April 18, 2003: Good Friday

Our maid Maring was in a panic today. She’d just come from Antipolo where her 19-year-old son, Rene, was jailed in a sub-station with about 20 other teenagers. The story according to her is: Rene was walking down one of the main roads after coming from the church on Maundy Thursday evening. He was walking with the Alay Lakad group, and unfortunately there was a stoning and stabbing incident. A group of guys started throwing stones at one another. The police came and arrested the whole bunch of them. Rene insisted that he hadn’t done anything wrong, he was just walking through the wrong place at the wrong time.

We wanted to find a way we could help, so we hopped in the car after the Good Friday procession and looked for the substation, finding it a few minutes walk from the main plaza and church area. A full hour’s drive from our house. True enough, the jail cell was a tiny little enclosure maybe about 2 meters by 10. And in it were 20 or 21 teenage boys. There was no ventilation aside from an industrial strength fan, and even then, the air was stale with sweat. There was no toilet bowl or anything. If one wanted to take a piss, an empty 1-liter plastic Coke bottle was passed around and given to the oficer-in-charge when it was full.

The officer explained that the fiscal would be in by the next morning in order to press the charges. The arresting officers would also be in. Turns out the guys who arrested Rene were auxiliary cops brought in to help out during the notoriously busy Holy Week, and thus were not there when we arrived. (And thus there was no bribery we could engage in, at that time.) So we gave the guy some food, and promised to return.

The next day, my mother and Maring returned for a 3-hour wait before the arresting cops and the fiscal arrived. Quick third-world machinations ensued and each arresting officer (there were 2 of them) agreed to take P1,000, for the release of Rene and his 2 friends. In less than an hour, they were free after having spent almost 2 days in a dizzy cramped cell.

The kids would have been charged with “alarm and scandal”, some petty excuse like that. They disturbed the peace! Apparently it was also an effort to create some extra Holy Week cash for the cops. Unfortunately, how many other people there had P1,000 to spare? Not very many. So there are still about a dozen or so teenagers left in that cell, today.

Welcome to third-world law enforcement corruption.

 

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