By Ria Fernandez
Despite spending over a decade of his life in jail for a crime he said he never committed, a man has accepted his fate and purpose which is to draw other inmates closer to God.
“John,” who claims to have been wrongly convicted of murder, has been behind bars for 13 years now.
He was accused and allegedly tortured by police for killing a former agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Pangasinan in April, 2006.
“”Sinupot kami ng plastic na itim tapos nakatali yung kamay namin ng wire ng kuryente. Tapos inilublob kami sa inidoro. Wala po talaga kaming aminin kasi di kami yung pumatay (Our heads were covered with a black plastic bag while our hands were tied with an electrical wire. Then our heads were dipped into a toilet bowl. We had nothing to admit since we were not the killers),” John said in an interview at his cell at the Manila City Jail.
Following his arrest, John stayed at the municipal detention facility in Pangasinan for a year before he was transferred to the Manila City Jail in March, 2007.
The cross he was carrying became even heavier when he and his wife broke up.
“Nung naghiwalay kami lalong mas mabigat pakiramdam ko kasi sila lang yung inaasahan kong tutulong sa akin hanggang sa tuluyang nawala sila sa buhay ko. Masakit ‘yun para sa akin (When we separated, my pain was greater since I thought that my family would help me. But I lost them and that was very painful for me),” he narrated.
To help him recover, John joined activities facilitated by Christian missionaries who were visiting them.
From then on, he found himself singing praise songs, leading Bible studies, and preaching the Gospel.
He also led the building of a Church in their dormitory.
“Hindi ko akalain na mangyari sa buhay ko na kahit nandito ako sa kulungan ay hindi ko naramdaman nakakulong ako. Inisip ko na lang ang kulungan ay isang kumbento, isang temporary destination sa buhay ng isang tao (I never thought that this will happen in my life, that even if I am inside the jail, I do not feel like a prisoner at all. I only think that I am in a convent, a temporary destination in the life of a person), he said.
Despite his newly-discovered purpose, John still faced several misfortunes.
Once he was stabbed by a fellow inmate. He underwent kidney surgery. He lost his father. And, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for a crime he said he never committed.
But through it all, John remains optimistic, believing that everything that happened was just a test on his faith.
“Noong nahatulan ako, talagang sinabi ko sa Diyos na bakit kung kailan na nandoon ako sayo bakit pinabayaan mo ako ma-convict. Pero nung nabasa ko yung Jeremiah 33:3 sabi Niya dun na kung kayo ay nababagabag tumawag kayo sa Akin upang ipaliwanag ko yung mga bagay na di niyo maunawaan. Lagi ko po iniisip yun tsaka sinasabi niya dun sa Joshua 1:9 na alalahanin mo lagi ito ay aking tagubilin magpakatatag ka, tibayan mo ang iyong loob, wag ka matatakot, wag mawalan ng pagasa, ako si Yahweh ang iyong Diyos, nasa iyo saan ka man pumunta. (When I was convicted, I asked God why is it that when I was already with Him He forsook me. But when I read Jeremiah 33:3 He told us to, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ I always think of that. He also said in Joshua 1:9, ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’),” he said.
“Yan po ang nagbigay sa akin ng lakas na alam ko may pangako ang Diyos (These have given me the strength to go on knowing that God promised to stay with me),” he added.
John learned to forgive the people responsible for his incarceration, saying that without them, he would not be transformed into the kind of person that he is today.
Currently, he is in the process of appealing his conviction, hoping that he will be released soon.
Once he attains a favorable ruling, John plans to resume his agri-business and finish his studies to become a full-fledged pastor.
“Ang mensahe ko sa mga taong hindi rin maintindihan kung bakit sila naghihirap, kailangan sumuko sa Diyos at sabihin sa Kaniya na ipaunawa ang buhay. Pag sumagot ang Diyos, ang blessing umaapaw (My message to those who also do not understand why they are going through hard times, you need to surrender to God and tell Him to help you understand life. When the Lord responds, he will shower you with abundant blessings),” John said.