Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 20:
My brief brush with the law.
Now you can imagine how I felt, here I was dealing with the inevitable feelings of grief together with a massive hangover which felt like jack hammers pounding inside my head together with a serious lack of sleep and here are two cops asking me in halting English to accompany them down to the police station “to assist them with their enquiries.” I remember answering the door draped only in a Mayfair hotel towel with disheveled hair and bloodshot eyes. I must have looked quite a sight because the police were visibly taken aback by my appearance and readily agreed that I could take a shower before accompanying them to the police station. They told me they would be waiting downstairs and with this I closed the door and stumbled towards the shower.
30 minutes later I was down stairs and feeling nearly human I asked the cops if they could wait while I had a coffee so as to wake up. They readily agreed and looked at me with expectant faces as if it was my obligation to buy them a coffee as well. 3 coffees later one for me and one each for the policemen I was led out through the front gate with one of the cops holding my arms and pushed into some kind of van with the letters PNP painted on the side. I distinctly remember noticing that they had guns but I asked myself would they use them if I attempted to run. I looked at the little guy holding my arm and decided he was not big enough to stop me should I try to bolt but then common sense got the better of me and I realized I had done nothing wrong as far as Hilda was concerned so what was the harm in accompanying them to the police station.
The ride to the cop shop was not exactly a luxury limo and it did not help matters that I had no idea where the heck I was going and the two cops just sat beside me stony faced and would not engage in conversation no matter how hard I tried. Inside the paddy wagon it was hot and as I started to sweat one of the cops gave me a half hearted smile as if to indicate he was thoroughly enjoying my discomfort. These cops were not exactly friendly and I noticed they kept their hands within very close proximity to their holstered guns as if I was some kind of dangerous criminal.
After about 40 minutes we arrived at the police station where one cop jumped out while the other cop grabbed my arm and bundled me out of the van. Once outside the cops seemed to visibly puff up their chests and both grabbed one arm each and herded me into the station house. Once inside I noticed a mass of people and all heads turned to view this bad foreigner who had committed some sort of heinous crime. Without letting go of my arms they took me to the front desk where some rapid Tagalog was spoken then I was pushed along the corridor and into a room with two chairs and a single wooden desk. I was told to sit on the chair and the inspector would be along shortly to question me.
At this stage I was wondering just what the heck was going on. I looked around the room for some sort of camera but could not find any. I knew I was in deep shit but at the same time I also realized they didn’t really have anything on me because I wasn’t handcuffed and I had not been officially charged with anything. I sat on the small metal chair the type that seems to proliferate in the Philippines and are designed to give maximum discomfort especially for larger foreigners. I waited for what seemed like an eternity and found myself leaving the chair periodically to pace round the room. After a while the room to the door opened and in walked a well groomed bespectacled man who introduced himself as Captain Garcia and motioned for me to pull my chair a little closer to the desk as he had some questions he wanted to ask me.
Captain Garcia was carrying a small tape recorder and as he started the questions he turned it on then looked me straight in the eyes with one of the most piercing looks I have ever had the misfortune of encountering. Garcia also had a number of papers which he made a point of looking at and shuffling around before beginning the questioning. Over the years of living here I have noticed on multiple occasions the Filipino bureaucrats love of paper work as if it somehow makes them feel important and validates whatever their official position is. After a prolonged paper shuffle Captain Garcia raised his head and gave me another penetrating look as he slowly began his questions.
He started by mispronouncing my name and getting me to spell it correctly and then asked, “Mr Martin can you speak Tagalog” to which I replied, “no sir I have only been in the country for three months so I have not had time to learn it but I would very much like to if given the opportunity“. This caused Captain Garcia to give me a wry mile but only a momentary one and instantly he was poker faced again as he renewed his questioning. Well then Mr Martin he replied I will question you in English. With this a visible sigh of relief escaped me as I knew this would give me a small psychological advantage. Garcia had obviously decided a somewhat subtle approach was called for and he began his questioning tentatively. “Tell me Mr. Martin why did you come to the Philippines” and I replied I came to have a holiday captain”. “Three months is a long time for a holiday, what have you been doing all this time”? Well now I was a little confused as I wasn’t sure where this was heading but I figured there was no point lying so I told him I had been visiting bars mainly with my friends David Goldshaft and Ken Carbery both of whom lived here and ran the Mayfair Hotel. I also told him both these people knew where I was just as a sort of bluff and I was sure they would be contacting my embassy if I did not return.
