HOME. Former Rep. Romeo G. Jalosjos, Jr. (center) is welcomed by family, political allies and friends on his return to Zamboanga del Norte March 21 after 13 years at the national penitentiary. With him is Zamboanga del Norte Governor Rolando Yebes (wearing red cap) and sister Rep. Cely Jalosjos-Carreon (left) of the first district of the province. Photo courtesy of Ely Dumaboc of Net25
Wearing a white polo and pants and an oversized black sunglasses, sentenced to two life terms for raping an 11-year-old girl, the 68-year old Jalosjos could barely hide his tears upon seeing the crowd political allies and friends from both Zamboanga del Norte and nearby Zamboanga Sibugay, government employees, members of the different people’s organizations and the curious, who all wanted to get a glimpse of him.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo commuted in 2007 the former congressman's jail term to 16 years, three months, and three days. This was further reduced to 13 years, five months and 15 days because of Jalosjos' good conduct time allowance.
“It is hypocrisy if I say that I am not touched by the generous outpouring of support coming from my friends and those who believe in me by coming out here today to meet me after a long while,” a visibly emotional Jalosjos said during a press conference held shortly upon his arrival at the airport at 11:30 a.m. on board a Philippine Airlines (not Cebu Pacific) flight as earlier reported.
he was at loss on “how to describe his feelings upon seeing so many people waiting for my arrival.”
“This shows that most of the people believe that I am innocent and stayed with me through the long years of incarceration,” he said, adding that “only a few people continue to attack and malign me even after I served my time in jail.”
Jalosjos said he doesn’t bother to listen to these few people who continue to question his release.
Lawyer Katrina Legarda, a women’s and children’s rights advocate, was quoted by national media days before the release of Jalosjos from the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) last March 19 as saying Jalosjos “remains a threat to society because he does not show remorse for what he did”.
“These people have nothing to offer but criticisms throughout my ordeal,” he said.
He said his critics failed to see in him “a changed man after 13 years being incarcerated and went through the pains ordinary convicts inside the prisons had experienced.”
“Supposedly, time is past where we think of our penal system as the one that stressed on punishment,” he asserted and added that “in reality, there is so much yet to be done to make our jails as places for rehabilitation so that convicts can return to the society after serving their time.”
He vowed to commit his time now that he is free man to “do something for our inmates who are suffering inhuman conditions in the different jails of the country.
He acknowledged, though, that government’s lack of funds has contributed to the deterioration of jail conditions.
“I ask the media, my political allies and supporters, as well as my family who are now with me here to help in the fight to reform our penal system,” he said.
With him at the press conference were Governor Rolando Yebes, Rep. Cely Jalosjos-Carreon of the first district of the province, and Rep. Cesar Jalosjos of the third district.
The representatives of the first and second district are his siblings.
Former Surigao del Sur Representative Prospero Pichay was with Jalosjos all the way from Manila. The province delivered 7-5 for Team Unity senatorial candidates during the 2007 elections, with Pichay topping the senatorial elections in the province.
Asked to comment on the presence of guests from neighboring Zamboanga Sibugay, Jalosjos replied, “in fact, they are not guests but they are part of us.”
Jalosjos is set to his son, Rommel, for the gubernatorial post of Zamboanga Sibugay. His two other sons, Romeo Jr. and Seth Frederick are serving as mayor of Tampilisan town and provincial board member, respectively.
Crowd estimate at the airport was at least a thousand. Security was very tight at the airport where close to 100 police personnel were deployed. Hundreds more police were stationed along the 12-kilometer stretch of the national highway going to Dapitan City.
Tricycle driver Rolando Trias commented that “the preparations for Sir Nonong’s arrival were more thorough than President (Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo’s who visited the province lately.”
Jalosjos is fondly called “Sir Nonong” here.
“Bongga kaayo (too grand),” the tricycle driver described the preparations.
Along the national highway going to Dapitan City, yellow ribbons were tied on trees and sign posts. Over-sized yellow streamers welcoming the former lawmaker also hung everywhere.
As the convoy of vehicles of Jalosjos numbering more than a hundred passed by the different villages from the airport to Dapitan City, people lined up the highway waving yellow flaglets shouting, “Welcome home Sir Nonong.”
“The outpouring of public support for Sir Nonong was simply tremendous which spoke well of his leadership despite what had happened to him,” bus driver Jovencio Billeta said.
He said it is the people’s way of thanking Jalosjos “for all the good things he did for his constituents even while in jail.”
“Maayo man gud si Sir Nonong (Sir Nonong is simply good) as a public official and as private citizen,” he said. (Antonio M. Manaytay/MindaNews)