Convicted child rapist and former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, who is serving time at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa, was seen in Makati City last Wednesday.
ABS-CBN broadcaster Bernadette Sembrano told radio station dzMM that she saw Jalosjos at a dermatology clinic accompanied by one man and a female staffer.
Sembrano said she was waiting at the clinic when the convict’s group barged in and the female staffer told the receptionist that “Congressman Jalosjos has an appointment” with the dermatologist.
“He was wearing white shorts, a white shirt, slippers, and dark glasses, and he looked healthy,” she said.
Sembrano said Jalosjos and his companions came out of the clinic 15 minutes later.
She added seeing a waiting vehicle outside the clinic with license plates bearing the No. 8, but that she was not sure if the former congressman used it.
She stressed that she was surprised why Jalosjos was in Makati City since he was supposed to be in jail in Muntinlupa.
Asked if she was sure that the man she saw was Jalosjos, Sembrano said she was positive.
Sembrano noted the claims made by NBP chaplain Fr. Roberto Olaguer in saying Jalosjos will be released sometime next week.
Olaguer claimed Jalosjos “would be finishing his 16-year (prison) term in November 2008 yet, but because he showed good conduct, he would go home nearly a year earlier on Dec. 16.”
A high-ranking official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), however, opposed the reported plan of early release of Jalosjos.
Bishop Pedro Arigo, chairman of CBCP Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said more deserving convicts should be freed instead of Jalosjos.
He said the Church may be supportive of government’s move to issue pardon or commutation of sentences to convicts, but stressed that awardees should really be deserving.
“We don’t want to see them (inmates) inside the prison forever but such privilege should be applied to all and the facet of restorative justice must not be set aside,” Arigo said in a statement.
Arigo criticized the government in prioritizing the pardon and release of high profile convicts while ignoring other prisoners who are “more worthy” of pardon or at least, reduction of their sentences.
Arigo said there are many inmates who have spent most of their lives behind bars hoping to be granted release to be with their loved ones in their twilight years.
Some of them, he said, could hardly walk anymore and are already dependent on wheel chairs.
“The government should be fair and consistent in granting pardon,” Arigo stressed.
Arigo made the statement in reaction to claims made by Olaguer that Jalosjos will be released before Christmas by President Arroyo following the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Parole to shorten the convict’s sentence for good behavior.
Officials, however, immediately denied Olaguer’s claims. The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) also claimed they have no information on Jalosjos’ pending release.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Malacañang has yet to receive the recommendation on Jalosjos’ early release.
Jalosjos’ counsel, Ernesto Salunat, also claimed any early release granted to his client will not likely happen this year.
Salunat said they have been working for Jalosjos’ release by early 2008 since the convict has served a sufficient number of years in prison in relation to his double life sentence.
Jalosjos was convicted in 1997 by the Makati Regional Trial Court for raping an 11-year old girl.
Jalosjos had already served 13 years, five months and 15 days in prison when the recommendation for his early release was made by the BPP last June.
Though Jalosjos is serving two life terms, jail officials explained that for purposes of granting a commutation of sentence, the two life sentences are treated as one penalty.
While in detention, Jalosjos became a high-profile prisoner as elected representative of Zamboanga del Norte until he was dropped from the roster after the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 2002.
While in prison, Jalosjos established an outreach program providing medical treatment for elderly inmates.
JEFF DIAZ with Edu Punay, Charlie Lagasca
The Philippine Star