From rehab to 4Ps: The story of Lerry
Davao City (2 October) -- Falsely accused of a crime, revenge and getting even would always be on top in any person's to-do list once exonerated. But not Lerry Dumancas. A minor who was detained in a police precinct for four days, incarcerated in a city jail for 10 months, and resided in a rehabilitation center for a year and a half.
His alleged crime: incestuous rape. Instead of sulking and blaming the world for his predicament, and plotting his long-awaited retribution, his unfortunate experience made him the more determined to finish schooling and land a good job.
Lerry is now administrative assistant of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a poverty reduction initiative led by DSWD. He started as 4Ps Enumerator for two weeks. Then he volunteered to assist 4Ps and luckily, ended up signing a contract as MOA Worker in February 2009. He plans to enroll this October and finish his disrupted undergraduate social work course at University of Mindanao. He hopes to finish in 2-3 years' time.
Lerry is cool. His positive outlook is infectious and admirable. His kind makes the world a better place to live in. He may have been a 'captive' for over two years yet he sustained his goodness and self-respect. In the face of adversity, he remained solid and cheerful and from his grim ordeal, Lerry emerged unscathed.
Lerry is youngest of four siblings. His grade school years were spent at Don Julian Rodriguez Sr. Elementary School in Agdao, Davao City and he attended San Juan National High School after completing Grade Six. His family is Catholic and he loves movies and books, and enjoys playing the guitar and drums.
"I never had a real problem when I was growing up. I belong to an urban poor family. But despite our situation, everything seemed in order and I felt secure," confides Lerry.
The accusation hurled at Lerry could be the impetus that he needed most in leading a better life. An irresponsible and negligent uncle who was into drug dealing is the father of the 12-year old cousin who Lerry allegedly raped. Homeless and separated from his wife, Lerry's uncle and his two young daughters were invited by Lerry's mother to live with them. The two family quarters were separated by a mere plywood wall.
Aside from drugs, his uncle ransacked houses and stole goods for a living. His elder daughter followed his example and learned his trade without difficulty. His uncle even took things from Lerry's home. Soon his 12-year old daughter started robbing their neighbors. Lerry said stealing to them seemed normal and has become a way of life, prompting Lerry and his family to rage and utter shame for their despicable behavior.
As an older cousin, Lerry took to disciplining the girl with the belt and some advice. His goal was to provide guidance for his cousin to reform and curb the embarrassment they are causing. His uncle learned of Lerry's unwelcome intervention and resented it. From then on, Lerry became an enemy that when the girl cried rape before long, Lerry became the convenient scapegoat as he was just a wall away with no alibi. Lerry knew he was trapped. His uncle found a perfect payback.
Loathe to scuffles and to avoid suffering further humiliation in the neighborhood, Lerry immediately went to Sta. Ana Police Station with his mother and father after receiving the summons. At the station, he stayed for four days. Shortly, he was brought to the City Jail in Maa and remained there until the 10th month. Thereafter, he was admitted at the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) where he stayed for a year and a half. He was 17 years old.
Suddenly, his life changed and worst, he had to stop schooling. He was in 3rd year high school, looking forward to attending college. He was deprived of fulfilling his dreams while his freedom snuffed out in a flash. Injustice was a new thing to him and he was both confused and shocked at the staggering turn of events.
To Lerry, it was like waking up from a nightmare. So frighteningly poignant that up to now he still could confidently recall the criminal case number tagged on him. To top it all, he was a minor living and breathing closely with hardened criminals. For Lerry, no one could stop it. No one could assure him and tell him when to dash for the door and be finally free of the abhorrent dungeon. He was helpless but remained hopeful. It was, after all, his only weapon.
Living at DSWD
As he recounts his heartbreaking experience, Lerry seemed animated and outspoken. He exuded warmth and willingness to share his life without restraint or reluctance considering his 'confinement' for over two years. If convicted, he would have served 16-24 years and two days.
At RRCY, Lerry stayed for a year and a half. He made good and was able to resume schooling and graduated high school at Mintal Comprehensive. He joined the school's chess team and played with the RRCY Band. He quit smoking and drinking. He performed household chores and became a trustee. His time at school hindered him though from engaging in more practical skills at the center.
There were 14 of them who went to high school and their route was strictly center to school, then school to center when classes are over. Third offense meant goodbye school.
He enrolled himself accompanied by a staff. Lerry never felt ostracized in school. He was even elected president of his class. He developed close friendships at school with his classmates and teachers. The one time he was slapped with stigma was when he was charged of stealing a cellular phone at school. He was singled out due to his background.
He mustered self-discipline and moderation. "You have to wake up early and follow the rules of the center. You must socialize. At the center, I learned the virtue of patience. I willed myself to be good at the center because I knew beforehand that fine character and attitude would matter most. I promised to let go of my bad habits and I did."
Looking back, Lerry would forever be grateful to the social workers who helped him out at RRCY: Susan Pascua, Merlinda Paragamac and Dahlia Padillo.
Free at last
Lerry graduated in 2003 and with his good performance, he was discharged in the same year. Free at last, he rejoined his parents.
His mother nudged him to work his way to school. And work he did as sawmill machine operator for two years. It was in RRCY that he got interested in social work that he took the course the moment he landed a job. He worked from 7 to 4 then report to school from 4:30 up to 9:30 p.m. When the sawmill closed shop, he used his savings just to be able to complete his 2nd year. He was out of work for four months but kept on looking even at the DSWD Office. Under contract with a private firm, he went from computer installer to supervisor.
Working with DSWD
In October 2008, when he returned to DSWD to scout for work again, he was told to submit his application letter. He was hired as 4Ps Enumerator for 10 days. Then, from end of October until January 2009, he volunteered for 4Ps. He assisted in preparing IDs for 4Ps beneficiaries, did photocopying and computer encoding. He came even on weekends.
Finally, in February 2009, Lerry was drafted as administrative assistant receiving a monthly pay of P10,538. His work entails preparation of IDs and training handouts, computer encoding, preparing support documents, photocopying and sometimes he serves as support staff during seminars.
On the side, his mother would always remind him to do his job well. He is very pleased and thankful for finding a good job. He promised to do his best at work, finish schooling and enroll this October. He admits he has matured and believes he is much better than before. He has survived the crisis with the support and love of his parents and friends. He says to young people: Go to school and do good in school because that would help you a lot in the future.
He is now 24 years old and thankful to DSWD for the opportunity to work and obtain good education. He aspires to work with DSWD as a professional social worker in three years. (DSWD/degsduron) [top]