Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rock the Rehas Episode

It was a little difficult to start out this episode because a radio show usually starts off on a perky tone. One's voice tone lilt-change can determine how bored or interested listeners will be. Wala ring nakikitang gestures ng kamay o facial expression so medyo nalito ako kung paano ko uumpisahan ang show dahil maselan ang topic. Mabigat. Pero as Rock Ed Radio has said from the start --let's talk about things we never really talk about. So, we tried this one.

Other than that, Lourd had an important deadline to meet so he couldn't join us earlier. (Sayang talaga, wala ka do'n.)
The "Rock the Rehas" project group is a combination of Rock Ed volunteer writers, still photographers, film-makers, admin and production staff. We also have the advisory board from Libertas Lawyer's League who help us with legalese and the boring stuff. Hehe. This audio-visual project allows the group to visit and spend days in jail and then Rock Ed assists them (us) in producing short film-docus on any angle of our penal system.Joining the group is Ms. Ditsi Carolino, director of the critically-acclaimed film on juveniles in jail entitled, "Bunso." She filmed inside the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center in Cebu, following the daily lives of three minors who were then-imprisoned along with the adult offenders. "Bunso" is a monumental film. It has shed the much-needed light on the shady world of our jail system when it comes to providing options for children in conflict with the law. Many of us think that minors are tried and detained separately -- how wrong we are. (Click photo above to research more on "BUNSO" and if you can organize a screening of it in your school, email More Filipinos should see Ms. Carolino's work.

The alarming congestion in jails is partly because of the alarming ratio of the few public lawyers to the many detainees who need them. In Cebu, a large region is covered by only 20 some public attorneys. Eh isang bilibid lang libo-libo ang naka detain, karamihan hindi maka-afford ng private lawyer. The facts are more startling than you imagine. Cadiz emphasizes the need for swifter processes in representing those who are arrested but praises the efforts of the Public Attorney's Office despite their meager resources.Paolo Picones is a photographer. He has accompanied the group in every jail trip since the project's inception. Paolo mourns the days lost of many inmates who were jailed grossly longer than their supposed sentence. He narrates a conversation he had with someone who stole an item that was less than PhP100. This young man stayed in detention (in all its horror) for over a year waiting for his day in court. Sa bagal ng representation, dahil nga madami masyado ang nangangailangan ng public attorney, matagal bago naka punta sa hearing ang inmate. When he finally got his sentence, the ruling was for him to serve ten days in jail only. No retribution, sorry na lang, boy. Stories like these are abound. Sa isang jail nga, meron nag serve ng 18 years, and it turns out -ang sentence niya ay four years lang. Many of these inmates could've been released if only someone filed for a motion stating that he has already served maximum prison time for the crime committed. Que inosente o hindi, na-serve na niya ang max duration of time behind bars for the crime he is accused of. But since there are not enough clerks or public attorneys who have administrative assistance, nabulok na lang sila sa loob. Shown above is a woman who was outside the BBRC facility in Cebu. Masuwerte ang pamangkin niya dahil siya mismo ang kumulit at tumutok sa P.A.O. para ma-release siya dahil lampas nang dalawang taon sila sa loob na wala pang hearing. (taken March 2007)

