after.27.yrs.inn.y

Maria Teresa Amberti Talag's photo taken in the mid-90s.

 

Inmate breaks news in phone call to Reporter

 

Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter

Maria Teresa Amberti Talag’s long nightmare is over.

After serving more than quarter of a century at a New York upstate prison for murder, the wealthy Filipino businesswoman, who is now 50 years old, will finally be released on Jan. 31 at the earliest date, the Filipino Reporter learned last week.

Linda Foglia, spokesperson of the State Department of Correctional Services, told the Filipino Reporter that the New York State Parole Board last month ruled that Talag is eligible for parole after serving her minimum term of 25 years.

Talag, who came to New York on a tourist visa in the 80s, was charged, together with three other women and three men, with kidnapping and murdering a 62-year-old real estate broker from Long Island.

Only 25 years old when was she was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Talag is a mother of two children (now in their late 30s) and wife of a former Malacañang official, Wilfredo Talag, who once headed the Presidential Management Staff under President Fidel Ramos.

Wilfredo Talag has since remarried.

“I’m really happy, yet I feel numb all over my body,” Maria Talag told the Filipino Reporter in a letter dated Jan. 5, 2012.

“It’s been 27-and-a-half years.”

“My mind is foggy,” she added.

“Words are hard to find. It feels like God has opened the gates.”

The good news came after years of trying repeatedly — but unsuccessfully — to win an early release.

Foglia said Talag was first eligible for parole in April 2010, but her application was not approved until Dec. 21, 2011.

Foglia said the state corrections department has already informed the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of Talag’s imminent release by the end of January.

She said Talag has a final deportation order as early as 1993.

“ICE will process her deportation to the Philippines and it’s up to them when exactly Ms. Talag will be deported,” Foglia said.
 
Talag got involved in the 1985 murder of businessman Thomas Vigliarolo, whose body was found by police in a tenement apartment in Harlem following nine days of captivity.

The victim, who eventually died from asphyxiation, was reported missing by his wife on March 20, 1985, and a ransom demand for $430,000 was made by the suspects.

Police said the suspects hatched the scheme because the victim had supposedly swindled one of them of $160,000.

Talag would not elaborate how she got involved, simply pointing out that it was “a very well-framed criminal case that only a miracle could let me out of that situation.”

Marble business heiress

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Talag was an only child of Italian engineer Pietro Amberti.

She studied accounting at the Centro Escolar University in Manila.

At the time of her conviction, she was the sole owner and operator of a vast marble plant in Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines, named Fil-Italian Marble Development, which she inherited from her father who died in 1970.

The business folded up years later due to mismanagement, according to Talag.

Her two children were left under the care of her mother Engracia Bacate vda. de Alberti of Leyte.

Talag claimed she is a niece of former Justice Secretary and Batangas Congressman Hernando “Nani” Perez.

In a previous interview with the Filipino Reporter, Talag lamented her health condition — she has a host of ailments, including a heart problem that led to surgery in early 2000 — as she decried abuses and harassment behind bars, prompting the Philippine Consulate General to pay her visits.

Fil-Am community leader Nilda Jaynal spearheaded a massive community campaign in the late 90s — gathering over 3,000 signatures — to call for Talag’s early release on humanitarian grounds, but to no avail.

A judge said that releasing Talag early could prompt his six co-defendants to also seek early release.

Jaynal, who frequently traveled to Bedford Hills to personally check on Talag’s condition, told the Filipino Reporter that she’s “grateful to God” for finally letting Talag out of prison.

“She’s suffered enough,” said Jaynal, who was visiting Florida at the time of the interview.

“She always tells me her wish is to see her two children again.”

Jaynal, however, expressed concern about Talag’s life in the Philippines, saying that most members of her family have turned their back on her.

“We don’t know where she’ll live, how she’ll live...her family has already ignored her,” Jaynal said.

“I know she’s facing a difficult life. Sana makatulong tayo para makabangon siya ulit at makapagbagong buhay.”

Jaynal said she is initiating a fund-raiser to give Talag a send-off cash.

“I guess it will be a big help if we can raise $1,000 for Maria,” she said.

“We have to pray for her as she rejoins the society and build her life all over again. She deserves a second chance...she has suffered enough.”

Talag also found an ally in Ada Sanchez, a Hispanic and former corrections guard, who became a trusted friend.

Talag said Jaynal and Sanchez gave her “moral, spiritual and even some financial support over the years,” and helped her keep her sanity.

“I’m very grateful to both of them for untiring help and support through the years,” Talag said.

“I hope I can still see them even when I’m back in the Philippines.”

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