It was a burdened and hurried sound from a close friend. And it was followed by more frantic calls from my children, peers, former staff, colleagues in the organization, neighbors, associates and even acquaintances. There were even hushed and soft whispers that have reached me.
The mere mention of one’s name in the Congressional hearing on drug trade, at a time when government is in the midst of war against illegal drugs, is like being shoved into a lion’s den; or, receiving an instant conviction from the bar of public opinion. Worst, just a mere mention of one’s name notwithstanding the context, whether positive or negative, is almost like being lumped into the heap of garbage no matter how fresh your integrity looks from a distance.
That (October 10, 2013)was the fourth (and final) hearing at the Committee of Justice in the House of Representatives featuring scandalous issues that border on drug trade and its titillating considerations and criminal backdrop. The entire episode of the hearing was virtually wrapped in thrill and suspense, revelation and exciting eye openers, comic relief and stubborn repartees, intelligent exchanges and to a lesser degree, moronic discussions. The whole nation was gripped with apprehension, expecting the best and the worst. In a culture that delights in humor mongering, the congressional probe has all the elements of a blockbuster teleserye of sort. For once, those who are fixated or have a penchant for humiliations and shame finally found an HD channel to indulge in.
And right at the middle of the legislative scuffle was the Bureau of Corrections—-my former organization. And the probe featured an almost all inmate cast as its main protagonists with a sprinkling of government officers among their collaborating voices. While the intention was to craft a legislative response to the unacceptable situation obtaining in the national penitentiary, the constant view however was more along the lurid details of how a former Secretary of Justice was linked to drug trade by benefiting directly from its criminal produce.
Momentarily, inmates were lined up and from their sworn affidavits and congressional immunity came a deluge of information, allegations and revelations, which prior to the congressional probe were merely amusing anecdotes and sad yet comic commentary on certain personalities. The allegations were not textbook averments. It is something unheard of in the corridor of democratic countries. Government functionaries in other countries were hailed in court for playing footsie with captains of industry, dancing indecently with power brokers, staking with high rollers in commerce but never, if at all it is possible, personally hobnobbing with high security risks prisoners, of all places, inside their prison cell!
In a country that delights on its self-inflicted records as one of its kind (sabi nga Onli in da Pilipins) hobnobbing can be forgotten as plain braggadocio. But if it entails benefiting from the act as in being provided with funds to oil one’s political ambition, then that is something the citizens would scowl. Teka! Pangit yan. Kinukuhanan mo ng pera ang bilanggo. Nakulong nga yan dahil kapos ang pera tapos tatanggap kayo ng milyon sa kanila. Hindi na maganda yan! Whether truthfully disclosed or pathologically a lie passed on as fact, it was never a good highlight. Even assuming that the visit had no financial attribute, everything smacks of suspicion. That explains the horrid response of taong bayan while watching the congressional proceedings unfold and divulge secrets from the depths of the prison community.
Names were mentioned and recorded. Those who figured into the dark alleys of drug trade in the penitentiary were slowly unveiled. DOJ officials, Bucor officials were repeatedly cited virtually sealing a truthful air into the assertions. Who cares if one is innocent as long as the picture is completed and a profile formulated so that Congress can craft another legislative piece and for law enforcement agencies to complete its groceries of charges for prosecution of those involved in the shenanigans.
Moving towards the final stretch while a witness a certain inmate Sebastian, a person whose persona was previously bashed and demonized with numerous charges, stood to make his own dissertation and take in the brewing controversy. His declarations were conducted effortlessly and unrehearsed, candid and offered without even batting an eyelash. He must be telling the truth! The problem however was that his affirmations were completely different from earlier testimonies which were noted and confirmed by the committee as gospel truth. Now where lies the truth given what has been disclosed? The marathon was conducted for 13 grueling hours without noon break and those at the end of the goggle-box promised and swore to hear more.
I have dutifully watched the proceedings from Days 1, 2, 3 well except that I was traveling and I could not monitor Day 4, the final reckoning so to speak. I was intent on every statement, the depositions and testimonies. I was one of the prison officials during those tumultuous period of prison history when all the shenanigans began to explode. I know that I will be called up to render my own perception as reference. But it seems like it was an inmate all-star production and the likes of me was already unwanted, tainted as it were by the stereotype that Bucor and all its elements could no longer be relied upon. Unfortunately, I was typecasted along with the whole shebang.