This is where the call of Pepe Diokno comes in. We need people to help the public attorneys in the form of encoding case files into an organized Excel file of sorts. Para mas madali ang trabaho nila. Ngayon kasi mano-mano. Ang folders nakatambak lang sa desks. At dahil mabilis ang turn over (mga 3-5 years lang resign na ang mga Public Attorneys) hindi maayos ang pagtransfer ng mga files from lawyer to lawyer, so kadalasan back to square one ang kaso ni Juan de la Cruz.Tado Jimenez is part of the team. In fact, he is so valuable to this team because he is the most popular figure in the group. Natutuwa sila agad pag nakikita si Tado, lumalamig ang atmosphere. I've seen him in action with the inmates, natutunaw ang apprehension ng mga siga sa loob kasi disarming ang charm ni Tado. He is also working on a series of docus on his own. (title DokumenTADO) One of which will be on jails. He says that many of the minors he's interviewed would prefer to stay inside the jails because life is harder for them outside. Frustration is hard to disguise even for someone so cheerful and uppity as Tado.
This sentiment echoed by film-maker Pepe Diokno. A point that Pepe shared that startled him the most, was the situation of families allowed to stay in with their inmate parents. We met toddlers and young children who live with their fathers inside the detention centers. On the surface they look okay, playing with the rest of the manongs and 'titos' inside the jails but Pepe wonders about the effect this has on their psyche when or as they get older. As we all probably will from now on.
Beside Ditsi Carolino is Libertas Rehas project head, Leslie Umaly. She takes care of the administrative side. She is in charge of charming all the wardens to allow us to shoot further in the institution walls. She is in charge of scheduling and budgets and etc. But her more crucial role is that she accompanies me when I interview inside the cells. Many times I get stumped while I exchange stories with men and women accused of triple homicides, statutory rapes, burglary etc. Drug addicts who still have their ticks from withdrawal are calmed down when they realize that all we want is to hear their story. Leslie shares a story of an old man whose bail was stolen from him, even after pawning his own family's home to get out of detention. It turns out the amount required was a lot bigger. (dahil maling impormasyon ang nabigay, dahil nga walang nakatutok sa kaso nyang Public Attorney o kamag-anak) And this man, apparently, stole some ground wires from PLDT so he can sell it for food. It doesn't get better from here, Leslie explains. There are more stories, and more grave ones at that. There really is much to be done. Wala na rin kaming masabi dagdag dito kasi dyahe naman umiyak on air.
All of us listen to Ditsi as she explains that many of the minors who are convicted are remanded inside to "teach them a lesson" even by their parents. But what many of us don't realize that there are little programs inside designed for rehabilitation. Many blame budget, a lot more blame the corruption and pillaging that goes on with the higher ups. The system inside is also rotten. Drugs are easily slipped in. Violence and sexual invasions are not even mentioned yet. We can't even imagine what goes on when the lights are off, gates are locked, and visitors gone. Therefore mas malala pa ang ugali ng mga bata paglaya nila kesa nung bago sila pumasok sa kulungan. Lalo sila naging mabagsik at lalong nagkaroon ng pait o galit. At lalo silang nasanay sa mundo ng krimen.
The poet Kris Lacaba has a different take. He worries a lot about the food. What he remembers most is that some inmates have experienced being served rotten food, or may mga pako o bubog sa ulam dahil na asar ang cook sa isang grupo ng inmates. He also shared na malaki na ang PhP40/day na budget for meals per inmate. It was impossible to imagine what kind of sustenance you can get from that kind of provision. Yun ay kung hindi pa kinukupit ang pondo. Madalas ang nagpapa-survive at saya lang sa mga inmates ay kung binibisita sila ng pamilya nila at nagdadala ng pagkain para sa kanila. Most of the inmates have no relatives. In fact, many of those I interviewed, for some reason, are detained far from their hometowns. So hindi din sila mabisita ng kamag-anak. Offshoot nito ang masahol na health problems sa loob. Ang haba din ng usapan na yon. Kulang oras.
Bago kami matuluyang magbigti sa depression at frustration with the system, may advice si Tado sa mga magpapa-arresto. Nang matawa naman tayo: "Wag kayo mag pa arresto ng Biyernes. Kasi matatagalan ng dalawang araw ang detention ninyo kasi sa Lunes pa mag bubukas ang opisina ulit. Maski ang pam-piyansa mo sa Lunes na ma-po-process. Patay ka dun." Mahirap man, natawa na lang ang grupo. Madalas naman tayong mga Pinoy pag grabe ang hinaharap, bumabagsak sa tawanan. Eh ganun talaga. Pero ang oras at pagod na inaalay ng grupong ito ay patunay na hindi sagot ang "ganun ata talaga."

So please lang. Mag volunteer kayo o tumulong kayo sa mga NGO na may ginagawa para sa mga nasa piitan. Maski ano na. Sige. Word encoding. Mangolekta ng mga chess sets. Mag donate ng mga magasin. Art materials. Maski ano na. Magturo tayo ng math o science o poetry sa bilibid. Game. (email: ATTENTION: Leslie/Rock the Rehas Project)
Oftentimes in the hour, we just stared at points in the room. Not quite used to verbalizing the stories on broadcast level. Amongst us during our road trips and provincial apartelle dinners we would discuss at length. We were free-er to cuss and rant the harsh harsh harsh realities we have seen to the real real real men, women, and children that we meet. Pushed to a life of crime because of hunger, homelessness, lack of opportunities, sub-human living conditions in closed quarters. Who is to blame? Moot question. Let's try to proceed from where we are right now and this is our reality. Too much poverty, too little education, never enough public attorneys, corrupt administrations, unequal treatment of the rich and poor even if both are criminals in the (supposed level) eyes of justice.

Practical ways to solve this?---we need programmers and encoders help the Public Attorneys with their case files, students can collect toiletries or games or guitars or whatever you can donate for them to be a little more dignified while passing the time inside. I don't know what else. I am just as frustrated but at least we can explore this further.
Via SMS:

