Inmates from the Bataan District Jail proved that love knows no boundaries as they held a mass civil wedding in the said prison on July 10.
Thirty-eight couples tied knots inside the jail in the first mass civil wedding sponsored by the jail management and the City Civil Registry. Mayor Francis Anthony S. Garcia presided over the wedding.
The Bataan District Jail funded the wedding reception while the City Civil Registry settled all legal processes for the marriage license.
The district jail gathered the best principal sponsors, namely Dr. Ruby Matibag, Atty. Fernando Mendoza, III, and Ms. Ledesma Morante. Councilor Benigno Meriño also came as the chairperson of the city’s committee on family.
The couples received married life guidance from the mayor himself, who told the newlyweds that love brings hope even in dire situations.
Stronger than Confinement
Though most of the couples had been together before one of them landed in detention, some created their love stories while serving their time.
Nelson Duena and his longtime partner, Donavie Tejada, met each other after the latter completed her time in 2010. Duena came to Bataan District Jail in 1999 due to a murder case while Tejada was imprisoned in 2009 for theft.
Tejada continued visiting her friends after her release. In a twist of fate, her friends introduced her to Duena, whom she never noticed until then.
Now, Tejada is coping with the challenges of having a partner inside the jail.
“Noon po dalawang beses lang sa isang linggo, ngayon po halos araw-araw,” said Tejada when asked if she frequently visits her partner.
The couple wanted to impart a lesson to their fellow newlyweds, especially on having hope in spite of detention.
“Sana magsilbing aral sa kanila ang nangyari sa buhay nila. Ngayong ikinasal na sila, mahalin nila ang mga asawa nila. Sana magpatuloy ang magandang pagsasama nila. Huwag silang bibitaw,” said Duena.
Hoping for a Good Condition
The jail wardens of Bataan District Jail claimed that theirs is the best prison in Region III.
“Marami kasi kaming program dito, unang-una meron kaming livelihood programs para sa mga inmates…meron din kaming ALS (Alternative Learning System), meron din kaming mga skills training galing sa TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), madalas may medical mission,” said JO1 Jonathan Reyes, Bataan District Jail’s inmates welfare and development officer.
However, Reyes admitted that the prison facility is overcrowded. The district jail is housing more than 2,000 inmates when its capacity is limited to 800.
One of the factors that contributed to the ballooning of the jail population is the national government’s war on drugs.
“Mga 90% siguro drugs,” Reyes said. “Dumami talaga siya (inmates)… ang problema lang namin dito kulang kami sa tao.”
Nevertheless, the peace and order inside the jail has been manageable for the last seven years. By: Arli Joshua Atienza