BAGUIO CITY—At 84, Mariano Molina is both the oldest and newest inmate of the Baguio City Jail, serving a term of more than two years for a grave coercion conviction in February.
But on Sunday, Molina stood tall alongside eight other inmates, aged between 60 and 80, who were given tribute for Father’s Day by fellow inmates belonging to the Non-Affiliated Organization (NAO) at the prison compound. Members of NAO are inmates not aligned with gang members who comprise a good number of the jail population.
George de la Cruz, NAO leader, said the tribute was meant to uplift the spirits of the elderly inmates who have not seen their families for some time now.
“Only two of them get to be visited by their families, while the rest don’t get any visits at all. We put up this program to respond to their needs,” De la Cruz said.
It was NAO’s first Father’s Day event, which honored all inmate fathers, but with a special segment for elderly inmates called “Love Offering for the Elderly Fathers.”
“Our gifts to them were pledges, from sponsors and religious groups, for toiletries, food, towels, shirts and coffee. Because their families are not around to visit them, we are finding ways to support their needs. We are their family here,” De la Cruz said.
The inmates prepared song and dance numbers for their older colleagues.
“They are already old and they are eligible for parole. We wish that the justice system will grant them their freedom because they are suffering here in prison. Let them live their remaining years free,” De la Cruz said.
Molina has turned to prayers while spending time in prison.
A resident of Barangay (village) Sto. Rosario Valley here, Molina was convicted by the Municipal Trial Court here on Feb. 27 for harassing a relative. He was sentenced to spend time in jail until June 27, 2015.
Molina professed innocence and has appealed to be released as soon as possible so he could see his wife and eight children.
“I’m a father who loves his children. I feel sad that I have to be in prison in my old age. Fathers are supposed to be with their families,” Molina said.
“My prayer on this Father’s Day is that my children and my wife will visit me … I’m counting the days until I get out of here,” he said. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon