After prison, a degree

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

From a list of detainees, to the dean's list.  Jigger Geverola (right) receives his certificate as a Dean’s Lister from Dr. Victor Villaganas, vice president for academic affairs of the Cebu Technological University. The former political detainee recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in Local Governance and Administration.  (Sun.Star Foto/Arni Aclao)


ONCE a fugitive for three years and a prisoner for seven years, a former political detainee graduated this month from college.

In recent years, it was the Dean’s List, not an arrest warrant, that repeatedly included Jigger Geverola’s name.

Geverola, 38, the son of a farmer, plans to proceed to higher studies or to work for a diploma in teaching, after graduating from the Cebu Technological University (CTU) with a Bachelor of Arts in Local Governance and Administration.

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Ang kwarta dili problema, ang pagbalik sa mainstream ang dakong problema (The problem wasn’t getting the money, it was getting accepted again by the mainstream),” he said.

Geverola’s youngest sister is also a teacher. Another sibling followed in his parents’ footsteps and now farms. Jigger, who was born the eldest of three in Gutlang, Argao last Oct. 2, 1976, now works for a local government.

Nearly 14 years ago, his story was different. Geverola faced murder and arson charges after he was accused of burning a Philtranco bus in Catmon, Cebu last Dec. 11, 2001.

He went into hiding, but was arrested in 2004. At that time, the military described him as an official of the Communist Central Visayas Regional Party Committee.

While he was detained in the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, those who visited him—including reporters and former Bayan Muna congressman Satur Ocampo, had to wait for clearance.

Eventually, the four murder and attempted murder cases against the political detainee were amended to two counts of rebellion and arson in 2008.

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Judge Hermes Montero provisionally dismissed the arson case last Nov. 4, 2010.

Upon his release in January 2011, Geverola tried to go back to school that same year. Only CTU, a public institution, would accept him.

Gi-offer ning local governance, haum gyud sa akong field of interest (The university offered a degree in local governance, which matches my interest),” he said.

While studying, he worked in different offices, starting with a private firm, then with a politician’s staff, until he ended up as the Capitol’s field organizer for various projects.

His instructor and classmates said they admired his determination, shown in his efforts to maintain high marks, and were thankful for his advice.

Dili siya ang type nga mosukol. Morespeto siya sa maestra bisan maguwang pa siya nako (He’s not the type to talk back. He respected me as his teacher, even if he’s older),” said his instructor Anne Jerre Bajarias, 28.

A classmate, Mia Cris Yurango, said he treated his classmates like an older brother or a father would.

At one point, he was elected as their class president.

“His life and his past are an open book,” another classmate, Lhuyd Pongase, said. He never tried to recruit them to join any political group.

Geverola’s grades in CTU would have been good enough for cum laude honors, but he had his subjects in a previous school accredited, which pulled down his general average.

But this former political detainee, now a married man firmly in the mainstream, did earn his degree. His wife also works with the Provincial Government.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 29, 2015.

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