LGBTTQ member asks for separate jail cell

POLICE Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Pablito, Iloilo City Police Station 1, on Aug 20, 2019 checks the jail cell of Mark Joseph Parreño, 30, an openly gay man who was arrested in a police anti-narcotics operation on Aug. 19 in Iloilo City. Parreño initially requested to be detained in a separate lock-up cell. (Jennifer P. Rendon)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon

FOR most people, prison cells are hellholes.

On top of staying in a cramped space, there’s also the danger of being picked on by other inmates. The attacks could range from being bullied, violently assaulted or even sexually molested.

This and what he apparently saw in movies brought shivers to an LGBTTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer) member, prompting him to request that he be transferred to a different cell away from male inmates.

Mark Joseph Parreño, 30, an openly gay man, was arrested 6:25 p.m. of Aug. 19, 2019 near his house at Barangay Rizal Estanzuela, City Proper, Iloilo City.

Members of the Iloilo City Police Station 1 collared Parreño in a drug buy bust operation. He yielded six sachets of suspected shabu and the P1,100 marked money.

Parreño, who used to be a bet collector for the Small Town Lottery (STL), arranged the trade at Barangay Calaparan, Arevalo but later changed his mind and moved it to his place.

He was a newly-identified drug personality but police could not confirm if he only went into drug peddling after STL operations shut down or he used his previous work as front for selling shabu.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Pablito, ICPS1 chef, confirmed on Tuesday that Parreño requested that he be separated from other male inmates.

Parreño said he was fearful for his welfare, citing the “horror stories” of other LGBTTQ members who were put behind bars.

He claimed some of them were molested inside the jail.

But Pablito turned down the request saying that the comfort room of the prison cell for female inmates is not functioning.

The following day, the number of male inmates was down to seven but Parreño no longer pursued his initial plea for a different cell.

“He’s doing well with the six other inmates. Bonding na daw sila,” Pablito said.

He also stressed that not one incident of an LGBTTQ member being harassed or molested because of his or her sexual orientation ever happened in their station.

“So far, there was no violent incident that happened because an inmate is an LGBTTQ member,” Pablito said.

He said they will look for ways to segregate an inmate who is mentally-ill or mentally-challenged and those who are HIV positive.

But while lock-up cells under the watch of the PNP might be safe for the likes of Parreño, it might be a different setting when he is turned over to a district jail ran by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).