ROBIN PADILLA: IN PRISON
ROBIN PADILLA: Once upon a time in Prison
In the late 90s, there was only one personality , a budding actor, who , by his lonesome, captured the hearts of the youth. He was spunky, ruggedly handsome, rough and care free. He was a woman’s man, and it has been said that all his leading ladies in all the films where he was featured were simply enamoured and attracted. He was also a staple for news. Every time his films would reach box office level, here is the kid distributing goods to marginal communities. He was everywhere and he was an icon during the period. Until something happened. He was caught by authorities hugging a number of firearms and worst, without licenses. Call it juvenile braggadocio.
What happened next was that he was being arraigned and a couple of months thereafter, he was sentenced for 17 years for illegal possession of firearms. The glamour boy along with his projection as bad boy came to a heel. His impending imprisonment merely confirmed his projection, well, as a bad boy in real terms.
It was at the peak of his career in film industry when he was clamped inside prison. And he was a picture of dejection. For several weeks, he could not express himself in a manner suited to his persona and stature. Here was an extraordinary person, gallant and generous to his fans, the masses, serving time and if he would be released according to the prescription of law, he may turn out to be another Berting Labra (another thespian who was charged for murder, sentenced to death penalty but was later, after 13 years, released on acquittal). That is, once he would be released and would be goaded to re-enter the field of entertainment, he would no longer be playing the role of a boy-next-door but a villainous father already.
His entry into the prison camp in itself was stuff for movies already except that the one playing the role, if at all a true reflection of how he dealt with the immersion, would be less than an action flick and more of dramatics. Robin was always crying during his first few months. I know, I was his jailor at the Medium Security Camp at that time. He was feeling dejected although at times he would feel he was just being lucky. Accordingly, he was lucky to have suffered incarceration, luckier than most of his peers who were hooked on drugs and had gone to life hereafter. If only for said thoughts he would celebrate eventually his imprisonment as a gift from the gods.
A year later, he would be assisted by his fellow inmates in redefining his life. At that time, a typhoon ravaged the prison reservation and my quarters collapsed. I had a whole library where my books were virtually submerged in flood waters. The books, several sack full actually, were brought by my security personnel to be dried on a vacant lot adjacent to a prison dormitory. It was the dorm where Robin was assigned for safe keeping. It was during this period that Robin, assisting other inmates in arranging the books, when he would be transfixed on one material. The book had a good artistic cover and it has barely been damaged by water but just the same it was lined up along with others. Robin picked it up and on the second page, he saw some scribbles. It says that the book protected the face of the owner. It was my book and I was reading it when I had a freak car accident in one of my provincial sorties in Mindanao. The vehicle turned turtle five times and while swirling, I opened the book and wrapped it on my face. Should I die as a result of the accident, my face will not be disfigured, so I thought. Those who were with me in that trip were rushed to the hospital, their bodies badly mangled. In my case, I had no tell tale signs of the accident. I even do not have a bruise at all. And so, while watching over my fallen companions in the hospital, I wrote a little marking on the book. The title of the book is Holy Qu’ran. (We have just left the Mosque after I had my baptism into the Moslem fold when the accident happened.)
From there on Robin would claim the book as his and would try to read seriously what was in there. Within the dormitories also were a group of Muslim prisoners. One happens to be an Imam, or an Islamic teacher and scholar. He would accost and tutor Robin on his quest to understand some passages from the Book. It was there where Robin felt that Islam would be his religious guide. It was at that time when Robin would be baptised to the Muslim fold, and he would never depart from his new faith. Like a typical Muslim, he would shun meat and began his culinary trek towards vegetarian diets.
He would likewise join his fellow Muslims in the camp praying five times a day and would haggle for donations so that a corner in the camp will be made into a Mosque. Nur Misuari would drop by and offer the initial contract to construct the sacred facility.
Since Robin was at his peak in the film industry, he would be regularly visited by his fellow thespians, actors and actresses, stars and starlets, one after another. My office was virtually a branch of tinsel town whenever these entertainers would flock the prison camp. I would however retreat at the back portion of my office and allow Robin to meet his confederates in the formal and ceremonial ambiance of a highly disciplined workplace. Not until after the visit where I would courteously guide the visitors to the exit gate but not after having my picture taken with them around. Call me “bakya” but I was for a time a center of attention whenever I would post my picture back home.
Senator Ramon Revilla was then one of the legislators who were drawn into the sad plight of people like Robin. He argued in Congress that the law punishing individuals for committing illegal possession of firearms should not suffer incarceration in a manner as seen during the martial law period. The law was actually passed after martial law was declared. Senator Revilla was able to push for the amendment and would pass a law abridging the penalty clause for said violation from a stiff 17 years down to 6 years. That technically reduced also the period which Robin will serve his time.
The law became operational and was applied to Robin; and, he was immediately reclassified to minimum security status. There were neither supplications nor insinuations yet on the preferential treatment of prisoners or what has been pejoratively referred to as VIPs at that time. Robin was assigned to the Director’s quarters as his assigned area and he would traverse by foot the area from the minimum security camp where he was subject to the mandatory head count on a daily basis. In walking through from one station to another, he would be greeted by pedestrians, mostly the youth from nearby schools, and he would get his comeuppance and realize that his star status had not yet waned yet.
Having recovered from the pangs of incarceration and founded confidence in his new found faith, he sought advice from his entertainment handlers. A few months before he would be released, a movie was shot and he was back in tinseltown. The movie however did not make it as a block buster but nonetheless, it re-introduced Robin back into the fold of arts.
Having completed more than four years in prison, he was made eligible for the grant of parole. A few weeks later, he would be released. He was grateful to legislators, to his prison supervisors and to his peers. He came out hale, healthy and confident to face the world, a sad world he left and with him around, his pledged to make it a stable one.
To date, Robin would volunteer to lead his countrymen pursue concord in Muslim Mindanao, this time not as an on-looker but as an Islamic scholar willing to sacrifice in favour of ending war and pursuing for a lasting peace.