by Lourd de Veyra

1. THEY DON'T RAPE EACH OTHER ANYMORE --Forget everything you've seen on "Shawshank Redemption" or "Lock Up." Conjugal visits have reduced the incidence of homosexual behaviour inside jails. Although this is not entirely true. As we have seen in Tarlac where the 'mayor' took the ex macho dancer as his 'good friend.'
2.NOT ALL JAIL WARDENS LOOK AND ACT LIKE PAQUITO DIAZ -- Contrary to what you've seen on Rudy F's or FPJ films, most modern-day wardens (esp in Cebu) are young, enlightened and sympathetic to a degree.
3.INMATES DO NOT SPEND THEIR TIME STARING INTO SPACE -- For chrissakes, they have DVDs! and the titles range from FPJ hits to porn. All pirated, of course. Some jails have videokes.
4.INMATES ARE NOT NATURALLY VIOLENT, PSYCHOTIC, AND BLOODTHIRSTY --They do not bite. They will not snatch your bag or mash your boobs when you visit. They are all nice human beings. They will appreciate being talked to in a normal manner. Most of them, at least.
5.NO ONE IS FORCED TO JOIN A GANG -- No tattoos are forced on you. Participation in gangs is always an individual decision. But remember, the moment you choose one side.....good luck.
6.THEY DON'T WEAR THOSE ORANGE SHIRTS WITH 'P' ON THE BACK --Most of them are just half-naked because it's just so hot inside.
7. THEY'RE NOT ENTIRELY SOBER INSIDE -- Contraband items like liquor and even drugs can be conveniently slipped in. Happy times!
8. MOST OF THEM EAT LIKE ANIMALS -- There is an increasing variety of cheap canned items and instant foods. Especially for those with constant "dalaws."
9. THE RICH STILL HAVE IT EASY INSIDE --Better food, better lawyers. etc. Even behind bars, they're different from you and me.
10. MOST OF THEM NEVER LEARN THEIR LESSONS -- "See you again." is an oft-heard phrase.

Trying not to let the topic of the night bog us down is a difficult task. Even after the show, we are more grim than we expected. There really is much to be done. We have to speed up the way we figure out our participation in 'righting-this-so-wrong-wrong.'

If congestion is the most pressing problem of our jails today, then we should re-think our solutions. It is not so much in the construction of bigger and stronger facilities, it probably isn't in thicker bars or better food. I think this problem is solved multi-laterally. Press on the improvement of our education system, decongest the cities so people are not cramped inside closed quarters where crimes like incest, statutory rapes, homicide, parricide etc are easier to commit, emphasize population management --that way parents can focus on children more, sabay sabay lahat yan ina-address para malunasan ang isang problemang ito. There are two types of problems, I learned somewhere. There are problems themselves, and there are those that are symptoms of other bigger problems. Minsan ang ubo ay hindi lang ubo, kundi simptomas ng mas malalang kapansanan, maaring lung cancer o TB. Hindi kaya ng cough syrup lang.Ang masikip na bilibid ay simptomas ng mas malalim na problema. There is a deeper, bigger, wider and taller problem other than the congestion of jails. It could be bad governance, corruption, wrong priorities, and our apathy. Then again, what do I know. None of us are experts on this one. We don't have real answers but we hope to provoke more questions. Minsan doon galing ang aksyon.I must admit I have a difficult time managing how I feel whenever we are out on our jail visits weeks. Sometimes eight days straight we visit 6-7 facilities. Everyday new faces, same stories. Varying shades of violence and injustice. It takes a toll, really. (parang gusto ko lang mag Walt Disney DVD marathon pag uwi ko o kaya pumapak ng Xanax) But what would be more frustrating is if many of the ideas will not be implemented kasi walang nag volunteer. Obviously, hindi namin kaya kung kami-kami lang. Sama kayo. Problema natin 'to.

Hindi lang nila. Atin din 'to.

-Gang Badoy

Additional author's note: It's 6:32am. I haven't slept writing this one. But I will sleep happy because I've received over 15 emails volunteering to help encode case files at a public attorney's office. Salamat. Salamat talaga. ZZzzz. -Gang

photos of radio show guests by GabbyCantero.JayCapati.MikeCampillanes.copyright2007. photos of Bagong Buhay Rehab Center by GangBadoy.copyright 2007. "Bunso" photo taken by NanaBuxani.copyright2004



april vibal said...

ganda ng topic! madami akong natutunan, nakakaawa na tayo gusto kong mag volunteer sa public attorney's office. pls reply to my email! sana mayroon sa QC area po. salamats

Jeremi said...

Putangena talaga sisema natin, may pinsan ako nakulong sa munti pagbiibisita namin siya humahagulgul at bugbog pasa pasa. bisitahin ninyo doon! nag email po ako kay ma'am gang

moRe power RockED!

Chuck said...

ako din nag e-mail.. sana positive response kasi gusto ko talagang makatulong.. lets be sympathetic to those situation inmates are.. don't be apathetic ika nga.. kawawa na si Juan Dela Cruz.. Marami na siyang pasan na problema.. kailangan na natin siyang tulungan..

kat said...

Nung nakikinig ako, sa totoo lang medyo na depress ako. Pero enlightening din ang topic. Salamat. Sana may part 2. :D

Anonymous said...

ang bigat neto. - jobarclix

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