Not made of granite

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


SEN. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. is spending time at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame after his surrender last Friday to the Sandiganbayan, which had issued a warrant for his arrest for his non-bailable plunder case. The two other senators charged in the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scam may be arrested this week once the two Sandiganbayan divisions hearing their motions dismiss these.

As a former inmate, I could see through the sometimes smug, sometimes smiling front that Revilla put up before, during and after his surrender.

One cannot take lightly the loss of one’s freedom and, like in Revilla’s case, being forcibly separated from one’s family. But that reality only sets in fully when one is finally in jail and left alone to mull over your situation.

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On his first day at the Custodial Center, Revilla complained of the condition in his cell. The senator, according to his wife, Rep. Lani Mercado, suffered migraine because of the heat. But he will eventually adjust to life in detention, especially after requests for, say, appliances and other gadgets would be granted by the court.

What will eventually gnaw his insides as his jail stint lengthens is the feeling of an uncertain future and the longing to be freed.

***

Of the three senators charged with plunder with the Sandiganbayan, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada was the one trying hard to convince the public he was unfazed by the prospect of being incarcerated. He seemed to have succeeded in the sense that I developed a dislike for him because of the cavalier air he carried every time he was interviewed by media about his predicament. That changed last Friday.

A GMA TV interview with Estrada while he waited for the outcome of the deliberation by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division of his motion for judicial determination of probable cause showed his vulnerable side. The focus of the camera wasn’t forgiving; the close-up shot was relentless as he answered the questions of the reporter, showing the shifts in his mood.

His brave front was shaken when he talked about the prospect of being separated from his family, especially from his young daughter who playfully embraced him while he was interviewed. That daughter always wanted to sleep beside him, we were told. She wouldn’t be able to do that in jail.

The thought of that had Jinggoy staring into blank space.

***

Sen. Juan Poce Enrile didn’t do what he initially announced, which was to defend himself in his plunder case with the Sandiganbayan. Instead, he hired one of the best lawyers that the country’s legal profession has produced, Estelito Mendoza, 84. That means Enrile is taking the recent turn in his political career’s roller-coaster ride seriously.

Enrile had earlier boasted he was ready for incarceration. But after telling reporters that, reality must have stepped in, because he later filed a motion for bail even if plunder is not bailable. He virtually used the “ticking time bomb” argument of murder convict Ruben Ecleo Jr., who used his supposedly failing health as a ruse so the court would grant him bail.

But Enrile’s claims seem honest. A 90-year-old man cannot be said to be in the pink of health, even if he has remained sharp of mind. Even Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who was jailed for the Oakwood mutiny against the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said jailing Enrile would be damaging to his health.

***

I am not soliciting sympathies for Revilla, Estrada and Enrile but merely describing reality and prove that, despite their seeming defiance, their resolve is not made of granite.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 23, 2014.

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