“Radyo Patrol” is forty years old

Orly Mercado

Posted on November 14, 2009

“It’s been forty years since we first aired Radyo Patrol” was a reminder broadcast executive Jake Almeda-Lopez scribbled in a greeting card I received some months ago. I remembered the note as I was reading about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, and the 40th anniversary of the durable children’s television program, “Sesame Street.”

1969 was a year of political unrest especially in the Philippines. I was a correspondent in ABS-CBN News when I was transferred back to the Radio Production Department to start “Radyo Patrol” together with a veteran radioman Barr Samson, who had a reputation for unbridled ingenuity in reportage that at times was at the fringes of what was permissible. In the beginning the anchorpersons in the studio of DZAQ were basically entertainment personalities and considered our news reports sort of a nuisance to their mix of music and entertainment gossip. I stuck it out because I knew we were about to launch an entirely new format in broadcasting. “Radyo Patrol” was to be the country’s first all-talk and all-news radio station on the air twenty four hours a day. Barr faded away and a new set of reporters made up my team. Jun Ricafrente, Cris Daluz, Ysmael Reyes and Mario Garcia were not all newsmen. Some were former radio drama talents. With the entry of a talented newcomer by the name of Joe Taruc, my first team was complete. I set up a continuing training program as I hired more reporters. The line up of anchorpersons was changed. Former senator Eddie Ilarde, Johnny Midnight, Bobby Guanzon, Ernie Baron, and others filled the airtime with commentaries as well as phoned in comments from listeners.

Whenever possible the reporters and some anchormen attended a teach-in with experts from various fields that included the likes of Satur Ocampo. As a former student leader from the leftist group Kabataang Makabayan (Nationalist Youth) I was an activist who had a powerful platform. It was fine for me because the Lopezes, who owned the network, were at odds with the administration of President Marcos. As we covered student demonstrations and riots in the streets, and aired stinging commentaries, I knew that we were treading dangerous grounds. It was only a matter of time. It came on August 21, 1971 with the bombing of the Liberal Party political rally in Plaza Miranda. An attempt to arrest me in the studios of ABS CBN was foiled. Having been tipped off by reporter Boo Changco who overheard First Lady Imelda Marcos mention my name as one of those who will be arrested, I decided to leave the studios by the back door. To be sure, I had nothing to do with the bombing, but Marcos used the incident to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and charge the so called leaders of the “rebellion.” I found myself indicted in the case People of the Philippines versus Luzvimindo David et. al. There were 63 of us charged with violation of the Anti-Subversion Act (RA1700). The next year Marcos declared martial law and closed ABS-CBN. “Radyo Patrol” was silenced, temporarily. Today, most have already forgotten the voices that permeated the airwaves from 1969 to 1972 in a pioneering format that was needed by the times. “Radyo Patrol has been back in the airwaves since EDSA I (1986). What we went through forty years helped ensure what it is now.

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