A cut above the rest

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    ‘Lim would probably go down in Manila’s fabled history as its only mayor who was able to clean it from prostitution and drugs. He closed down the bars and disco joints at the Malate and Ermita districts known to the rest of Manila as prostitution fronts…’

    IT was common for news reporters to expect money from police officers after a news coverage. Police officials then loved bestowing such gestures on the media for they got more than their money’s worth – an invaluable public image from notable accomplishments reaching the eyes and ears of the higher authorities, including powerful politicians.

    A particular incident with then Major Gen. Alfredo Lim, Chief of the Western Police District (WPD), left me and my Channel 9 news team struggling with professional ethics. Lim was presiding over a command conference at the WPD headquarters on UN Avenue in Manila which we alone covered. As we were about to leave, Lim ordered his commanders openly “na ayusin n’yo mga taga-Channel 9.” “Ayusin mo” was a common parlance of fixing or settling things through money or other gifts.

    Lim was usually discreet about this and would call news reporters to a corner of his office to give out money. All eyes in the conference room were suddenly turned towards us with forced smiles or with cold, steely stares that said in deafening silence that we could no longer hide our own corruption. I was thoroughly embarrassed, politely waved the gesture away and left in a huff, but not after an officer followed us outside at the corridor to hand over a thousand pesos to my cameraman. Until now I could not help thinking that Lim had deliberately put us on the spot to teach us a lesson.

    Lim was the only police general I saw in action while I covered a police operation against several NPA rebels in a safe house at Project 7 in Quezon City. Armed with .45 automatic, he led a swarm of police and army units as they shot it out with the rebels. A video showed Lim crouching behind a four-foot brick wall in front of his men poised to storm the house.

    After about 30 minutes of reverberating exchange of fire, they would finally occupy it, but with the culprits already gone. Two policemen were injured during the shootout.

    Lim would probably go down in Manila’s fabled history as its only mayor who was able to clean it from prostitution and drugs. He closed down the bars and disco joints at the Malate and Ermita districts known to the rest of Manila as prostitution fronts, for which Lim earned almost a hundred court suits. The areas suddenly turned into ghost towns.

    “Dirty Harry” also went after the drug pushers, dealers and traffickers like no one before him. But it was the death of suspected drug lord Pepe Oyson that sent them virtually running for their lives away from Manila. Oyson had police officers and local officials in his pocket and Lim could not touch him because he stayed away from the city.

    A reporter doing investigative work on Oyson, Tim Olivarez of the Daily Express, had already disappeared and would never be found. Only a month after Lim was appointed by President Cory Aquino as NBI director, Oyson was picked up by special agents led by the late Robert “Bobby” Barbers at a popular mall in Quezon City. He ended up dead that same day after he allegedly tried to fight it out inside the NBI van by grabbing the gun of one of the arresting officers. He sustained two bullet wounds in the head.

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    The presidential backlash to the very valid complaints of the medical frontliners may have been triggered by the firestorm of dissent and the rising calls for President Duterte’s resignation. Any political instability is quickly blamed on the left by most administrations.

    Mainstream leftist leaders have ordinarily taken the cudgels for the docile middle class in any besetting social and economic ills. The President has mistakenly regarded the frontliers coming together as a breeding leftist aggression from the idiotic whispers of his advisers since the doctors and nurses at prominent hospitals have had regular outreaches at conflict-areas in the provinces.