Radio Veritas transmitter still intact two decades after people power
- Dino Balabo () - February 24, 2006 - 12:00am
MALOLOS CITY, Bulacan — Twenty years ago, armed men clad in military uniforms, their faces were covered with shirts and handkerchiefs, barged into the relay station of Radio Veritas in Barangay Dakila here.

At gunpoint, technicians manning the transmitters were ordered to lie face down at around 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 23, 1986, a Sunday. It was the height of the 1986 people power revolution that eventually toppled President Ferdinand Marcos from power. Radio Veritas was then broadcasting news from EDSA and served as the mouthpiece of the people.

Tony Medina, a technician, told The STAR in an exclusive interview that he had just left the radio facility when the armed men came.

"I can imagine how terrified my friends were then," Medina said, recounting the horrors his fellow technicians encountered.

The tension, he said, lasted some 30 minutes and his friends thought it was their end.

Apparently, the armed men who barged into the radio facility had no intention of harming the radio technicians.

"They just wanted to cut Radio Veritas off the air," Medina said.

He clarified that earlier accounts of the Radio Veritas raid were wrong. He said the leader of the armed group asked a technician to shut down the 50-kilowatt transmitter before they started smashing it with axes. This was after the armed men cut the telephone lines and other telecommunications facilities inside the facility.

Another technician identified as Placido Ancheta was accosted by the armed men in a nearby tower and told to turn the transmitter off.

Minutes later, Radio Veritas’ broadcast of the events at EDSA was cut off the air.

But the Catholic Church-owned radio station continued airing the EDSA uprising using its 10-kilowatt transmitter in Fairview, Quezon City. However, this lasted only a few hours. The transmitter eventually broke down.

Medina told The STAR one of the reasons that Radio Veritas was singled out by what looked like military men was because it had been broadcasting news critical of the Marcos regime since the assassination of the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. on Aug. 21, 1983.

It was also Radio Veritas that aired the call of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin on the night of Feb. 22, 1986 for the Filipino people to gather at EDSA to protect Marcos’ defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, who broke away from Marcos and holed up at Camp Crame.

Because of Sin’s call, millions of Filipinos flocked to EDSA and Ramos sent a message demanding that a security force be sent to the Radio Veritas facility in Malolos to safeguard its broadcast.

But no security forces came. Instead, an armored personnel carrier (APC) arrived on the night of Feb. 24, more than 24 hours after the transmitters had been destroyed.

Armed with 50 machine guns, the armored vehicle started firing at the facility, hitting its glass windows, steel doors and concrete walls. Bullet holes are still visible at the Radio Veritas premises today.

This led radio technicians to scamper in different directions but not one of the attackers entered the facility.

Medina said his fellow technicians who were at the facility during the attack heard at least three kinds of shots; there were machine gun and rifle shots followed by an explosion coming from a grenade launcher.

They learned after the attack that the old pick-up truck parked at the 300-meter bridge located between the facility and the MacArthur Highway, along with other barricades set up a day earlier, had been fired upon with a grenade launcher.

Medina likewise belied earlier reports that men clad in yellow shirts attacked Radio Veritas.

"Witnesses outside the facility said that they saw men aboard the APC while others used cars with yellow ribbons and flags," he said.

The machine gun attack did not hit anyone, but a resident of Barangay Sumapang Matanda, identified later as Pastor Evangelista, died of a heart attack.

Ben Gamos, an Associated Press stringer based in Bulacan at the time and who lived in Barangay Sumapang Matanda, recounted that his family had just finished dinner when they heard shots.

"I told my family to stay inside and I called members of the Bulacan PC-INP command who were also at a loss at that time," the veteran journalist said. He later called AP and reported the incident as a late breaker.

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