EDITORIAL: Over a Cup of Tea

A Story on Probation in the Philippines
(Part 4)

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 (A look back)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. Peter was released in September 2020 on condition that he will apply for probation, during which period (6 months pre-probation) he should exhibit good behavior to ensure approval of his application.
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.

Ramon’s complaint surely got the attention of our local Parole and Probation Office. The chief of office acknowledged that Peter was indeed rude to his uncle however, he still wanted reconciliation between Peter and Ramon, so he asked Ramon, “Would you consider having a meeting with Peter here so you both can express your feelings and afterward, reconcile? After all, you are family, and Peter is not a hardened criminal.” Ramon answered honestly, “I was willing to forgive my nephew had he been respectful to me, but he wasn’t. I have done so many things to help his mother, his brother, and his daughter with Sheila (one of Peter’s women in the past), but Peter remained ungrateful to this day. I don’t expect much from him, just a little respect. But I didn’t get that from him, and I have self-respect that dictates I don’t have to bow to someone so addicted to himself and disrespectful to me and my sister.” Ramon refused to even talk to Peter, and the chief of office, in a separate message to Ramon a few days later said that Peter also refused to face his uncle, for reasons he did not elaborate.
Days passed unnoticed to many of Peter’s neighbors, except to Peter’s mother and brother. Peter convinced his mother to allow his brother to live with him next door, since Peter’s life is doing well, with the financial support of his girlfriend. Take note that within this pre-probation period, Peter did not bother to apply for any job. “Sitting pretty” would be the best description of this old baby.
Then one day in January of this year, Peter’s brother ran away and hid in one of Peter’s cousins’ home, a few kilometers from their house. The brother told his story. Peter indeed prepared a nice, newly painted bedroom for him and treated him well for a few days upon his arrival. Then the real reason for making him stay surfaced, which started one evening of the same month. Peter asked his brother to lock up all door and windows and stay in the living room until told to leave. Peter locked himself up in his room. The brother’s job was to alert Peter in case anyone, especially law enforcement persons come near his house.
Peter’s brother was curious, so he peeped through a hole and saw what Peter was up to. His brother Peter was back on drugs!!! Peter’s brother became nervous but he couldn’t do anything. He told his mother about it, but she showed no sign of surprise and did not even reply. Days and nights passed and the younger brother noticed that Peter never touched drugs during weekends when his girlfriend was around. He became the couple’s househelp who was expected to wake up anytime during the night just to prepare coffee. For any “mistake” or forgetfulness in housework, the penalty was to stand facing the wall for at least three hours! The brother became “sick and tired” of Peter’s treatment that he decided to run away from his brother’s brand of TLC.
The cousin became so enraged by this story that he decided enough was enough. He went to the Parole and Probation Office and reported what was happening. He also told them that Peter had been harassing neighbors that disliked him and even kicked a person or two who refused to do as he pleased.
The PPO chief decided to put Peter on surveillance. That day turned out to be a series of insequential happenings in the life of Peter, the great evader. Until one day, a team of PPO men with medical folks surprised Peter. They told him he had to undergo a drug test that moment. Initially, Peter refused, but realized there was no way to get away from that “requirement.” The drug test came out positive. Peter indeed went back to drugs.
PPO sent Peter to our local Drug Rehabilitation Facility … for one whole year!
Our neighborhood is now a bit quiet in the absence of Peter. Peter’s girlfriend doesn’t come around anymore. Hopefully, after a year, Peter would come out from Rehab a changed man. But that’s another story in the making.