A night at a jail

It was a small room at the mezzanine. Without an aircon unit, a stand fan was laboring hard to bring comfort to the occupants of that room. There were two office tables – one was facing the door, which was never closed; and the other facing a wall – typical office setup. There were two backless, low-arm rest sofa at opposite sides of the wall. A computer, turned off, was at the back of the table facing the door. There was laughter among the four men and two nuns inside the room, but the man in black had a look of apprehension and worry in his eyes.

For Jun Lozada, it was his first night in that room – for all purposes, his temporary jail cell.

This worry was just one out of 16 cases that he is facing, only that this one was the first to mature, so to speak. But it is indeed worrisome. The prospect is bleak. Tomorrow, a judge will issue a commitment order for him to be transferred to Manila City Jail. His tormentor, together with the tormentor’s family, just flew off to the United States to watch the Pacquiao-Hatton boxing match. Lozada is the defendant in this case; Mike Defensor wants to clear his name. This is the Philippine justice system at work.

Outside, there were around 20 protesters carrying signs. They were dispersed by unusual summer rains. Some of the people in the area thought it was a sign. They could not agree on what the rains imply.

Friends and supporters started coming in right after the arrest. Some brought food. Policemen were feasting on pancit while watching the news. Speaking of news, that night, a reporter got his names mixed up, mistaking a supporter for a former mayor of Pasig. The TV at the mezzanine can only show GMA 7 shows. Paging ABS-CBN.

Lozada was free to watch the news. He got the night’s headlines, and footage of his arrest was looping while newscasters drone on.

“It must be surreal seeing yourself on TV,” I quipped, without knowing that Lozada was at my back.

“It really does,” he said, laughing.

The news immediately shifted to Pacquiao and Hatton. The nuns were saying the results of the Pacquiao fight would bury all other news. That’s how it goes, I thought, the vicious cycle of our short memories.

News reporters were barred from entering the holding area, but there were those intrepid enough to go in and get comments from Lozada. One even got a video using a camera phone. Note to news reporters: get a decent camera phone.

The life of a news reporter and his crew is hard. You need to hassle a lot; cameramen need to move a lot, and in a hurry most of the time. When I got in the police headquarters, they were posted in several locations within a compound. The two big networks were set up at the flagpole facing the building. After the primetime newscasts, they moved in the lobby, waiting for news and personalities. When three of the convenors of Black and White Movement went out of the holding area, the reporters and cameramen rushed for comments. They immediately set up outside the lobby area.

After the interview, the reporters and cameramen went back to the lobby. When a leading opposition figure arrived, the newspeople rushed to the mezzanine and staked out the glass door.

At the end of the hallway of the holding area was a real holding cell – real as in steel bars instead of wood as walls for the cell. There was a man in the holding cell, looking curiously at the goings-on outside. He must be feeling lonely at the time.

I took my leave, giving Lozada a cheerful goodbye (by saying something stupid). As I start to leave the place, more people are trickling in, with food and thin mattress in tow. The peril is just about to come.