FAST BACKWARD: Recalling Col. Kahulugan

Known for his tough anti-communist stance, Col. Laudemer Kahulugan had his share of ugly monikers; he was even labeled a verdugo. As a young man editing one of Davao’s only three dailies, my opinion of the guy, up close and personal, was friendly even though tough-talking.

Confirming a story from a military officer whose supposed disrepute preceded him, was always a daunting task to many journalists. But not for us. We had a nice experience with him while following up an insurgency story that transpired in Davao del Sur, the colonel’s turf. The man on the other end of the phone, to our surprise, was accommodating. One topic led to another until he invited us to attend the PC-INP Day on August 8, 1984 held at Digos.

Upon reaching the barracks and introducing our name, the sentry, obviously expecting my arrival, led me to the inner sanctum of the headquarters where a Mass was officiated. He motioned me to an empty chair beside a guy in plaid shirt who turned out to be the colonel.

The acquaintance over lunch lasted two hours but so much had been revealed about the man.

To take a ride home to the Digos terminal, we rode on the ‘salvage car.’ It was an improvised military jeep, replete with a hidden submachinegun adjacent to the drive gear, a few hand grenades neatly tucked nearby for easy access, and a handgun on the colonel’s waist with dual overextended magazines. As part of his personal security, an army vehicle escorted and tailed us.

When our newspaper’s newly renovated city office was inaugurated the following month along Magallanes Street, the colonel honored our invite to join the even, one of the rare private occasions he privileged during his stint in Davao. He stayed well over two hours, not even taking a ship but chatting away with the young editorial team that was awed at his simplicity.

In early December that year, Col. Kahulugan, as part of the PCP-INP reshuffle, took over as the chief of the Davao City’s Metropolitan District Command (METRODISCOM), replacing Col. Geronimo Valderrama who was moved to Davao de Norte.

In just two weeks, he made his presence felt by rounding up fifteen members of a disreputable hold-up gang victimizing city residents. Shortly, there was a noticeable lull in the killing of cops, civilian home defense force (CHDF) members and military personnel since his assumption.

Col. Kahulugan’s time in Davao City was both ‘colorful and controversial.’ He was attributed the credit for stopping the tide of insurgency given his no-nonsense drive. He was quick to tell reporters that the results of his campaign spoke more than just words, and thanked the all-out cooperation between the military, the local government and the civilian population as indispensable facets of a strong anti-communist alliance.

Foremost among the notorious groups he neutralized was a hold-up gang led by a junior military office on absence without leave, whom the authorities arrested while attending a church baptism as a sponsor. The arrest would lead to the rounding up of all his lieutenants.

After retiring from the police-military service. Col. Kahulugan joined civilian life as chief security officer of Purefoods Corp. in Marikina City. But the stint was his last. On June 4, 1990, the insurgent assassins, long wanting to exact revenge on him, fatally shot him while driving to his office. The incident took place just two days before he could have celebrated his 57th birthday.

Police reported four young men perpetrated the crime. His .45-caliber pistol and a hand-held radio were carted away. That made him the second security officer at the company killed in just six months. His predecessor, retired army Col. Generoso Lintag, also died the same way.

Many of those who knew the man from a distance have only a vague impression about his personal drive to confront insurgency till the end. That determination to stay true to his military mission, sadly, cost him his life after leaving the service.

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