of mineral water branded with Manny Villar's name and face given in Las Pinas.

Branded mineral water bottles from your favorite candidate

Before the campaign period for the national elections, there was the pre-campaign period. Emphasis on “campaign.”

And why not? Philippine politics seems to be an eternal operation to stay in power or go higher.

Thus you find the prevalent tarps of smiling faces greeting every occasion from the fiesta to the funeral. Plus the same strain of posters with their forced acronyms and subliminal messages.

A little girl in Filipiniana attracts the camera hours before the Mar Roxas - Korina Sanchez weddingGuests arrive for the wedding of the election season in Sto. Domingo Church.

Plus these events perfectly timed for the season.

And thus we all know that this person is vying for this position before he or she even says it or files papers at the Comelec.

Only a few weeks before the filing deadline did we see prospective candidates affirm or dismiss speculations on their running.

Joseph Estrada, Jejomar Binay, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada pose for the media before they proclaim their 2010 candidacies. Joseph Estrada finally declares his 2010 wish for "the last performance of my life" in Tondo Manila

Including a former president bent to continue his unfinished business.

The ride all started with the passing of the late great Cory Aquino that changed the political destinies of some. Soon the leading was left off, the nonviable now probable. Swiftly the tides turned and the rabbits jumped fences.

I’ve often mused about how the many considerable choices for 2010 came about due to who ran and won in 2004. Potential presidents are only now coming into the fray.

Today I still can’t pick among my top four bets.

Our field operations teams met this preview of campaign 2010 by covering the proclamations live.

Seats at the Lakas-Kampi-CMD convention with its predetermined presidential bet

One of the biggest was by the country's biggest political party, with its already-determined presidential bet.

Those minute to hour-long airings mask the early call times, ocular inspections and intensive coordination needed for a crew of ten to twenty to set up and air. Here you learn the power of anticipating programs and making connections.

And amid the hustle and bustle for Halalan 2010, we also see the twilight days of a president and her government cramming to claim history’s verdict.

Department of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes with UP economics professor Winnie Monsod after debating oil prices

And cramming, as well, for another run of office.

It was in one such coverage that I smiled at President Arroyo and got to shake her hand–not in Malacanang, but in one of the few areas I guess she was at her proudest best.

We could not air live her second final economic update in a Makati hotel. I could only check on our reporters and on the event.

There I found a childhood friend with the Foreign Affairs Department on duty as an usher.

President Gloria Arroyo, officials and PSG walk the red carpet out of the Philippine Economic Briefing in Makati

PGMA just a few feet away.

Soon the Presidential entourage walked out of the forum hall on the red carpet. My friend and the ushers lined up to greet them. Unsure what to do, I stood beside her at the end.

As President Arroyo shook hands with the ushers, I knew she would end with me before they proceeded to the photo op area.

Somehow we were not both sure how to greet each other, I wearing a red collared shirt and jeans in a place where dark corporate attires ruled.

Our hands and gazes awkwardly, silently met, and then left off.

Telling the encounter to my workmates, one asked why I was cordial when I came from a school supposedly angry with the President.

I answered, “Wala namang personalan (It’s nothing personal).”

Much as our politics should be.

See all shots from the topsy-turvy turns in politics taken during the daily grind at this pinoyjourn Multiply album.

*Apologies, of course, to the long-running ANC public affairs show.