Hostage-taking haunts old Davao jail
DAVAO CITY—There’s an eerie feeling one gets while walking inside what was once a former jail facility at Camp Domingo Leonor here, the site of the bloody 1989 hostage-taking that was brought to national attention anew by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s “gutter” remarks during a campaign sortie by the presidential candidate.
“Almost always, whenever we have a newcomer in our unit, he would feel unusual things that he couldn’t ascertain or explain. It would scare the wits out of him,” said SPO2 Consorcio Gerones Jr., a team leader of the Explosive Ordinance Division of the police’s Public Safety Company.
“I know it because I experienced it, too, when I was first assigned with this special unit, commonly known as the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, back in 1999,” Gerones said.
The old facility administered then by the defunct Philippine Constabulary’s Metropolitan District Command is now home to Gerona’s unit. It is now painted white and blue.
The much-talked about incident in the jail happened on Aug. 15, 1989, when 15 inmates led by Felipe Pugoy held hostage several civilians, including Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill.
Hamill, 36, was gang-raped before her throat was slashed. All hostage-takers were eventually killed when troops stormed the prison. Her death, Duterte said, drove him to anger that he claimed to have finished the lives of the inmates by emptying the bullets of his Uzi submachine gun.
Back in limelight
The incident is back in the limelight after Duterte made a joke during a campaign sortie in Quezon City last week while recounting seeing the lifeless body of Hamill. She looked like an American actress and was beautiful that, as mayor, he should have been first, he said.
It took several days before Duterte apologized for his filthy language while campaigning in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental province.
Gerones was still a student when the incident happened. “Aside from Hamill, all of the inmates were killed in this cell,” he said, showing the Inquirer the room where the bodies were slumped.
Twenty-five years later, the horrors remain though the jail has been transformed into an office, the police officer said.
Unexplained things occur usually around 11 p.m., he said.
“I remember when I first slept here, there was this feeling that someone had locked me in an embrace. I could also see from my peripheral view that a lady would suddenly pass by, but when I looked around, nobody was there,” he said.
The haunting stories recently became scarce, especially when after the building was renovated and Mass was celebrated there. Religious ceremonies are normally held in the building in the hope of warding off restless souls.
“That’s why we have this grotto inside. It serves as our protection,” Gerones said.
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