By Aaron Recuenco
Ipaghihiganti ko kayo. (I will avenge you.)
These were the exact words that security guard Boy Cagais recalled as he tried to figure out why his good friend Archie Paray barged into the administration office of a mall in Greenhills, San Juan on Monday and took 50 employees as hostages.
Cagais told the Manila Bulletin that it was just one of their regular video calls last January wherein they would chat about the alleged continuous abuses being committed by their bosses. He said he never thought that Paray would actually do it.
Paray, according to Cagais, is strict when it comes to implementing the orders on mall security. He served as security guard at V Mall in Greenhills in San Juan City and his last assignment was in one of the entrances.
Paray and some of the security guards would just keep their griping and observations on the alleged abuses committed by their bosses to themselves, and would only talk about it during their drinking session—until he himself became an alleged victim in December last year.
All of a sudden, Paray felt how it was like to be a victim of ‘palakasan’ and lack of due process. And all of a sudden, he felt that he had to do something about it.
Paray was reportedly kicked out of his job over an argument with one of the mall tenants on the issue of ‘No ID, No Entry’ policy which is being implemented for tenants and employees every morning before the mall opens.
The tenant allegedly tried to enter the mall without showing an identification card but Paray would not allow it. The angry tenant allegedly made access in another mall entrance and immediately went to Paray to taunt him.
But it did not end there.
The tenant allegedly talked to Paray’s two supervisors and after the conversation, the tenant allegedly went pass him and warned him that his days are numbered. A few days later, he was given notice that he would be assigned in other area.
For some of the security guards, being re-assigned or rotated is tantamount to saying that you are out. Police, for their part, said that Paray went on AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave) after he was informed of his re-assignment, the reason why he was dismissed.
Cagais’ narration to the Manila Bulletin as to why his friend ended up as hostage-taker was confirmed by Paray himself when he was allowed to talk to the media shortly after he was convinced to surrender by San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora.
This is the reason why Paray, during the course of negotiations, wanted to have two mall security officials, chew and swallow peso bills amounting to P2,500 each.
Paray accused the two of receiving P5,000 from the mall tenant in exchange for his dismissal.
During his requested press conference, the unrepentant Paray talked about how he shot the Officer-in-Charge of the more than 200 security guards identified as Ronald Beleta, even using the local slang ‘masamang damo’ (bad grass) as the reason why he did not die despite suffering from two bullet wounds.
Beleta was the only casualty during the more than nine hours of hostage-taking which ended at around 8:45 p.m. on Monday when Paray agreed to surrender but was later subdued after he started talking that he was ready to die.
Asked why Paray was mad at Beleta, some of the security guards interviewed by the Manila Bulletin said that it was because the latter appeared to have been tolerating and even conniving with mall security officials.
“Siya ang OIC dapat ipinagtatanggol niya kami kapag nasa tama kami, pero hindi naman niya ginagawa yun eh. (As the OIC, he was supposed to defend us but we have not seen him doing it),” one of the security guards who asked not to be named told the Manila Bulletin.
It was Beleta who was allegedly the first to be informed by Paray on the unfair treatment on him in December last year. Paray accused Beleta and other mall security officials of doing nothing on his complaints.
Beleta is currently recuperating in a hospital in San Juan.
Paray appears to have the support of some of the security guards of the V Mall, particularly those who spent at least five years on the job and especially those who know him.
In an interview with some of the security guards, they said the hostage-taking would have not happened if the mall security officials had been fair in treating them.
“Nauunawaan namin siya. Matagal na siya dito at marami na rin siyang nakitang pang-aabuso, siya mismo nabiktima. (We understand why he resorted to this. He has been a witness on the abuses here and he also became a victim),” one of the security guards who works at the VMall since 2012 told the Manila Bulletin.
“Wala kaming reklamo sa agency namin, wala rin kaming reklamo sa sahod kasi patas naman. Ang sa amin lang dito ay yung due process. Dapat kapag paparusahan kami, ipakita sa amin kung bakit at ipakita sa amin na dumaan kami sa tamang proseso hindi yung basta-basta na lang kami paparusahan na hindi namin alam ang dahilan. (We have no complaint in our agency, we have no complaint on the salary. What we are after is due process. They should inform us and show to us that the proper procedures are done before we are punished),” his fellow security guard butted in.
All of the security guards interviewed by the Manila Bulletin said that they are all at the mercy of the mall security officials whom they accused of favoring some of the tenants at their expense.
Paray, for his part, appeared to be drawing strength and motivation from his fellow security guards.
This is the reason, according to some security guards, why he would constantly request to see the security guards and would ask them to fall in formation through a video call.
A few minutes before he agreed to surrender, one of Paray’s conditions is that he would see his fellow security guards in formation when he goes out of the mall to formally surrender.
PRICE TO PAY
Through a handgun and a grenade, Paray’s call for due process was finally heard.
Through threats of killing hostages, Paray’s demand for justice was finally served with the resignation of mall security officials whom he accused of favoritism, corruption, and abuse of authority.
But it came with a heavy price as he would be away from his pregnant wife and his children because of the string of criminal charges he is facing that include illegal possession of firearms and explosives, frustrated murder, and serious illegal detention.