by Philip Nemenzo
Ernesto Macahiya wears many hats. Retired Development Bank of the Philippines executive. National Spokesman and Vice-Chairman of the Philippine Guardians Brotherhood Inc. (PGBI). Prominent rightist yet former founder of the left-leaning Kabataang Makabayan. Close associate of former senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan. Former Manila Times and Philippines Today columnist. The list seems endless.
However, for me and those whose lives he touched during his brief stay in Tsukuba, Japan many moons ago, he is simply Tatay Ernie, a loving husband, doting father and proud grandfather to two very cute Tsukuba-based boys. Tatay Ernie’s eldest daughter, Luningning Macahiya-Ibarra, a former World Bank scholar at the University of Tsukuba, Bangko Sentral executive and UPLB chairperson, resides with her family in Tsukuba and works as an English instructor.
With Gringo’s recent capture, Tatay Ernie is once again thrust into the national limelight. Out on a PhP 200,000 bail, he believes that the government’s case against him is very weak, considering that he was granted bail even if rebellion is a non-bailable offense. As Spokesman of the 600,000-strong PGBI, he and Gringo are charged with rebellion on allegations they supported and helped instigate the short-lived Oakwood mutiny of junior military officers in July 2003.
Video footage taken during the alleged mutiny, however, would show that Tatay Ernie was, in fact, advising the authorities to seek Gringo’s help in convincing the soldiers to lay down their arms. Through his lawyer, Tatay Ernie has asked a Makati regional trial court to compel three television networks to submit footage of their various interviews. These footages “are relevant to prove (his) innocence” as well as show that he and his group just happened to assemble near Oakwood for an anti-administration rally on the same day that the mutinous soldiers seized the Oakwood Hotel.
These facts, however, did not prevent the authorities from locking him up for more than four (4) months in the Makati City Jail, after being captured in Laguna with a PhP 500,000 bounty on his head. Upon his release, one of the first things that he did was send an email to his family, brods and friends about his jail experiences. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is what he wrote (some names have been removed for security reasons -ed.):
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
BROTHERS IN THE ALPHA SIGMA FRATERNITY – -
This is Brod Ernie Macahiya (’63 Diliman).
I am posting this personal message to inform you of my release from the Makati City Jail, at the same time acknowledge — humbly and sincerely — the support you have extended to me during the past trying time of my life.
With Brod Greg Honasan (’66 Dil), I have been charged by the State of the crime of coup d’etat (a non-bailable offense) in connection with the July 27, 2003 so-called Oakwood event. A P500k bounty, dead or alive, was placed on my head while Greg, who is still at large (when this piece was written –Ed.), had P5M for his capture.
My warrant of arrest was served to me last April 28, and since then, I’ve been a political detainee, until last week (Sept. 6th), when a Makati RTC granted my petition for bail for P200k.
For more than four (4) months, I was in the company of drug pushers and users, extortionists, rapists, KFR con artists, murderers and thieves, “akyat bahay” group members and cell phone snatchers, illegal recruiters, and a teeming number of “bakla” inside my selda — one of the fourteen (14) cells that compose the male “brigade” of the Makati City Jail. Four cells are inhabited by the Sputnik Gang, and one each by the Sigue Sigue and Batang City Jail groups — all in their kaleidoscopic tattoos. Of course all of them professed innocence of the charges leveled against them. And so do I. I was the only political prisoner in the whole facility.
To keep myself busy and shield my mind from drudgery, I revisited Thucydides, Aristotle, Plato and Empedocles. Homer, Seneca and Cicero brought me back to their ancient days and ways. Machiavelli, Mao and Marx, also Joyce and Shakespeare, reminded me of some of our college readings. Dan Brown’s “The Da Vince Code” forced me to re-read the Bible. You will not believe it but I managed to get hold of the Nag Hammadi documents — the Gnostic writings found in Egypt in 1945 — and read the unknown gospels of Judas, Mary Magdalene and Thomas (sent via internet, in English version, from the original Aramaic). It’s interesting to compare these documents with the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls (which I failed to secure despite several attempts). Rizal, Renato Constantino and del Pilar refreshened my mind on PI-100. Brod (name removed) gave me eight (8) past issues of Fortune magazine. At night, I viewed Captain Barbell, Majika, and “Love Story in Harvard” (over channel 7), together with Regine’s “Pinoy Pop Superstar” (over channel 5), and learned that Cris Aquino is ready to marry basketball star James Yap, and that one of the sexy EB Babes dancers (of channel 7) had a falling out with her mother due to money matter. While there, I also learned to play “tonghits,” cara y cruz and lucky nine. Smoking is allowed, but wine drinking is a big no no (illegal in fact).
