Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A GLASS OF COLD WATER

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." (Matthew 10: 42)

I

This morning, an ambulant peddler went to my house and offered me the products of their
livelihood project in their jail at the capitol of our province. They were nice products made from local indegenous materials. I was attracted to a beautifully crafted wind chime. The big one cost
160.00 pesos and the smaller one cost 110.00 pesos. I was caught between the feelings of wanting to help this fellow who wanted to rise out of the quagmire of his incarceration and the social stigma that goes with it, and the practicality of spending the remaining money from my dwindling budget that could hardly last till the next payday. Wanting to help him, not only to earn money, but more so, to show that I stand behind him in his desire to rehabilitate himself and return to mainstream society, and at the same time wanting to preserve my scant dwindling resources, I asked him how much profit he earns if he sells the big chime. He told me he earns 40.00 pesos for the big one and 10.00 pesos for the smaller one. I handed him a 50.00 peso bill and told him I was giving him the profit for the big one and at the same time, I was preserving the scant money in my dwindling budget. I told him the money was not a doleout. It was a support from someone who wanted to see a fellow brother get back to his feet. Then I told him that if ever he pass our way again, I would gladly buy from him the beautiful wind chime. I surmised that by that time and by the grace of God, I would be able to afford buying one without jeopardizing my budget.

There was a twinkle in his eyes as he extended to me his hand in friendship and told me his name and his former job at one of the biggest company in the Philippines. Oh how the mighty have stumbled and fell to the depths of his existence- a shade of the Biblical prodigal son. But in my heart I knew I touched his soul and who knows, I might have bought back for the Lord his miserable and pitiful soul for the measly amount of 50.00 pesos.


II


Jail condition in the Philippines will be the earthly equivalent of hell. Small antiquated cells originally built to accommodate 10 to 20 prisoners would normally be jammed with 100 to 200 inmates. Conditions are so intolerable and the resulting body heat so suffocating that many inmates develop various skin diseases. Jails in the Philippines are virtual human jungles where survival of the fittest is the norm rather than the exception. A high percentage of inmates are innocent ones who have been framed, tortured and forced to sign contrived confessions of guilt to produce instant solutions to crimes, especially high profile ones. The police and judiciary are so plagued by graft and corruption and the lust for money that innocent but poor suspects in crimes have no hope of extricating themselves from police frameups and judicial incompetence.

Judges decisions are sold to the highest bidders. Lawyers and judges are so corrupt and bereft of any conciences that they fattened their bank accounts with the largesse of guilty suspects who they pronounced as not guilty and set free to a "tolerant" society who unquestioningly open its arms of welcome to these fugitives from divine justice. On the other hand, the poor, innocent and framed up victims of injustice languish in the hellholes of Philippine jails where they sadly emerge later as hardened criminals.

Even the business community itself is guilty of this double standard of justice. All applicants for any job, however lowly and insignificant it may be, are required to produce police and NBI (local equivalent of the US FBI) clearances. And woe to him who has a police record, especially one of conviction, no one will entrust him with a job, however menial and lowly it may be. Society itself is pushing a returning convicted inmate to a life of crime by closing the door of opportunity and reconciliation to him. Who says hell is beyond death. You will see it at the Philippine jails.

1 comment:

Issa said...

This is a very inspiring story. Thank you po for sharing it with us. It's true... if we depend on our own intellect, we may not be able to think of the best thing to do. But God always gives us the grace to make the best decisions for the smallest and the biggest of instances. Such act of love will surely change that man's life.

Thank you also for giving us a glimpse of the justice and penal system here in the Philippines. The grim reality is really saddening.

Again, thank you very much and do continue touching other people's lives. Take care always and God bless. -- Maribel :)

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