EDITORIAL: Over a Cup of Tea



A Story on Probation in the Philippines
(Part 3)





Caught between hard choices: Imprisonment or freedom under probation

By Heidi M. Pascual


Editor’s Note: This story revolves around a drug addict in my hometown who has been released from prison middle of last year, how he’s behaving while waiting for approval of his application for probation, how our community is dealing with him, and what our local Parole and Probation Authority is doing to fulfill its functions.

Peter’s Story ​

Peter is a good-looking man, medium built, armed with an engaging smile and eyes that “speak” to anyone he wants to be with. At 35, he has had several women -- decent and pretty professionals, hardworking employees, as well as flirty, ill-repute girls (for fun). Peter boasts of having five children with five different women, all of whom are being taken care of by their respective relatives, all mother-side. He doesn’t have any of his children with him because Peter has not been employed for years, and he could not, or would not, take a job he considers “unfit” for his good looks. Neighbors have known Peter, not only as a womanizer and gold-digger, but a foul-mouthed addict who has absolutely no respect for anybody, including his mother and younger brother, both of whom have experienced mental, emotional, and physical abuse from Peter.

A neighbor and relative mustered enough courage to report Peter’s drug use to authorities which put Peter to prison, but only for two months. His mother, despite her sufferings, did all she can to plea for Peter’s release as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). The truth, however, was that her son hated work and wasn’t planning to go back to the Middle East where he worked for only two years.

After only two months in prison, Peter was released, with no known charges ever filed against him. We can only guess that a mother’s love can move mountains, even considering Duterte’s war on drugs.

It was 2018.

In August 2019, Peter was jailed again after the domestic disturbance he created, hurting his own mother and uncle Ramon. Despite the life threatening encounter resulting from Peter’s beastly behavior, Ramon didn’t file any charges against his nephew. The family learned later that the police filed another drug-related charge against Peter. While in jail, Peter got himself another girlfriend from one of the local sites for singles or people looking for “love” online. “Elvie” fell in love with Peter right away, and despite her living in Manila, she visited Peter in prison every week and supplied him with food, personal items and money. The woman even took care of Peter’s laundry and worked with some court fixers to speed up Peter’s release from prison. Elvie surely knew her way in the justice system. She even promised Peter a job waiting for him in Manila as soon as he’s freed. Unbeknownst to Elvie, however, was the fact that she wasn’t the only online girlfriend of our guy. Peter had “reserves” according to his mother. Apparently Peter used two different cellphones in contacting his different women.

Fast forward to year 2020.

When COVID-19 struck, Peter was still in jail. Though he experienced some brutal treatment from jail gangs, he appeared strengthened by it, and was determined to survive the challenges inside the inmates’ world. And he did. Peter was released a year after his second incarceration. His mother was there waiting for him, hoping her son has been rehabilitated. His uncle Ramon, a that time, had remarried and lived in another town. The old man’s absence in the ancestral home made Peter extremely glad, for he thought nobody will cross him now.

To the surprise of Peter’s mother, another new girlfriend arrived at Peter’s house, a chubby woman named Jinky. She brought with her lots of goodies -- groceries, shirts and more -- to the delight of her love, Peter. The mother soon learned that “Elvie” broke up with Peter when she discovered Peter had other girlfriends online. To Jinky, Peter was a good catch because she has never felt so needed unlike now, and she believed the guy’s pledge of love and promise to change ways “because of her.” Jinky worked at a jewelry outlet in the city of Makati, Metro Manila. She must have occupied a position high enough for her to have lots of resources, because she really took care of all of Peter’s financial needs. Jinky ‘came home’ to Peter every Saturday night and went back to work every Tuesday. Shopping days were Sundays and Mondays, and so Peter enjoyed those days especially when Jinky bought him extras according to his wishes.

Two months into the relationship, Jinky bought Peter a motorcycle, which allowed Peter to move around, even beyond the perimeters of our province. To our neighborhood, Peter was a picture of a happy boy being pampered by a wealthy sugar mommy.

PRE-PROBATIONARY STAGE

Meanwhile, Peter’s release from prison required him to apply for probation, and this pre-probationary period lasted about six months. His application letter for probation showed how angry he has been toward his uncle Ramon, who, Peter claimed, had mingled with his family affairs and influenced his mother to send him to prison, without even mentioning his own drug addiction that led him to become dependent, not only on his mother but on several women he was able to deceive. In his letter to the Probation and Parole office, he vowed to make a meaningful life change, to get back to find work and rebuild his family. When Ramon read this letter (Ramon was required by the Probation Office to sign and approve its contents), the old man was actually hurt and felt his nephew blamed him for Peter’s own downfall. Ramon didn’t sign to approve Peter’s application letter for probation, because he believed the truth should be told instead. Ramon and his sister took care of Peter’s “family” at the time (a child from Peter’s second girlfriend, from birth till she reached five) gave Peter several chances at having jobs and never asked Peter repayment for gadgets borrowed and eventually sold by him. Ramon gradually felt that this ingrate should learn a lesson, and at that moment he could only pray.

A few days before Christmas of 2020, Ramon was parked near the provincial capitol waiting for his wife who was buying fruits at a nearby stand, when a red car suddenly stopped beside him. Peter was driving, he opened the front-passenger window, and shouted, “You, don’t you ever come back to our place, you hear?” Ramon was completely caught by surprise that no word escaped his lips. Peter drove off as if nothing happened. Ramon tried to watch his temper but built enough courage to proceed to the Probation Office to tell what just transpired. Ramon told the chief of office that all he wanted was respect from a wayward nephew, that the Filipino culture has taught that virtue to our youth -- respect for elders -- since time immemorial. That day began a series of events that challenged the local Probation Office of my province in Laguna, Philippines.

Next Issue: Peter’s continuing happy life nearing its end.