Unless, of course if the inmate-witnesses themselves would drag one’s name into the fray.
The last inmate witness did just that when he mentioned me in reference to a query if the inmate knew me. “Yes, your honor” said inmate Sebastian, “Kilala ko po si Super Tesoro, tinex nga niyan ako.”
“Ano naman ang text sayo?” a legislator asked.
“Ang sabi balang araw kikinang ka na parang ginto at titibay ka sa bakal na parang riles. Hindi ko nga maintindihan kung ano ibig sabihin niya your honor.”
A minute of lull came and another question was lodged. The interpellation went on for more hours, the grilling session seemed to be relished by representatives while Sebastian was having a splendid time enjoying his grand full day media exposure. People in his provincial hometown may have feasted on seeing their fair haired boy on prime television and on that day, Sebastian was a celebrity.
I remember those words. I have called for a security conference of all senior inmate helpers thrice inside the maximum wing of NBP and on each occasion; my opening statement was along that line which Sebastian narrated. I would heed the prison community that Imprisonment is a make or break affair. You commit another offense, you perish. You make good, you are made. Those who are made will survive and not only that. They will be like forged iron and eventually will glisten more like gold and their strength more than the railway steel.
Sebastian may have received information on what my instructions were. Inmates, like ordinary students, would merely take note on opening statements of their teachers and would forget everything. The attention span of people nowadays were not as expansive like those of their elders. Actually, the text message was nothing. He was baiting the Congressmen that I am aware that he has a cellphone. He may have intentionally said that so that it would appear that I allowed him to keep a contraband, his cellphone. Nice try.
As a matter of fact, it was during my short lived administration, only 6 months—July, 2013 to December, 2013 (I asked to be relieved because I could not get the nod to declare money as contraband and abolish gangs) that Sebastian’s free wheeling influence through his personally built television program in prison was suspended. I ordered him to fold up the program. No more TV shows. If the program is institutional and supervised by prison officers and inmates were its crews, then I would have allowed it. But it was one activity which is founded, funded and operated by an inmate without any permission from the agency. So no way for a colorum media. Ayun, nagtampo na yung bilanggo.
My children called me up and so are my friends. They asked like a chorus if I was watching the congressional probe because my name was cited thrice. I asked if my name was mentioned in relation to any corrupt activity like obliging prisoners to produce money for me, or getting into the loop of drug trade and benefiting from its produce. My callers said that my name was never eluded to directly except that my administration was too lax (maluwag) during those times.
My response to my children was, “tama sila, ang pamamahala ko nga noon ay maluwag or very considerate. Isipin mo na lang anak, siniksik na sila ng gobyerno, eh di paluwagin ko naman. Ang accommodation level ng Bilibid ay pang 5k katao lang pero ngayon naglalaman yun ng 15k. Ang sabi ng batas ay parusahan sila sa pangungulungan ng ilang taon para baguhin. Take note ha. Para baguhin, hindi para GAGUHIN. Kaya naman pilit kong ina-ayos ang bilangguan para lagyan ng mga makataong programa gaya ng handicraft workshop, barbershop, therapeutic center, reading, counseling, etc. Yun, sinasabing kubol ay slowly being transformed into activity centers.
“Eh teka pare,” a neighbor interrupted. “Pasensiya na ha. Pero masarap ang buhay daw ang ilang bilanggo, parang nasa 5 star hotel. Pinayagan daw ninyo yun?”
