Life termer finishes college course in prison, seeks help in regaining freedom

A PRODUCT OF A BROKEN FAMILY, Ricardo (not his real name) receives his diploma in Business Administration during his graduation from the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta Extension School inside the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa in 2019.

 

Fourteen years after being sentenced to reclusion perpetua for raping his first cousin, a Virac resident has expressed his remorse and appealed for whatever help in regaining the freedom he lost and starting a new life.

Ricardo (not his real name) recently sent a handwritten letter to Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 43 Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras asking for her guidance on what he could do to secure his early release from the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.

It was Judge Contreras who meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua plus payment of P100,000 to the victim as total damages on April 22, 2008 after Ricardo pleaded guilty to raping his 12-year old first cousin.

Information filed before the Court stated that at about 4pm of Dec. 2, 2007, the accused asked the girl to go with him to get young coconuts in a nearby farm.

There, he suddenly pushed her to the ground, put grass on her mouth so she could not shout and boxed her on the stomach. When she woke up, she walked home, using a path different from the one she and Ricardo took, and reported to her mother what he did to her.

In his letter he sent from his dorm at the Medium Security Compound of Camp Sampagita, he told the judge that he does not hold a grudge against the Court, which he said only did its job.

Ricardo bared that he was only 18 years old when he was incarcerated and will turn 32 this August.

“Ayoko naman po na dito na ako tumanda sa loob,” he said, adding that he took the chance to seek for assistance on what action to take.

Recalling that he voluntarily surrendered to the police and then admitted his offense in court, the Person Deprived of Liberty (PDL) stated that over the years, he repented his sin and sought forgiveness from God.

Along with his remorse, Ricardo continued his interrupted education, enrolled at the extension school of the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta inside the penitentiary and graduated with a degree in Business Administration, major in Marketing Management, on May 2014.

He also completed a Computer Technician/Hardware Servicing Course last May 2019 and is now a teacher inside Camp Sampagita.

“Once kasi na graduate ka ng 4 years dito sa loob at di ka pa lumalaya, kailangan magturo ka,” he disclosed, adding that he is the adviser of the Grade 12 Senior High School class.

The Tribune went to his barangay and found out that of the four siblings in his family, only the youngest son Dante (not his real name) remains, working in the nearby quarry.

Ricardo was the eldest, with the middle children both girls and now living in Laguna with their respective families, while their mother settled in Legazpi City with her second husband after the first died 24 years ago.

Dante, who is now 26, recalls that his cousins described his “kuya” as a kind person during his younger years but he did not spend time alone with him because Ricardo often went to a nearby barangay even during Saturdays.

He was in Grade 6 in the midst of their 4th grading period when his “kuya” committed the crime, with the impact hitting Dante’s schooling.

He said he had been the first honor in his class from Kinder to Grade 5, the only one among the siblings to do so, but such was the effect of Ricardo’s transgression that he lost his drive to excel.

From comments describing them as a family of rapists to his shame at being looked down by neighbors, Dante said that it felt that it was him who committed the crime.

“Maski sadiling familia ko gaiwas man sakuya,” he recalled, noting that their mother, who left them after their father died, returned to seek forgiveness from the victim’s family but to no avail.

They have maintained communication with Ricardo through Facebook chats when he gets the rare chance to go online, a connection that started when they first traveled to Muntinlupa to see their jailed brother in 2018.

“Enot ming hilingan nagkugos na ako saiya ta nakahelak baga, pinugolan ko lang na mag-ano,” he said.

He told Ricardo what he really felt and the latter sought forgiveness, saying he did not know that it would affect his family so much.

What his brother did inside the prison impressed me because I did not expect anyone to actually earn a college degree while incarcerated, he said.

“Sa ngonyan napatawad ko na man sa kaawatan nin panahon. Sisay man kita para dai magpatawad,” Dante says. “Dai man ako gahagad sainya ta sabi ko kung ano man ang adiyan saimo, saimo naan ta baad mas kaipuhan mo an ta ako baga malaya anytime puede makahanap nin trabaho.”

In the aftermath of super typhoon Rolly last year, he would have appreciated a little help from Ricardo but at least he was able to contact him to ask if the typhoon destroyed their house.

He understands his brother’s situation, which during the early years was difficult as he did not eat when nobody came to bring food, but not at least Ricardo has adjusted to life inside Muntinlupa.

“Sa mga panahon na ini, gusto siyang mahiling ta bilang tugang mapung-aw ka man,” Dante declared. “Kung igwang pagkakataon na makapunta ako ki kuya matugot ako ta gusto ko siyang mahiling nin personal boda makahuron. Sana magtultol sana siya tanganing may chance na makaluwas siya boda kung makaluwas man siya, magtultol na boda mag ingat sana siya pirmi.”

The victim of Ricardo’s reckless impulse in 2007 is now employed as a nurse and is married with two children.

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