September 2013 when I will celebrate my 30th anniversary of being a missionary here in the Philippines and, as you are aware, I was hoping that I would be celebrating from within a prison cell. Unfortunately that is not looking very likely at this point.
When I first voiced my proposal of a "sponsored jail sentence" to the jail warden at 164, she was very enthusiastic and gave the impression, as she referred me to the Regional Director of the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) that it was just a matter of formality getting his approval.
As I prayed however, I really felt that the Lord showing me that it was not going to be easy. Which has indeed proven to be the case.
Many years ago, when I first started my ministry, I was used to being able to walk into any office to speak to any official with exception only to the President of the Philippines. I have spoken to many judges, Director of prisons and the Secretary of the Department of Justice in the past, but how times have changed and just getting to the people I needed to see has proven to be near impossible.
When I went to the Regional Director of BJMP I was told that the BJMP were not qualified to give approval for such a request. As I explained my purpose they were very sympathetic to my cause and suggested that the surest way to get to serve a month's jail sentence was to steal something. I was told jokingly, "A case of 'simple theft' is bailable so you can bail yourself out after one month!!"
Then I was told that as long as there was a court order for me to be detained by any judge in Olongapo then I would be accepted by the BJMP without question.
So the Regional Trial Court was my next destination.
At the court I was also told that the Judge has no grounds to give a court order for my incarceration unless there is a case filed against me. The secretary jokingly offered her handbag for me to steal. To which I responded, "Mam, I don't have to steal your bag, you only have to accuse me of it!!" Lol!!
So, though the Regional Trial Court staff were very sympathetic and even enthusiastic about my cause, it too was a dead end. They advised me to go to the DOJ (Department of Justice) in Manila to get permission from Secretary Leila De Lima.
I called the DOJ to make an appointment and they sounded very helpful and told me to e-mail my request and they will send me an appointment. Three weeks, 10 e-mails, 5 calls, and a referral to the Undersecretary later, still no appointment. So, I decided to go there in person (after all I had been to the office of the Secretary in the past and had been shown favour).
When I arrived at the DOJ there was no way that I was going to be allowed to see the Secretary without an appointment, but when I told of my referral to the Undersecretary I was allowed in to go to his office in stead. Though I was able to meet the Undersecretary, I was informed by his PA that the DOJ did not have jurisdiction over the BJMP (who deal with inmates on remand who are not sentenced yet the DOJ are only over the Bureau of Corrections such as the prison at Muntinlupa). (Although I don't understand why they couldn't have told me that in an e-mail???)
So once again, though they admired my cause and wanted to help, they could not give approval, but kindly referred me to the National office of the BJMP.
Literally five minutes after I left the DOJ there was a bomb scare that was aired on TV (but I promise it was nothing to do with me!!!! Lol!)
As I didn't want to waste a costly trip to Manila, I went directly to the BJMP. There I was told that the BJMP is not likely to give approval for such a request because they don't have the authority without a criminal case but if I sent my request via e-mail they assured me it would be considered by the Director.
I am still waiting for their response.
I was told by a court attorney that the reason no one wants to give approval is that no one wants to take responsibility for my safety throughout the time of my voluntary incarceration. To which I responded that I had stated that I would produce a waiver and disclaimer. The attorney told me that that was not enough because maybe the BJMP would be accused by the British Government should something untoward occur during my incarceration.
He told me that in the end the only person that can give the approval is the President himself. He suggested that I write to the President via the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government).
I wrote to the The British Consul to make him aware of my proposal and to ask if he would consider producing a waiver stating that as my pending incarceration is voluntary, the British Government would not hold the BJMP liable.
He kindly responded to my e-mail immediately but he too said that he couldn't give his approval but suggested that I pursue the idea of producing a waiver and disclaimer.
So my next Post is the DILG
As you know the Philippines was hit with floods recently so I have had to accept that my proposal is not a priority for the government to be considering at this time.
Some skeptics think that it is very foolish of me. Of course I would not be in a hurry to do this if I had not seriously sought the Lord about it.
I believe it is His will and purpose for me. However if God was just testing me to see if I would be willing to do so, I am OK with that. After all who, in their right mind would want to subject themselves to such physical and emotional discomforts?
If I am servant, am I not obliged to obey my master?
If it is the Lord's will (and I still believe it is) then He will open the door which seems at this point to be securely closed.
I do promise you this, I won't be stealing any handbags to get in!!! If the door is to be opened I will let God do it His way!
Don't you think it is funny how the government will allow me to do this? ....
(Don't tell me!! I look at this and wonder how I could be so crazy!! My fingers were just centimeters away from this tiger's teeth and the guy said, "Look at the camera!")
Though we might think a person is foolish getting into a cage with tigers, but if that's what they want to do they can take the risk for a small fee. But not to get in a jail cage with a bunch of women who need to see the love of God? That's way too dangerous!!
Actually, on a positive note, I have been blessed by the positive reaction of all the officials I have spoken to. Whilst no one is willing to put themselves at risk to say "Yes" to my request, as of yet, not one has said "No!" So for the meantime, I will just keep knocking.