“Dinatnan ko na yung ganung kalagayan nila. Hindi ko nakuhang magalit nga, natawa na lang ako. Sinabihan ko lang na alisin ang karangyaan o gamitin bilang activity center ng pangkaramihan ang mga kubol. Alam mo pare kung naranasan mo mag hotel, siguro naman kung hindi ka palabasin sa kwarto ng hotel sa loob ng isang buwan, hindi mo sasabihin na masarap kundi para kang nakakulong din. Eh yun mga tao sa bilibid taon na nakakulong. Sabi nga ni Ninoy Aquino nung nakakulong pa siya, miski daw kumain siya gamit gintong kubyertos, ang reality ay nakakulong pa rin pakiramdam niya. Ang nangangamba sa panganib noong mga preso na gusto magbuhay masarap ay yun pamilya nila mismo kasi alam nila na katabi ng mahal nila sa buhay ay puro magnanakaw at mamamatay na kada minuto pinaplano kung paano yun kanilang kapamilya ay taluhin. O di kaya subukin mo kaya maglakad sa palengke na suot ang mamahalin mong kwintas, singsing at relos.
I have administered NBP before, three times at different intervals, but the NBP that 2013 was completely different. Gangs were virtually running the show of the penitentiary. Gang leaders are in complete control of the prison community. The facility was awashed with cash. Gambling of any form could be seen and felt in every corner. There was a state of lawlessness, so to speak. Not only because the prisoners are numerically stronger than the prison personnel, but the gangs dictate the round the clock activity more than the prison authorities.
From my perspective, I will not allow gang influenced activities to happen. I initiated programs for the prisoners to lure them away from gang imposed drug trade. Although admittedly there was money in drug commerce, inmates who are peddling or required to circulate it had little percentage to claim. Worst, if they cannot remit on time they are goners. And so inmates began to populate my activity centers as alternative. After I have gained quite a following from the prison community, I proposed to declare money as contraband and the complete abolition of gangs. Failing to get the nod from my superiors, I begged to be relieved. And so, after 6 months I was outside the loop of NBP already.
The activity centers which I organized no longer receive a warm support. Siempre naman kasi ibang namamahala na. Iba naman ang gusto. When the centers were slowly reverting back into kubols, some affected inmates sent complaints to the Bucor and DOJ leadership. That was the time when Bucor and DOJ officials began to plan for a raid. A year later after I left NBP, a composite team from DOJ, NBI, PNP and Bucor raided NBP maximum wing complete with media coverage. As they say, the rest is history.
Corrective service is very crucial. It is in handling prisoners that makes the difference. If their humanity is ignored while they were serving time, you have produced future terrors in the free community. There were regular shakedowns conducted and were done with caution. This is to respect the privacy of the incarcerated humanity. This is also to approach and define for the prisoners what is fair, considerate and just. From this simple administrative action, an offensive mind or one given to predation begins to absorb such values as being nondiscriminatory, objective and neutral.
I can proudly claim that those prisoners who underwent my administration and who were eventually released are the most law abiding, constructive and conscientious and reliable citizens. This is so because I respect their privacy and their quest for seclusion. Furthermore, they had no quarrel or stress from my end since ni minsan hindi ako humingi o tumanggap sa kanila ng kahit anong mahalagang bagay. If there was anything I asked from prisoners, it is only their voluntary belief in my leadership. Ask Nilo Tayag (Supreme Bishop, Philippine Independent Church) , Jaime Tadeo (Chairman, Free Farmers Federation of the Philippines), Bingbong Crisologo (Congressman, House of Representative), Robin Padilla (Actor), Romeo Jalosjos (Former Congressman), Junior de Guzman (Former Congressman), Ambet Antonio (Former Chair, PAGCOR), etc.
From my retirement sofa, I could only witness that indeed changes are taking shape in the country beginning with corrections.
It was in the early 2000s when the curse of illegal drugs dawned upon the grounds of the national penitentiary. This was the period when numerous convictions were made as a result of an invigorated campaign against illegal and dangerous drugs pursuant to a legislative measure, RA 9165 of 2002 (otherwise known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act) . Countless offenders were hauled including a handful of foreigners mostly Chinese nationals. These foreigners were labeled drug lords and were initially given a separate dorm assignment in the maximum wing of the penitentiary.
How these inmates referred to as drug lords are treated depends upon the manner how the prison leadership would handle their security requirements. The so-called drug lords were favorite prey of gangs. They can easily be cowed and threatened, readily subservient, noticeably fearful.
Note that in the National Penitentiary, the top honcho is not the Penal Superintendent of NBP but the Director of Corrections himself. The Superintendent is merely a superficial officer directly in charge of designating security personnel in posting and manning duties. The principal responsibility of prison security is safekeeping of prisoners to prevent violence and escape. Security policy formulation depends upon the prison leadership. Prison officers are liable for insubordination in the event they pursue additional rules on the prison community unlike in penal colonies.