My bluff did not seem to phase Garcia at all as he simply smiled at me and replied, “Mr Martin at this stage your embassy is not necessary we are only holding you for questioning you are not under arrest“. This made me feel somewhat better so I replied, “thank you for the clarification Captain and I will do my very best to answer any questions you ask me”. With the battle lines now subtly drawn Garcia continued his questions. Mr Martin where did you meet the recently deceased Miss Hilda Delgardo. In answer to the question I relayed the story how I had met her in punch line bar and how we had become good friends. He then asked me did I think Hilda was in love with me to which I replied Captain what man knows what a woman is truly thinking or feeling”. The Captain was momentarily taken back by this answer but quickly recovered his composure to try another tack as he asked me “how would you describe your relationship with the deceased” I told him we were very good friends and lovers. He then asked me if I would describe Hilda as an emotional woman to which I replied “ compared to what? All women are emotional but Hilda did not seem more emotional than any other woman I have met“.
By this time I was wondering what the Captain was getting at, it was very obvious he was trying to work out some sort of angle but I couldn’t see what it was. The Captain then asked me how much time had I spent with Hilda and I answered him by telling him about our trip to Boracay. He then asked me, ”so you were close to Miss Delgardo and she was close to you” to which I replied yes we were close friends and lovers”. At this point Captain Garcia obviously decided he was not getting anywhere with this line of questioning and he promptly switched to another tact. Mr Martin what were the pills Miss Delgardo took”? I explained that they were quinine pills designed to protect people from contracting Malaria. When he heard this he seemed somewhat surprised but recovered quickly enough to say Mr Matin we do not have Malaria here in the Philippines to which I replied “I don’t mean to contradict you sir but you do have malaria here especially in Palawan where I was planning on visiting“. Garcia then looked at me with a look that said don’t me too much of a smart ass boy and proceeded to carry on with his questioning. Mr Martin are you in the habit of leaving dangerous drugs within easy access of others”? I replied, “no sir I am not but it never occurred to me that Hilda would take an over dose and normally sir quinine tablets are not dangerous if only taken in moderation“.
Garcia had come up against another dead end but he wasn’t finished yet. Mr Martin are you aware that Miss Delgardo was pregnant to which I answered “yes sir I am but that was not my baby”. Upon hearing this he looked at me enquiringly and then asked, “if you knew it was not your baby why then did you take her to Boracay“. I explained to him how I never knew about the baby until we were actually down in Boracay and by that time it was to late to do anything about it. He then asked how did you feel about the baby belonging to another man?” I thought this was a somewhat bizarre question but I told him the truth “to be honest sir I was actually quite relieved because I do not know if I am ready to be a father yet”. He then asked me were you prepared to take responsibility for the baby?” and I replied I was prepared to help Hilda when the baby was born because she was a nice person and a good friend but that was all. I was not prepared to accept full responsibility for the baby.”
The questioning went on for another half hour and Captain Garcia tried a number of questioning lines but it soon became obvious there was nothing he could pin me on and the good Captain would soon have to give up the fight. Finally the Captain had, had enough but as his departing salvo he announced, “Mr Martin I believe from what you have stated and the evidence before me that this was a crime of passion and consequently we will hold you in the cell until such time we have completed our investigation.” When I heard this I could not believe it and I said to the Captain excuse me sir but I have committed no crime, Hilda committed suicide and that has nothing to do with me.” Garcia gave me another one of his piercing looks and replied Mr Martin the Philippine legal system will be the one to decide your guilt or innocence and until that decision is made you will be held by the PNP.”