Unahan kaming 45 inmates sa aking selda sa tatlong toilet bowls na panay “de buhos,” with water supply that starts coming at around 6pm. Kanya kanya kaming lutuan from three (3) stoves (panay uling ang gamit kasi bawal ang LPG). Monday is selda cleaning day, family visit day on Sunday, and Tuesday-Saturday ang dalaw from 9:30-4:30pm.
There are four (4) rehab programs inmates could choose from: basic computer operation (alam ko na ito), haircut training, manicure/pedicure and sewing. Two days akong nag-aral ng pananahi. Iniuupa ko ang aking labada (sa isang bakla), di ko na kaya ito…ano sila sinusuwerte? At age 64, I was the oldest, kaya walang inmate na bakla na nakagusto sa akin.
Brods Atty. (name removed) — my lead counsel — and Atty. (name removed) , are at the forefront of my pro-bono legal defense panel, along with another practicing lawyer who is not a brother in the fraternity.
The granting of my petition for bail, notwithstanding the fact that it is a non-bailable one, indicates a flaw or weakness on the part of the prosecution. Indeed, the DOJ Special Panel of Prosecutors, headed no less by an Asst. Chief State Prosecutor (and four other State and Sr. State Prosecutors), must have been surprised by this turn of events.
By October 5, trial proper will proceed, but we (with my lawyers) are hopeful and confident that I will be acquitted eventually, provided. . . . .
I have been informed that some Brods have voluntarily initiated a fund raising campaign to help me defray the money needed for my provisional release. Sa inyong lahat, paki tanggap ang aking taos pusong pasasalamat. I owe you one.
The leadership of the frat’s alumni association headed by incumbent (name removed) and former prexy (name removed) paid me a visit once at the jail. They were eight (8) in all, and I won’t mention their names anymore, for fear that I might miss someone.
By this writing, my biological clock is still that of a former detainee. I can’t sleep soundly and continuously at night — automatically at 10:30pm, 2:30am and 6:30am, I am always wide awake — our regular counting sked inside the jail.
I opened my email last night (with nearly 2,000 messages online) and as VAS/Masigme member, I have read the few exchanges among brods relative to my plight. It appears (name removed) has “lead the charge” on my behalf (local brods), while (names removed) took care of the assist from the IMF/WB. (Names removed) equally shared T’s enthusiasm “to help a brod in distress.” I’ll get even with you all in our next Kitakits. I have a plan – though not in the nature of a coup d’etat – for the said gathering.
Brods (name removed) and (name removed) , I understand, are breaking protocols to insure my early release from jail. Kasi siguro dahil di pa ko bayad ng aking annual dues sa alumni association. Tataya ako sa lotto bukas.
At any rate, mga Kapatid, its really nice to breathe anew the air of freedom, to be away from the lurid environment of the selda (Philippine setting), and to finally recall, by hindsight, that I nearly touched the edge of my mortality. I can almost second guess what our Brod Greg must be feeling by now.
I cannot end this brief without mentioning a host of other unnamed Brods who have extended their moral and prayerful concern for my health and safety ((names removed) are three of them). A Brod, I know, is suffering in silence, since while looking at me from a distance, he fervently wishes to hug me with that brotherly embrace of a true and genuine Alpha Sigman.
Sa inyong lahat, pagpalain nawa tayo ng Poong Maykapal. If in the eyes of the law, we appear to have been at fault, then let human justice prevail — we are ready to face our accusers using the law as our shield and defense. But beyond and above all this is the one law that is of divine origin, one that comes from the innocence of a pure of heart, unfeathered by power and wealth.
Bumabati at nagpapasalamat sa inyong lahat.
Who is Ernie Macahiya?
by Philip Nemenzo