Abalos returns to jail to visit newfound friendsBy Niña Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Benjamin Abalos was back Sunday morning at the Southern Police District headquarters in Taguig City where he had been held for eight months on the accusation of rigging the 2007 elections.
But this time, he came back not as a detainee.
Abalos attended the Sunday mass when some of the children whom he calls as “kabarkada (peers)” at the SPD compound, received their first communion.
The children of the families living at the neighborhood surrounding the SPD swarmed around him after the 7:30 a.m. mass at the SPD chapel and took their turns to kiss his hand (mano).
Knowing them each by their first name, the 77-year-old Abalos treated some 20 children to a hearty meal afterward.
It was his first visit to the compound after he was allowed to be temporarily free on a P1-million bail. Last week, Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112 granted Abalos’ petition for bail on the ground that evidence presented by the prosecution against him was weak.
The Commission on Elections filed electoral-sabotage charges against him, along with former President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol last year for allegedly conspiring to manipulate the results of the 2007 senatorial elections in North Cotabato and South Cotabato in favor of Arroyo’s senatorial candidates.
The Comelec lawyers, however, believed they have a strong case.
Abalos was starting to take his eight months in detention lightly. “Kaya siguro ako nakulong para matulungan sila (I was detained perhaps to help them)” he told the reporters after the mass.
The education from elementary to college of the eight children at the SPD is now assured, thanks to his detention at the SPD.
He said he has grown fond of the children after they kept him company, most of the time especially during his daily jog.
“They made him laugh. They would always sing “Tren, tren, pot pot,” while they hop their way,” Abalos’ wife Corazon, who accompanied him on Sunday, said.
“He would have been lonely the entire time had it not for children’s affection,” she added.
She said their family was surprised to learn that at the back of his detention cell and near the tall buildings at the commercial district of Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City are some 500 families living in poverty.
Abalos said he belittled his suffering in jail after the children had told him their stories. All of them had to walk at least a kilometre from their houses to their school in Nichols in Taguig.
One of his scholars Charlot Manuel, told the former poll body chair that she dreams of becoming a lawyer someday.
She ironically draws inspiration from the former detainee, saying she’d like to study and work at same time. “Just like what he (Abalos) did,” she said.
Abalos claimed he had supported himself through college by working as a janitor, factory worker, and a caddy at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.
Before leaving the SPD premises, he promised the children that he would come back and treat them for one whole day at a theme park in Laguna.