Ideals and Iron Bars

"When I was a kid, some of my teachers, pag nalalaman nilang political prisoner yung dad ko, pinagsasalita ako in front of the class.” Dimpy Jazmines, 43, son of political prisoner Alan Jazmines, recalled. “Nung una hindi ko alam kung bakit. Pero later on nalaman ko na, iba pala yung life na nililive ko as a kid.

 

 

Dimpy is one of the martial law babies who were separated early from their parents due to what were then considered as “dangerous political beliefs.” His father, Alan, is now 69 years old, and serves as a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for the peace process. Alan started his activism early in his youth at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). He was arrested in 1974 when his son Dimpy was 2 years old. He was freed in 1976, and again incarcerated in 1982 to 1986.

Alan Jazmines has a master’s degree in Business Management and was professor of Economics and Business Management at the Asian Institute of Management. He was working closely with the NDFP-GPH Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms before he was arrested again on February 14, 2011. He is currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

Distant but not overseas

Growing up, Dimpy’s mom and lola stood as his parents. “I would like to say na I lived a normal childhood. Nagkataon lang wala yung dad ko. I know naman he’s alive,” said Dimpy, comparing their set-up to an OFW family where a parent is geographically away but finds the time to communicate, occasionally.

He understood early on that meeting his dad would always be clandestine. Folded yellow papers passed through a string of messengers were more common and practical ways of communication. As difficult the situation was, his dad wouldn’t miss a birthday greeting with letters which would begin with “Maalab na pagbati!” which had often estranged him. “In one of his letters, he shared na nagkasakit sya sa paa sa paglalakad, or kumain sila ng matsing dahil sa sobrang gutom.” He knew that his stories were things he couldn’t brag to his friends.

During his previous incarcerations, binibigyan nya ako ng books ni Marx or yung paintings nya na about manggagawa which did not communicate to me,” confessed Dimpy. “I read the books as historical documents, more of a leisure reading than something life-changing,” he recalled.

Dimpy had different considerations in life. Working as a brand manager for a well-known communications company, he did not follow his father’s footsteps. He saw the consequences his dad had to face because of his beliefs. Even when he was in UP, the so-called bedrock of student activism, where he was a Broadcast Communication major, he did not join progressive groups or any mass organization. “Not because I was avoiding them, but because I feel that to do so, you should have a calling. And I never had that calling,” Dimpy said.

Dad: A son’s first hero

My lola, my dad’s mother-in-law, had high respects for my dad. She said, he is fighting for his beliefs. Coming from his mother-in-law, I thought that was big,” shared Dimpy. Even though he did not follow his dad’s path, he gave his father the utmost respect a son should give to a father. “Nandun naman yung kamustahang normal to a father and son. How’s his health, mga ganun,” he said as he retold how their conversation would normally begin. “My dad kasi is an intellectual,so we usually talk about anong nangyayari sa labas. When we talk, I make sure I use the opportunity para magpa-comment sa mga nangyayari, like, sino ba ang magandang iboto?” He described their conversations as your usual Sunday conversations with your dad “except that it’s behind cold bars”.

It was during his jail visits that Dimpy came to realize that his dad is a born leader and has a big heart for the oppressed. His dad would introduce him to his fellow inmates and tell their stories. It is also through these brief acquaintances that he got to know more about his father. Even in jail, he would help other political prisoners and ordinary inmates by writing statements for them, especially those who were arbitrarily arrested, to aid them in their case. This gained the respect of other prisoners, the reason why acts of reprisal by prison authorities against his father and other political prisoners are often thwarted.

In social gatherings, a random person would always approach him and speak well about the work and passion of his father. “Kahit yung mga tao na not from the Left, they would say na, kilala ko ang dad mo and I have high respects for him”, recalled Dimpy. “That’s how I knew that my dad did something big which made a difference to the lives of many others.

Asked if he had any frustrations on his dad, he said “Hindi pa siguro nung bata ako. Pero nung teenager ako, sabi ko lang, bakit yung classmates ko binibigyan ng car ng mga dad nila? Haha!” while sharing a generous laugh as his face turned red. “Pero I realized mababaw naman naman yon,” he added. Dimpy has a 14 year old son, and he shared that it is only when he became a parent himself when he realized what he might have missed growing up.

Shifting on a serious tone, he revealed how he was able to come to terms on the absence of his father, “inisip ko, meron syang piniling goal that’s bigger than himself which resonated well to me. I just thought ito yung mga decisions na ginawa nina Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio o ni Ninoy Aquino.” He knows that with as noble a cause that is fighting for the rights of the oppressed many, someone has to make a sacrifice.

At home and at peace

Even if, hindi ako involved, I know naman na his detention was unjust. That he should not be treated as a criminal because he is different. He is a political prisoner. He is someone who stood for his political beliefs.”

In 2010, Senator Franklin Drilon reminded the military that “mere membership to the Communist Party of the Philippines is not a crime”[1] after arresting forty-three health workers, known as the Morong 43, on mere suspicion that they are members of the Communist Party. Consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the peace talks, like Alan Jazmines, are also covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a document signed by the NDFP and the GPH in 1995 which grants safety passes to consultants and members of the peace panel to facilitate the peace negotiations and create a favorable atmosphere conducive to free discussion.

The JASIG was unilaterally suspended by the Arroyo and Aquino administrations.[2] This eventually led to an impasse, and talks did not progress to a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms – the next substantive agenda in the peace talks.

With President Rodrigo Duterte’s positive pronouncements on the peace talks and release of political prisoners, their families expect the immediate release of their loved ones who were unjustly incarcerated. “The past presidents swept them [political prisoners] under the rug. Ngayon nakita ko na may courage yung incoming president na i-acknowledge sila, kung hindi man yung cause nila, sila as human beings, and for me that’s enough,” says a hopeful Dimpy.

A year short to being a septuagenarian, Alan Jazmines has been suffering from hypertension, kidney stones, scoliosis and high cholesterol. Diet in prison along with his limited mobility has worsened his situation.

 “The families are excited to see their relatives free, of course,” blurted Dimpy, the glimmer in his eyes now more obvious. “At sa bigger picture, I am also excited na finally may dialogue, na yung root cause ng problems at kung bakit may mga taong may ganitong views, ay finally mapag-uusapan and there will be something to build on. I am excited for peace,” he said with a wide smile. His face now seemed relieved.

Although I know that my dad’s mind and soul are free, I also want physical freedom for him. When he is freed, ang una kong gagawin, is dadalhin ko sya sa family reunions. I think that’s what any prisoner would want to do.” ###

 


[1] ABS-CBN News, AFP reminded: Membership in CPP no longer illegal, 17 February 2010 http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/regions/02/16/10/afp-reminded-membership-cpp-no-longer-illegal

[2] KARAPATAN, Frequently Asked Questions on the JASIG, 26 March 2014 http://www.karapatan.org/FREQUENTLY+ASKED+QUESTIONS+ON+THE+JASIG

 

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