THE DAY A SENIOR CITIZEN PRISONER ESCAPES
It was a dreary and humid afternoon when I took time to visit the minimum security facility of New Bilibid Prison. The prison camp is organized to accommodate prisoners classified under minimum security category: those who are to be released in a year’s time; prisoners whose age range from 65 years old and above; and, prisoners with grave physical disabilities. The facility is almost occupied by senior citizens and it literally projects a community of elderlies or virtually a home for the aged.
There were incidents when escapes would transpire. Most of those who would fly from the cuckoo’s nest were those who are just a few days before the release papers are to be issued to them. Majority are in their 30’s.
But what made the recent escape unfortunate, and well, humiliating, was the condition of the escapee. The fugitive breached the institutional fence a few yards from his security supervisor. A daring escapade indeed. The inmate was required as part of his designation, to clean a few paces from the gate and it would only be a few minutes, enough for the inmate to shed a sweat or two. There were no covers, no barricades, no obstacles that separate the inmate from his custodian.
The escapee was a rarity in the annals of prison administration. He was not the usual, stereo typed Tom Cruise look alike in gait and agility. Neither is he the nimble acrobatic Jet Li incarnate.
Inmate Bernardo Ceniza was 74 years old, limping and with poor eyesight. As a matter of fact, he even used a splice of scotch tape to hold his eyelids from disrupting his already blurred vision. He was seldom visited according to his peers. He was already waiting for two summers to get his release papers and bid his captors goodbye. He must have been excited but his prison record revealed that the inmate was suffering from psychosis: one who finds difficulties dealing with realities. In other words, in all these pitiful description of the ancient man, he must be a borderline case, a veritable vegetable already!
Testimonies from his cell mates, mostly in their 70s and late 80s, had nothing significant about the elderly man. A check on his bed bunk yields nothing extraordinary: old clothes, old footwear, old bags, run down blankets and unwashed stacks of personal materials. He had nothing of value. He was a picture of waste and deterioration.
He could not have feigned weakness to confuse his guards. He was everything weakness was all about. He could not have prepared himself to break loose and dash for dear freedom by hibernating to preserve his stamina. The old man was already a spent being. One even had the impression that if you leave the fellow even in a crowded market place, leaving him behind for a week, then after a week later,you would still find the guy where you left him off. That was how the inmate is, a person whose life and soul, whose mind and capability to live have already evaporated.
I won’t begrudge however those who have heard the escape situation and puked in the process. It is not the manner how the escape was carried out. It is not the way when the escape was successfully conducted. It is not even the bold and daring scenario the fugitive must have mounted to confuse his guards that demands explanation.
The fugitive is pure vegetable, a withered kind. I am interested how come a facility full of guards, hulking and fully armed, could have been played away by a, well, vegetable. That facility it pride itself as a prison must be a joke. A weakling of a cub scout stationed on the post would not have fell to such level of uselessness.
The prison does not speak any more of what a place for incarceration is. I would not even be surprised if one day, not only such kind of personnel held to account, worst, the place called prison may even be declared as hopeless, the kind word probably is for such habitation to close shop or should have been earmarked for abolition!
Oh, well. Let’s go home.