Posted on 19 April 2016.
Much has been said and is still being said about Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s joke about his state of mind when he saw the dead body of ststage-taking victim, Jacqueline Hamill. I won’t talk about whether those jokes—said on at least two occasions and to different audiences—were indeed jokes. Rather, we shall be taking the mayor at his word as recorded in this video uploaded by Youtube user ‘Rody Duterte.’
It seems the mayor has some more explaining to do about the role he played during the events of the hostage crisis of August 1989.
Around the 9 minute mark of the video, the mayor says that, after the first exchange of gunfire with the prisoners had subsided, soldiers retrieved the near-dying bodies of the hostages from the first firefight with the prisoners. Hamill’s body, he says, was one of them and she eventually died and was covered.
The mayor says he lifted the sheet partially to look at Hamill’s dead body. What he saw, he says, drove him to rage—and to finally give up on the waiting game and go head-on with the assault, on his own if it came to it.
‘Kinuha ko yung uzi ko tapos tuloy-tuloy na ako. “O,” — referring to the soldiers — “sumunod kayo, ayaw niyo?” Tapos ako ang unang nag… I first did… I first…’
It was hard to make out what he says at this point but it was clear from his gesture what he meant.
‘Isang magasin. Inubos ko. Brrt. Ayun… Bakbakan na kami. Patay lahat.’
However, his narrative’s sequence of events do not match most reports at the time. Some members of the media were on the scene and their accounts say that there was a first apparent attempt by the hostage-takers to escape by using the hostages, including Hamill, as shields. This resulted in the first firefight and Hamill’s body was seen slumped and abandoned in the area previously occupied by the hostage-takers. Her body remained there for at least four more hours, as reported in The Age.
A soldier walks over Jacqueline Hamill’s body after the prison assault. This contradicts Duterte’s claim that he saw the body and was motivated by this to lead the charge. (The Age, August 16, 1989)
It wasn’t until the conclusion of the second exchange of fire—the first and only assault on the compound—when the soldiers prevailed, killing all of the hostage-takers in their wake. Only then did they clear the way for the safe retrieval of bodies, and only then was the Australian’s body was recovered. A photo exists and appears to support this: of a member of the responding troops, walking over the still unretrieved body of Hamill.
Moreover, to take the mayor’s account of events at face value would put the leading negotiators and commanding officers in an awkward position. By the sounds of Duterte’s aggrieved hero narrative, the soldiers were forced into the assault, perhaps prematurely, by him.
If not Duterte, then either Congressman Jesus Dureza or Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas has some explaining to do as to how the mayor’s brash actions ostensibly undermined their efforts. As reported in the Manila Standard,
‘Initial military reports said Hamill and the four other dead hostages were killed by inmates even before the assault was executed by combined elements from the Constabulary Metropolitan District Command of Davao City and the Special Reaction Force.
However, questions have been raised about Hamill’s death. An official autopsy report in Davao suggested that a military sniper’s bullet might have killed Hamill, who was hit in the back and died from loss of blood.’
According to most of these reports, Mayor Duterte could not have lifted the covers off the body of Hamill until after the assault.
And yet Mayor Duterte says differently.
Furthermore, far from being the hero, it seems as though he has a few more failures to answer for than just his rape remarks:
- As mayor, was he responsible for the state of Davao Metrodiscom jail? The security lapses cited in the Manila Standard, along with the failed promise to transfer the prisoners were seen as two reasons that allowed and drove the hostage-takers to their actions.
- Was the mayor in charge of the Davao Metrodiscom assault team?
- And going back to the question we started with, is he aware that he contradicts many of the independent reports at the time, including a photograph, that say Hamill’s body was inaccessible until after the assault, at least four hours after she had been seen slumped and motionless on the compound grounds?
As I write this, versions of the story have started to surface. It is not only for the mayor to address them—to his credit, he implored members of the media to check their archives—but for the other personalities from the government’s side who were involved in the resolution of the incident to help settle some of the glaring inconsistencies.