Rodolfo ‘Boogie’ Mendoza, a proud member of PMA Class 78, retired Police General, legendary anti-communist intelligence officer, and consummate psywar practitioner, died of a heart attack last March 28. He was 64.
As a cadet in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), Boogie was easy to get along with. He was originally a member of PMA Batch 77, but notwithstanding the fact that he was a ‘turnback’ cadet, he never flaunted his connections on us, his classmates, during our plebe year. Always helpful, he strove to help our ‘mistahs’ (cadet lingo for classmate) who were slow to adjust to plebe life in the Academy.
Throughout our cadet days, he always took a low profile, choosing to stay on the sidelines, content on coasting along and taking the easy way. We were part of Bud-daho Company, which later reverted back to Delta Company, and we were gaining a distinct notoriety as the company which loved their wine much, much more than they did their women. And Boogie was right at home with that band of boisterous brothers.
We parted ways after graduation in 1978, as he joined the Philippine Constabulary with some of our other mistahs, while the rest of us would join the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. For a while, I lost track of him. But the next time our paths crossed, it was a totally different Boogie I encountered.
We would see each other once again when I was reassigned to Davao in the early 80s. Gone was the ‘drink-and-be-merry’ attitude. In its place was a passion for the work at hand, a consuming drive to uncover the Kommid (or the Mindanao Commission), which was the Communist Party’s top leadership in Mindanao.
He would burn the midnight oil pouring over sacks and sacks of captured documents, intent on filling up his wall of names, organizations and linkages. He endeavored to learn as much about the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA). From the very top of the organization down to the smallest units known as the SLTs and SYPs. He became practically a walking encyclopedia of the Kommid, knowing even the dark little secrets within the organization.
His knowledge of the NPA organization in Southern Mindanao became legendary. At one time, there was a ‘salvaging’ incident in Agdao in Davao City where a Cafgu member was felled by NPA assassins. Our soldiers picked up a very suspicious looking character and brought him to Camp Catitipan for questioning, but we didn’t have anything on him. Boogie walked in, took one look at the guy, and spelled out his name and position in the insurgent organization. He even spiced it up by adding some private details about him. The guy immediately broke down and confessed. No lengthy interrogation, no third-degree, not even a single question. Boogie had him the moment he set eyes on him.
His reputation in the counter-insurgency campaign would grow. Even as a young lieutenant, he was already in the Kommid’s list of most wanted individuals, while the rest on the list were all generals. Among his noted early successes were the capture of Benjamin De Vera, then the highest ranking personality in the Kommid; plus many other top-ranking personalities. He was now making a name for himself in the police and military world as a topnotch intel operator.
As a planner, Boogie was a very unorthodox individual. Almost always, he would surprise everyone with a unique and audacious way to address a problem. He never took the conventional approach to a project. He was an expert in conversational gambit. He could get you to divulge important information without you realizing it. And he was a master strategist, always looking 3 to 5 moves ahead. Discussing the possible capture of a certain personality in the communist movement, he dismissed the thought. To him, capturing the guy would be easy, but dealing with that next guy in the hierarchy would become even more difficult.
His exploits would grow beyond the insurgency field. Among others, in 1995, Boogie would uncover a terrorist plot to kill Pope Paul II during his visit to the country. The ‘Bojinka Plot’ would highlight the use of planes to blow up urban centers and key landmarks. Years later, after the horrifying 9-11 terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, Boogie’s revelations would haunt American intelligence officers who failed to heed his warning.
Then came Edsa 2. This is where I remember him at his best. Martin Luther King once said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
At the start of Edsa 2, there were very few people operating on the AFP and the PNP. Boogie took it upon himself to work on getting the support of the PNP. Despite facing a formidable foe in then PNP Chief and now Senator Ping Lacson, he never backed down. Nothing personal against the Senator, but Boogie was always ready to take on the world for a righteous cause. And taking down then President Erap was the right thing to do for him at that time.
On 2 occasions, Fr Archie Intengan of the Jesuit Order would call us, offering to help in case things got too hot for comfort. But hell, no, Boogie so loved the pressure and waded on. Others shied away, avoiding him lest they themselves be tainted. But Boogie charged right ahead, challenging Erap’s machinery to bring it on. The rest is history.
After Edsa 2, Boogie went back to his counter-terror work, as the world’s attention was now gripped by a global threat that posed a much bigger problem. But he never forgot to work on his counter-insurgency holdings from where he made his indelible mark.
He was sought for as a resource speaker on terrorism and the insurgency movement. He was revered by his peers, his juniors, and quite grudgingly, by many of his former protagonists. He toiled to become a mentor to many junior police officers, fearful that the police in the later years would have very little interest in pursuing what had been a passion for him.
Talking about current developments recently, he lamented what he felt was a lack of in-depth know-how on the CPP-NPA among the present crop of intel officers and units. He noted that intel operatives today were more intent on targetting personalities, and not on addressing the strategic environment. And he was fearful of the seeming lack of long-term planning among the present crop of officers doing intel work.
And so, he toiled on, despite his family’s plea for him to stand down after he retired in 2010. He was a strategic thinker, and he had a growing realization that he needed to pass on his know-how to the next generation of intel operatives.
But underneath the facade of serious business he displayed, there was the occasional outburst of mischief that Boogie was capable of. He could dish out the most ribald of jokes among close friends. He could be as naughty as the ordinary boy-next-door. He could get you mad with his silly pranks.
And yes, despite the countless overtimes, the lengthy periods away from home, he was fiercely loyal to his family. Having been listed in the NPA’s hit list, he learned early on to be overly zealous of his family’s security. Even among our social circles, he was cautious in bringing along his wife, Evelyn, and his 4 kids.
Boogie. The consummate intel officer. A fiercely loyal friend; and yet an equally calculating, methodical adversary. A silent, lonely operator; and yet, an eager mentor. A serious, deliberate worker, with a knack for raunchy jokes. An enigma, a controversial figure, with a smile. The father of Philippine counter-terror intelligence work. The Philippine James Bond with a paunch.