A parent’s worst nightmare

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - November 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Incarceration is one of the worst punishments men inflict upon one another. You are deprived of liberty, privacy and contact with the outside world. No personal phones, internet, TV or radio. In the Philippines, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) is in a never-ending struggle to keep up with the sheer volume of inmates. Thus, jails are among the most depressing, dangerous places to be in, and nobody talks about them. You are stuffed like sardines with the most hardened dregs of society and the most unfortunate. You sleep on straw mats and cold concrete at night, inches from one another, in various states of undress. And during the day, it’s an oven where your collective odor blends into an overpowering, nauseating stench.

Now, imagine your only child, an innocent teenager, is forced into that situation, with no immediate relief in sight.

I have known Adi delos Reyes for over two decades. Once the top salesman of Rubberworld, adidas and later Accel, he has also built up sports brands like Champion. Since the early 2000’s, Adi has been a successful road race organizer. We put together vertical runs and even the first NBA 3-on-3 event in Southeast Asia in 2011.

In January, Adi’s only child Andrew Joshua played basketball in the adjacent village, and decided to spend the night playing video games at a friend’s house nearby. Seven years ago, Andrew – at 13 – was already over six feet tall, and trained with Samboy Lim. He showed great promise in basketball.

Police raided the house, looking for drugs and the home owner, who wasn’t even there. They searched the village and finally apprehended their target. Disappointed, they decided to arrest everyone, including Andrew, and brought them to San Mateo jail. To the horror of Adi and his family, his son was charged with possession of roughly half a kilo of marijuana. With no basis, the cops said that the teens conducted a transaction at the basketball court, which has no lights and is pitch black at night.

“How can Andrew have more drugs than the prime suspect when the police didn’t find any at all?” rued a visibly drained Adi, drawn and thin from stress. “My son grew up in a sports and medical family. There are so many loopholes in the police report. They can’t even explain it.”

The jail has a capacity of about 200, but holds almost four times that number. Andrew has lost weight and is constantly under a great deal of stress. He celebrated his 20th birthday wrongfully imprisoned. His only relief comes when he receives food from Adi every day, or when he is allowed a rare video chat with his parents. They have no actual physical contact.

More in an upcoming column.

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