Achieving Happiness

December 15, 2009

Satur Ocampo as student leader and unwitting ISAFP agent

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 2:56 am

It was 1959 and Satur Ocampo was 19 years old.

Being the son of poor farmers, Satur the student was frequently on the lookout for part-time work. He wanted to study, but he also carried a deep sense of responsibility and wanted to help his parents. He was the fifth child among 12, and he aimed to also help send his younger siblings to school.

So he resolved to be a working student. He sought productive employment: productive not only because it paid, but more so because he learned from it. He did not look down on menial work, but he wanted work wherein he could use his mental skills.

The paying job he waited for came one day on his sophomore year in college when he was doing presswork for the Philippine College of Commerce (PCC) student paper, The Businessman, at a suburban printing press.

Satur was then the managing editor, but in the following year he would become it’s editor in chief. At the same time he was also class president, and would be up to his senior year. The husband of the manager showed an interest in his editorial capability and offered to recommend him for another job wherein he, Satur, would be able to practice his skills more ably.

Satur was ecstatic, so much so that he found nothing suspicious when, for the interview for the new job, he was taken to a safehouse. He was also briefed intermittently but often at length for two months. He was given readings on the history of the communist movement in the Philippines (his new employment was primarily research and writing work, he was told) and other political readings.

As for the job itself, Satur found that it went hand-in-glove with his activities as a student leader. He was told that he was to observe and write about the topics of discussions in student activities in the caucuses and conferences of student leaders. He was tasked to document his observations and assessment of personalities and ideas of specific persons and monitor their movements.

All this was easy for Satur, and he found it interesting. As student government official and campus paper president, he was a frequent delegate to various conferences across the country. He attended activities of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the Student Councils Association of the Philippines. He was serious in his participation, and was often involved in the preparation of workbooks and the conference publications.

He idolized Claro M. Recto and read his work. He wrote editorials articles for the school paper exposing and denouncing student hooliganism and fraternity violence (for a time he was a target of the frats and received threats), and exhorted his fellow students to follow the footsteps of patriots like Recto and make something of their time in the educational system.

In the reports he wrote for what he believed was his part-time job, he laid down his own ideas and observations about the issues discussed in the conferences. He sincerely believed that part-time work was research into the activities of Filipino youth and the student body. He even had an idea that his research was being used by the Ministry of Education.

Imagine Satur’s shock, then, when he realized, much, much later that he had been recruited into the intelligence service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or ISAFP! He only discovered it two years to the day he joined when one afternoon, returning to the office to turn in his report for the week, he found a dossier on himself complete with photos. With it were dossiers on other student leaders.

By the time he learned what he had gotten himself into, it was very difficult and even dangerous to back out. At the time, he didn’t sufficiently understand that the ISAFP’s anti-democratic orientation and practices, so he thought that it would be easy to leave.

His efforts, however, were not successful. he was met with veiled threats and told that that “it was not easy to just quit the game.”

It took Satur two more years to leave the ISAFP, and it was a two years fraught with difficulty. He argued with his case officer and his analyses and conclusions. He often desisted from writing certain reports. All the while he was increasingly ashamed of being a snoop, reporting on friends whose political views he had come to share. He also felt a traitor to himself as overnight he grew to hate his job and the very institution.

He was finally able to completely break way when he was ‘burnt’ or exposed accidentally by a new CO.

Satur considered his stint with the ISAFP as a shameful episode in his life, but he has since looked upon the experience in a positive light. His experience helped open his eyes further to the realities of conflict between the Filipino people and those who governed with iron fists, corruption and coercion. When the time came when he was formally introduced to the national democratic movement, he embraced it with alacrity and even relief: to this cause he would give his heart and soul and use all his skills and intelligence. His knowledge of the work of the ISAFP and what it served strengthened his resolve that the national democratic movement was right, and that the revolution was correct.

In 1976, he once more came face to face with his former chief then Major Greg Perez and former associates at the ISAFP. Satur was then a captive, a wanted man of the US-Marcos regime. He told them: “You have grown old and have not changed; I am older, too; but I have changed.”

Perez could only shake his head. In the man that stood before him there was but a trace of the boy they were able to fool into being a spy. The man who faced him had, since the last time they saw each other, become a revolutionary.

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1 Comment »

  1. perhaps his stint also helped in doing counter-intelligence work, especially during his stint in the underground movement pre-1986. So are the others, including once soldiers-turned-rebels who gave a share of military intelligence as part of military training.

    Comment by RedStarKatleah — April 21, 2011 @ 2:18 pm


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