New year, new life for 2 Davao women inmates

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 2 Jan) – After almost a decade in jail, two women inmates from the Ray of Hope Village, Davao City Jail’s female dormitory, will finally face the new year with a new life outside.

Gina Talingting, 47, and “Mommy Divine”, 58 (she refuses to have her real name published), who have been detained for nine years, await their release by 2013 with plans and dreams to be fulfilled.

“I was never a dreamer before coming here. But now I have many dreams to achieve,” Talingting said in an interview Monday at the women’s facility.

Talingting was charged of drug delivery and has been detained since April 2003, she told MindaNews.

Jail Inspector Jerry Grace Danao, officer-in-charge wardress, said in an interview 80 to 95 percent of the 166 inmates have drug-related cases.

She added that there were more women committed in the jail than released this year with an average of one released and five new committed detainees in a month.

There were 150 women inmates in the Ray of Hope in 2011, according to the jail’s administrative staff.

Talingting said no trial for her case had been conducted this year because of the availability of the judge, but she added, “Hopefully, my trial will be finished by 2013.”

Asked how sure she is to be free next year, she said, “I’m 100 percent sure.”

Her case will be dismissed for the lack of sufficient evidence, she said, admitting that she was a drug dependent before but had not been involved in drug delivery.

Having perfected her skills in handicrafts, she said when she goes back to the “outside world”, she will engage in a business doing giveaway products and will tap her fellow inmates for the production.

She said she will also continue to market the woven bags of plastic twines that have been one of their income generating projects.

“I really want to help my fellow inmates,” she said.

Talingting is the president of the Gawad Kalinga Ray of Hope Village, and the overall coordinator of the Therapeutic Community Modality Program of the women’s jail.

Danao said the therapeutic community is a program that serves as their behavioral shaping tool that empowers the women to cushion each other.

Talingting said she planned to become a volunteer of the Gawad Kalinga and will continue to pursue the goals of the women’s facility, such as putting up a reflection garden and a covered court for their sports activities in the compound.

Assigned in the sewing facility, Mommy Divine, as her fellows used to call her, said in an interview she will probably start her own tailoring business when she goes back home.

Divine said she was charged with illegal recruitment and detained since June 2003.

She was acquitted as the trial ended last December 13, and will be released by February next year, she said, noting that her release will take a bit of time for some court matters.

“Because sewing is the skill that God gave me, I will use this to be able to help my fellows as I can always relate to their condition. They have been my companions for so many years and already a part of my life,” she said.

Bitter pill

Detained for many years due to the slow-paced judicial system, Divine said, “I have no more remorse, although it is bitter. But like a bitter pill, it tastes bad but cures your illness.”

“I can’t count anymore how many times my trials were postponed,” she said. “But I consider my experiences here as blessings.”

“There are a lot of things I learned inside that I did not learn and might not learn when I was outside jail,” she said.

Aside from sewing, forgiving others was one of the important things she learned and hence, she found an inner peace, she added.

“We have to accept that our justice system is slow. And I made myself busy to move on. Behind the dark clouds, there is a ray of light waiting. Even a typhoon will subside and so will our situation,” she said.

Talingting said she had experienced depression during her stay in a prison cell before the Ray of Hope Village was established in 2008.

But she added that she had overcome her depression through counseling and livelihood projects and gained a positive outlook, especially since the inmates were transferred to the women’s facility.

“Mommy Divine was one of my mentors,” she said, smiling at Divine who was sitting next to her.

“I had never opened a Bible before I was detained,” Talingting admitted and laughed.

She said her attitudes have been developed inside the women’s facility, such as being organized with her things, being time conscious and well-disciplined.

Women inmates follow a daily routine starting with a wake-up call at 5:20 a.m., then a community prayer, physical exercises and job function such as cleaning the drainage and the ground, among other areas of responsibility per cottage.

Ray of Hope

The Ray of Hope Village has 12 duplex-type cottages for 166 inmates with 15 women each and separate cottages for administrative office, infirmary, bakery, massage, sewing and meat processing facilities.

There is a laundry area, where women wash their clothes and for laundry services at P16 per kilo with ironing, Talingting said while showing to MindaNews the facilities inside the compound.

A group of women were doing manicure and pedicure services, while others were doing handicrafts either inside their cottages or at the verandas.

A couple of women were printing yellow shirts for their uniform at a corner, while some women were at the dining hall with their visiting families and relatives.

“Who would be depressed in such colorful and decorative cottages?” Talingting said.

She also showed a classroom for alternative learning system, which is a computer room at the same time.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Talingting teaches some women to read and write, she said, adding that she was once a Grade 3 teacher in the University of Mindanao, where she finished her college degree.

Citing the good management of the women’s facility, she said, “Here, our skills were improved as well as our dignity.”

Talingting introduced to MindaNews her 26-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter who visited her.  She said that in the past, her children were ashamed of her situation, telling others that she was in Canada.

“But now they are so proud of me. We have shown to them that not all detainees are bad persons,” she added.

Wardress Danao said the environment provided in the Ray of Hope is a big factor to the positive behavior of the women inmates.

“Most importantly, the place has taken them out from their vices such as being dependent to drugs,” she added.

For Talingting, she said being detained was a chance for her to be rehabilitated as she might still be hooked to drugs if she was charged only of abuse and not drug delivery.

Danao said the continuing support of the LGUs, NGOs and other sponsors have made it more successful as the women deserve a conducive and humane place like a “little community.”

She pointed out that in Manila, women are really detained in prison cells. But she added that here they have air and they can roam anywhere like a free citizen although they are within fences.

Like Talingting and Divine, Danao agrees that all women detainees in the country deserve a place like the Ray of Hope Village.

The Philippines adheres to the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Geneva in 1955, and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures.

These international human rights instruments define and guarantee the rights of inmates, while some of these provisions are embodied in the Philippine Constitutions, according to Mildred Bernadette Baquilod Alvor, of the Department of Justice, in her paper titled “The Philippine Corrections System: Current Situation and Issues” published in 2005. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)