The recent exhumation of bodies of those killed in the purge of suspected deep penetration agents (DPAs) in Cebu in the ’80s reminded me that the threat of infiltration was real at that time. The so-called “Cebu 13” were actually all from Mindanao. But what wrought damage to the underground organization then were the locals.
W eeks after the peace talks between the National Democratic Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines broke down in 1987, one of negotiators, Jovito Plaza, was treacherously shot by a member of his platoon in Sitio Morga, Barangay Sudlon, Cebu City. The killer, a young recruit from Sudlon, would later surface at the Regional Security Unit headquarters along Jones Ave., Cebu City.
Originally, Plaza was designated one of the escorts of the negotiators, but since only former priest Rustico Tan agreed to surface, he joined the local negotiating panel. Ruth Mercado was supposedly the panel’s media liaison officer but ended up joining Tan and Plaza.
According to stories circulating around then, Plaza was sleeping on a hammock inside an abandoned house when the designated sentry went up, used a flashlight to ascertain his position, then was shot in the dark, a bullet or two of the garand rifle piercing his head. The rifle jammed, however, saving the lives of Plaza’s companions.
It took several minutes before the vice-CO could react, but the killer had jumped outside, hid in the bushes then made his way home. In response, comrades set for interrogation the killer’s sister, who was already working as a peasant organizer. But since her hand was tied together only by a handkerchief, she was able to escape.
When I was first arrested in, if my recollection is correct, May 1987, the one who guided the joint team of the Regional Mobile Group and the Regional Security Unit of the then Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) was the sister of Plaza’s killer. She was able to identify me because my girlfriend Ivy was at one time her companion in organizing work.
Plaza’s killing was followed by reports that an organizer in the mid-north district of Cebu shot the other members of the propaganda organizing team while they were eating. The killer surreptitiously went outside then shot his comrades through the crack in the bamboo wall of a hut. Then he gathered the firearms and surrendered them to the nearest detachment.
Those incidents, of course, almost destroyed some New People’s Army units. Members became jumpy and only walked with those they knew well, usually those from the same village. They always had their fingers on their firearms’ triggers. The higher organ had to call the units to a meeting for an objective assessment of the situation. Earlier attempts to arrest some people for interrogation were called off. Unity was restored as it was decided that the organization no longer had any infiltrator.
–Candido O. Wenceslao
11 October 2006