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Fiction (a Friday the 13th tale)

October 13, 2006

Public Realm
By Nereo Lujan
The Guardian, Oct. 13, 2006

FIVE heavily armed men took hostage Presidential Assistant Lito Coscolluela and top officials of Petron Corp. and the London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC), demanding billions of pesos in compensation for families and communities affected by the Petron oil spill.

Calling themselves members of the Guimaras People’s Liberation Army (GPLA), the suspects also demanded from Coscolluela and Petron to tell the world the whole truth about the oil spill and to end government’s cover up on the country’s worst environmental disaster.

As of press time, the hostages and their captors are still in a function room of Days Hotel where Petron held a press conference Wednesday evening with Coscolluela and IOPC’s John Nichols and Patrick Joseph as resource persons.

The other hostages include Petron vice president for operations Felimon Antiporda, Petron health and safety manager Carlos Tan, Petron Foundation executive director Malou Erni, Petron public affairs officer Raffy Ledesma and nine other Petron employees.

In Malacañang, members of the National Security Council held a meeting last night with resolving the hostage drama in its agenda. Negotiations for the release of the hostages are reportedly ongoing but details remain sketchy as Palace officials refused to talk to the media.

The GPLA’s demands, which they wanted Petron and the national government to immediately address, include:

• P100-billion compensation for the province of Guimaras;

• P3-million compensation for each of the families affected by the oil spill;

• The immediate refloating and removal of Solar I;

• All financial assistance be channeled through the provincial government of Guimaras and not to any other agency like the National Disaster Coordinating Council;

• Petron should admit that it had not actually cleaned the beaches of Guimaras of oil debris as it has merely buried them beneath the sand; and

• Malacañang should admit that it is covering up for Petron considering that its chairperson Nicasio Alcantara is a staunch supporter of the President.

The suspects said they will execute one hostage every three hours by drowning them in a drum of oil until Petron and the government meet their demands.

The suspects, armed with high-powered machine pistols, gained entry into the hotel disguised as waiters. They announced the hostage taking at exactly 8:11 p.m., just as Nichols asserted that Petron has no liability in the oil spill and that it too can claim damages from the IOPC.

Witnesses said one of the suspects came near the table where the resource persons were seated, pretending to serve water. He then pulled out a machine pistol and announced the take over of the venue just as he held the stunned Coscolluela by the neck.

Those in the room later found the waiters serving them earlier armed with machine pistols and the room’s door to have been locked.

“We will allow the rest to go out. Reporters who wish to stay can stay,” the group’s leader, who identified himself as Lorenzo Buenavista, was quoted by witnesses to have announced in Hiligaynon.

Most of the women went out but some reporters stayed to take pictures and video footages while the hostages were hogtied with duck tapes. The suspects had apparently pre-identified who among those inside should be made hostages, witnesses said.

Police later found the real waiters assigned to serve food that evening to have been hogtied and locked in a room at the same hotel. The room, according to the front desk, was registered under the name Jordan Valencia.

The conditions of the hostages remain unknown but initial reports said Coscolluela sustained a cut in the head after he was hit with a rifle following an altercation with one of the suspects.

Coscolluela reportedly tried to convince the suspects of the futility of their cause and that Petron, just like the President, only wants what is best for Guimaras. Coscolluela’s insistence angered one of the suspects who hit him with his rifle in the head.

Buenavista told members of the media who stayed inside that they were forced to take drastic measures because government is apparently trying to cover up Petron, with Coscolluela acting like a “spokesperson.”

“They are trying to paint a rosy picture for Guimaras, saying that certain areas have already been cleaned. But the truth is, there is oil debris beneath the sand and that there is no more potable water in coastal barangays because the aquifers have been contaminated with oil,” he said.

“The government wants us to believe that Guimaras is already OK and that everything is back to normal. But in reality, Guimaras is still in a dismal state because we are going hungry and our children are getting sick,” Buenavista bewailed.

He pointed out that while Petron and “its spokesperson, Coscolluela” are saying that coastal areas are already clean, such was belied by Nueva Valencia Mayor Diosdado Gonzaga who asserted that most mangrove areas are still full of oil.

This was confirmed further by the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources who said that so far, only one oil-spill affected area can be considered safe for cleaning as the rest are still full of hydrogen sulfide, a chemical that could exacerbate asthma and causes respiratory illnesses.

“How can they clean all the oil spill-affected areas when cleanup operation in areas found to have high levels of hydrogen sulfide was ordered stopped?” the angry Buenavista pointed out.

As of press time, the suspects were preparing a drum of oil where they would drown the first hostage “to teach government and Petron a lesson.” The first to be executed was identified as Raffy Ledesma, Petron public affairs officer.

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MWAHAHAHAHA! Fricking hilarious, man! Almost fell off my seat! mwahahahaha! Good one!

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