Thursday, 15 March 2012


I received a desperate text the other day from a former inmate from the jail in 164.  Oly spent 5 years in jail and was released a little over a year ago.
Since her release she has been an active member of ‘Xcell’  (group of ex-prisoners who are committed to helping inmates and ex-prisoners).  She would go to the court to ‘follow-up’ the cases of inmates.

What do I mean by ‘follow-up’?  Well, in a country where the courts are overloaded, it is easy for cases to get lost in the system.

I once ‘followed-up’ the case of an inmate.  

Her case was ‘simple theft’ and she had been in jail for  three years (the duration of the trial).  When she was finally sentenced she was given 3-6 months.  She wrote to the judge asking him to consider her time served.  Her request was denied.  She asked for my help 9 months after her promulgation (pronouncement of sentence).

This poor woman had clearly been forgotten.

I have been in the Philippines for almost 29 years now, and I have learned that it is really not helpful to get angry, make accusations and ascribe blame.  It’s far more effective to try to understand that these people are overwhelmed with cases, and trying to keep on top of things would be daunting for anyone.  By simply bringing this poor woman’s case to the attention of the court had enough impact.

I visited the jail a few days later and she had been released.  As for inmates who have no one to ‘follow-up’, they so easily get lost in the system..

Oly, having experienced life on the inside, vowed to help her former co-inmates by making regular ‘follow-ups’ to their cases.

Oly's (seen here kneeling) team wins the talent competition in 164 jail 2009

Imagine my shock to read that she was texting me from behind bars in the city jail.  She sounded so desperate.

She had been trying hard since her release to get a job to support her 6 children.  Along with other ‘Xcells’, she had received training as a machinist and at last was so excited to have been offered a job at a local factory.  All she needed was to submit her NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) clearance and she was all set to start her new job. 

NBI clearance is a requirement when applying for any job here in the Philippines.  It is basically a document to state that the individual has no pending criminal cases.

When the police checked her records they arrested her immediately and put her in the city jail.  They told her that she had a pending case from 1992.

Those of us who know the judicial system here know that once apprehended getting out of jail is no easy task. 

The case was regarding a missing piece of jewellery that someone had reported to the police in 1992, for which Oly (who was just a teenager then) was accused.  She had settled the case with the complainant and she had paid for the missing item, but the complainant forgot to file an affidavit of desistence to cancel her complaint. 

As I previously stated, a 'simple theft' case can take at least three years.

We were told that nothing could be done for Oly because the judge was out of town. 

I immediately went to visit her, offer some words of encouragement and put a good word in for her to police.  Lots of friends, family and ‘Xcells’ were there to offer their support too.  Though it seemed hopeless, just having that moral support lifted her spirits and you just never know, sometimes ‘following-up’ just does make a difference. 

The following day someone offered to pay the amount needed to settle the problem and I am very pleased to say, Oly was released.

She now has a certificate stating that she has no criminal record!!!  And she is free to continue helping other inmates as the new president of ‘Xcell’!! 

Oly holding her NBI clearance stating that she has no criminal record
By the way, Oly started her new job in the factory the next day.

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