Work loss threatens DAPECOL inmates

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PANABO CITY, Philippines — Inmates they are officially called, either at the minimum or medium prison cells, but back home, they are working to send their children to school.

Wonderful stories of the inmates serving their penalty at the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) are less written as it involves security and it should be treated with utmost confidentiality.

I was inspired to write their story when I saw one of them during the foiled March 5, 2018 “survey.”

The inmate who was inside the plantation asked me, “Ma’m, ug kuhaon ni Congressman Alvarez ang Tadeco, asa na man ko motrabaho? wala na koy ipadala kuarta para tuition ug  uniform sa akong mga anak. Ngano nasamok man ni? (Ma’m, if Congressman Alvarez takes over Tadeco, where shall I work? I can no longer send money for the tuition and uniform of my
children. Why are we in trouble?).

As a mother, I was touched by his question and reflected on his concern as I watched the trouble during the supposed survey which did not happened.

Last Wednesday, March 13, I was  granted the access to interview eight inmates under minimum and medium security inside the packing area, which is part of the 5,308 hectares property of the Bureau of Correction under  the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with the Panabo-based Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation Inc (TADECO).

The inmates revealed that anxiety stock them when the news broke off about the controversy involving House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the Congress representative for the First  Legislative District of Davao del Norte and Congressman Antonio Floirendo, Congress representative for the Second Legislative District of Davao del Norte.

The news reaching them over the radio and among their workmates reveal that Alvarez allegedly wanted to scrap the JVA between Bucor and Tadeco in favor of a new foreign investor who  will enter contract with Bucor.

Earlier, Alvarez filed a graft and corruption case against Floirendo for entering a JVA while he was serving a Congressman, saying the later peddled
influence to corner the contract.

Floirendo accused Alvarez of using his power and arrogance in hastily filing a case against him.

The turf war has caused restlessness not only with the workers but also the working  inmates who are supporting their children.

Kapitan, 60 years old who was convicted of illegal drugs in 2004, is now the team leader of the squad working for the drainage maintenance, is receiving P325 allowance daily.

Dapecol Inmates working at TADECO Packing Plant 5 . They work for their children and support their families back home, they fear losing their job . Reports reaching them reveal, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has a new investor to undertake a new business venture in the property owned by the Bureau of Corrections.-Editha Z. Caduaya/

He works  six days a week. For the last eight years, Kapitan consistently sends P5,000 montly support to his children, “Nagapalada jud ko para sa ilang panggasto sa tuition ug sa ilang pag-eskuela, karon ang uban sa akong apo, kanang mabilin sa ako, akong panggasto diri (I regularly send money for their tuition and school needs. Now, a portion of it also goes for my grandchild and
any amount left, I use for my personal needs).”

Eman and Rico, both convicted for homicide, said their earnings are mostly sent home for their children who are under the care of their parents.

Melanie, a 47-year old mother of three, who  was convicted in 2011 for human trafficking said,  “I am supporting my children who are in school, I usually send P5,000, total for one month.”

Inmates Melanie and Cristina are among the 1,500 Dapecol inmates working at Tadeco.-Edith Z. Caduaya/

She became a single parent after her partner  left them several years ago. Her children are studying in a public school– the eldest in Grade 8, the second in grade 5 and the youngest is in grade 4. “My work here means everything for  my children, I work to fend for them, Melanie said in vernacular.

A convicted kidnapper, Cristina, 55, is serving a life imprisonment. She was a businesswoman in Manila before she was  detained. “Noon, pag P20,000 na lang ang laman ng pitaka ko, sinasabi ko wala na akong pera, pero ngayon pasalamat ako at kumikita ako dito, nakakatulong ako sa pag-aaral ng anak ko
at yong isa, naka abroad na, ang isa nag-aaral pa, siya yong tinutulongan ko.)

When the tension broke off at the gate of Barangay tanglaw, Dujali town last March 5, Kapitan closed his eyes “Nahadluk ko basin mawad-an na ko ugu trabaho, unsaon nalang naku akong  mga anak (I was so scared, I might lose my work, what will I do with my children).

While Alvarez invoked legality in all his actions against the Floirendo’s, inmates perceived his move as personal vendetta, that every move about Tadeco is all about snatching their income  and stripping their children the right to education.

But Edwin Hubajib, administrative assistant of Alvarez maintains that the move of their office is in aide of legislation.

While the two powerful personalities clash, the fact remains, that the inmates who are trying to be economically empowered inside the prison suffer with the fear of losing their job.

Their only prayer is to spare them from the mess. “Dapat dili maipit ang mga trabahante, dapat kung naay lega nga problema sa korte nila istoryahan dili sa Congresso kay mura man gud  napolitika na ang Dapecol ug ang Tadeco (Workers are caught in the middle. If there is legal problem, it should be discussed in court because it gives us the perception that the Dapecol
and Tadeco issue is becoming a political issue.)-Editha Z. Caduaya/

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