24 ...................................................................

• MARCH-APRIL 2009

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MAY I BE THE LAST
n By Alexander “Lex” Adonis

Events revealed just how far the power I had offended could reach

WAS thrown into the Davao Criminal Investigation Detection Group jail, CIDG-XI, by Police Insp. Teodoro S. Paguipon, noted ally of House Speaker Prospero Nograles on Feb. 19, 2007. The following day I was committed to the Davao City Jail and three weeks after transported to the national penitentiary at the Davao Penal Colony, Davao del Norte. It was March 15, which happened to be “Davao Day”.
Along with seven other convicts, I was bodily searched. Cigarettes, lighters, and yellow and mint-green shirts were confiscated. Cigarettes and lighters were supposedly strictly prohibited, yet inside the prison compound there were stalls selling cigarettes and lighters. Yellow shirts were confiscated because inmates assigned as Inmate Custodial Aides wore yellow shirts, while mint green shirts were for inmates assigned to the Reception and Diagnostic Center, the first drop point for the prisoners, who were from every point in Mindanao. Some of the prisoners, guards and employees had been my listeners. But I could hardly feel any comfort or security upon my arrival, as some of the felons were once subjected to my exposés and comments and could easily claim that I had contributed to their conviction. Some had been convicted of rape, others of murder, robbery, and drug running, and were serving lengthy sentences. My only protection was the day to day monitoring by my colleagues in the media, but I also drew strength from fellow inmates who were sympathetic to my plight, as well as with those who had been in prison for much of their lives but who continued to look towards the day of their release. Before I knew it I had survived nine months of uncertainty and despair.

I

My only protection was the day to day monitoring by my colleagues in the media, but I also drew strength from fellow inmates who were sympathetic to my plight
The morning TV program hosted by Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Nov. 11, 2007 was specially encouraging. The mayor declared that “You sent a broadcaster to prison when he was only telling the truth and you know you lied...” He was addressing Nograles, whose libel suit against the Burlesk King scandal which I brought on the air in 2001 had led to my imprisonment. I felt that the statement—that I had told the truth— vindicated me both as a broadcaster as well as a human being. A little more than two weeks later, at around 3 p.m. of Nov. 29, 2007, I was fetched by jail keepers and brought to the prison conference hall, which then served as a court hall. There I was informed that former broadcaster Jeanette Lomanta Leuterio had also filed a complaint against me over the

same report for which I was already serving a five months to four years’ sentence. Before the judge when asked for my plea, I said, “Not guilty your honor.” What was memorable about that day was that, in Manila, Sen. Antonio Trillanes and Gen. Danilo Lim had walked out of a Makati court, and the journalists covering the event were subsequently arrested, in stark demonstration of the same abuse of power that had caused my imprisonment. Other events revealed just how far the power I had offended could reach. At 4 p.m. of Dec. 11, 2007, I was asked to put my thumb mark on a medical referral document which said that I had requested a medical checkup outside the prison hospital. Despite my protest I was taken under guard to Davao Medical Center, where someone told me that while he was not connected with Speaker Nograles, it was Nograles who had requested for my medical check-up upon learning I was supposedly ill. To this day I still don’t know why I was brought to the hospital, unless it was to send a message to the media and the public that the powerful can be compassionate after all. Now, three months after my release, I still feel like a stranger in the places I used to know so well. But to my colleagues in the media I can only say that I hope my case will be the last and that no other journalist or media practitioner will go to prison after me. n .................................................................... Sentenced to a prison term of four months to five years for allegedly libeling House Speaker Prospero Nograles, Davao broadcaster Alexander Adonis spent a total of two years in prison.

MANIX ABRERA