Lessons from jail

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

My detention for one day due to a Manila court order – two courts, actually – led to these discoveries: I realized who my real friends are; some colleagues in the profession, instead of helping you when you are in dire straits, will try to bring you down; the majesty of the law is abused by some individuals who are supposed to uphold it.

Many people, some of them total strangers, gave their moral support. Their words of comfort were uplifting to my sagging spirit.

My phone was kept busy the whole day and night from calls and text messages from friends, acquaintances and close relatives.

I won’t identify people who dropped by for a visit – for obvious reasons – to express their sympathy. A few of them said they couldn’t forget what I did for them when they were in a similar predicament; something of a quid pro quo.

My teacher in high school called from Tacloban City and said jokingly that if he were in my predicament he would have had a heart attack.

A friend and business partner, a Fil-Am, told me over the phone that I had “a different level of sanity” as “an average Joe would have cracked.”

I told him jokingly that I was the proverbial turtle that got thrown into the water by the monkey, who thought I would drown.

Two elderly Chinese Filipino friends, one of them I hadn’t seen in a long time, came to deliver fattening food at different times. The two of them huffed and puffed, negotiating the steep stairs leading to a room where I was being held.

Another friend insisted that I accept the money he offered me, saying I would need it. He wasn’t wrong: the money was put to good use, as I had to pay a bond for my freedom as my bail was cancelled.

I found comfort from close relatives who either visited or called. I discouraged them from visiting as I didn’t want to see pity on their faces.

My detention was big news, and I found myself the object of newshounds. The hunter of news – as I once was – was now the hunted.

Despite restrictions of media coverage imposed by the commander of Manila City Hall police detachment, Lt. Col. Rosalino Ibay, some broadcast journalists were adamant in interviewing me. I doff my hat to these fellow journalists because I was once like them when I covered the police beat.

But one or two journalists who interviewed Ibay asked why I was being given “VIP treatment.” I was listening to the interview in an adjacent room.

The good colonel said that I am already a senior citizen and of the age when one should be shown respect (ouch!). He said that the jail in his precinct is meant to hold only two detainees (I would have been the third). The jail is oppressively hot.

Besides, Ibay said, I was not a suspect in kidnapping or murder. “Why should he be treated as an ordinary criminal?”

“Di ba kasamahan ninyo sa media ‘yan, bakit ninyo siya gustong idiin (He’s your colleague in media, why do you want to give him a hard time)? I heard Ibay tell the media person who asked why I was being held outside – instead of being inside – the jail.

I could not help being amused. I remember what my Old Man told me about success: People usually throw stones at a mango tree that bears so many fruits.

I also remember the description of the Filipino as having a “crab mentality.” This means that in a bucket full of crabs, the ones that get to the top of the bucket are pulled down by other crabs.

How did I get in these dire straits?

Two judges in Manila ordered me arrested after I failed to attend hearings for libel in their courts.

I swear I never received the subpoenas from the courts. They were probably sent to the wrong address, or the subpoena servers were too lazy to look for the address. Or, my lawyer failed to inform me about the hearings. Who knows?

Several libel cases have been filed against me by a former member of President Duterte’s Cabinet for my adverse opinions about him.

Two of them are handled by a lawyer whom I have known when he was still a sergeant in the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC). I would say that because of his age he probably forgot to inform me about the hearings.

I religiously attended other hearings for the same libel charges because I was informed by my lawyers from another law firm.

I was arrested at the quadrangle of the Manila City Hall on Wednesday, after I came out of a court hearing for another libel case filed by the same former Cabinet member.

The ex-Cabinet member’s lawyer who accompanied the arresting officers was goading the arresting officers to handcuff me, apparently to humiliate me in front of the public.

But the policemen said I was not resisting arrest, so why should I be put in handcuffs.

A few minutes after I was detained at the City Hall police precinct, reporters flocked to the office of Colonel Ibay.

When I asked how they learned about my arrest, they said they got it from the Department of Justice. Well, my plaintiff is a former DOJ official.

Anyway, one of the two judges who ordered my arrest granted my immediate release after I paid P10,000 on the spot.

The other judge wanted me to stay until Tuesday, May 24, so I would have to stay in detention for five more days.

The second judge probably considered me a heinous criminal and wanted me detained further according to her whim and caprice.

I was only released after another magistrate, who’s my friend, apparently talked to her.


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