Prison officers constantly advice the appointed prison leadership with security formulations but it is prison leadership that decides whether to issue or not. Advises like restrictions on conjugal visitation, entrance of visitors, definition of contraband to include money, appliances and jewelry, entrance of food and commodities, repose mainly on the decision of the Director. Movement of prisoners and personnel are also governed by the discretion of Director. The Director’s decision making is hinged on the confirmation of the Secretary of Justice. So in effect it is the Secretary of Justice and the Director of Corrections are the ones directly supervising the entire management of the National Penitentiary.
There was even a time in the past during an awarding ceremonies for personnel and select officers when the Secretary of Justice was a recipient of a Plaque of Appreciation signed by all gang leaders of the national penitentiary. The acceptance of the Plaque indicated that gangs are to be respected and reckoned by prison officers.
Handling of prisoners and the treatment scheme in the national penitentiary rests squarely on the knowledge, expertise and adeptness of the appointed Director of Corrections.
The following, describes how the prison leadership conducts his administration in relation to the drug menace posed by inmates, gangs and the so called drug lords.
Prison Leadership and their administrative influence
2002- Col. Ricardo Macala (DOJ Sec. Hernando Perez) It was during this period or the term of erstwhile Lipa firebrand and former vice mayor and member of the Batangas politics, Col. Ricardo Macala, that the influx of drug convicts began to troop into the penitentiary. RA 9165 of 2002 was in full force. During that time, there was a specific area in the penal facility of the maximum wing of NBP where foreigners involved in drugs were marooned.
2003- Col. Ricardo Macala: Macala’s administration centered on pro-prisoner recreation programs to include sports and entertainment. Numerous karaoke machines were allowed to be brought in to encourage inmates to sing during their spare time. He was advised to segregate drug convicts but there was change in DOJ leadership (DOJ Sec. Hernando Perez got embroiled in a scandal and he was replaced) forcing Macala to tender his resignation.
2004- Doj Usec Ramon Liwag: Macala was replaced by DOJ Usec Ramon Liwag. Liwag’s short lived term merely affected technical transactions from catering to procedures in bidding and extensions of contracts. He never gave any penal related policy to guide prison officers. Prison security force only reiterated what has been defined during Macala’s time. That means the prison community were allowed various sports and recreational program to mushroom in almost all dormitories including the area for foreigners thereby opening the area for interdormitory interaction.
2005-Gen Dionisio Santiago (DOJ. Sec. Merceditas Gutierrez) When Gen. Santiago took over, prison security were at a stand still. They were all awaiting for policy instructions from the new director. By this time, foreigner inmates had rapport with other local inmates including exposures to gangs. Most Chinese inmates (labeled as drug lords) were requested by gangs to be transferred to their respective dormitories. Gang animosities and competition reared its violent head forcing prison leadership to separate foreign prisoners from the camp for relocation to penal facilities outside of NBP. Around 10 prisoners convicted of drug offense were transferred to Leyte Regional Prisons.
Gen Santiago felt that his effort in handling corrections was not appreciated. A portion of the NBP reservation —a security buffer—has been spliced in favor of NHA which was never communicated by way of information to him. Gen. Santiago resigned. Meanwhile, those inmates labeled as drug lords who were transferred to Leyte Regional Prison had found a way to be visited by their friends and colleagues whose influence had spread out in the vicinity. It was during this period that Leyte local politicians were lured into the drug business by a combined network of people visiting their inmate patron in Leyte Prison.
2006-Gen Vicente Vinarao (DOJ Sec. Raul Gonzales) Other remaining inmates involved in illegal drugs in the maximum wing and were found actively participating in illegal drug commerce through the gangs, visitors and their families were rounded up and segregated in a separate facility adjacent to the maximum wing of NBP theretofore understood as “supermax” because of its tight and highly restricted design. Gen Vinarao’s approach to contain the excesses of some inmates may be effected through isolation.
Gen. Vinarao recalled those transferred in penal colonies back to NBP. By then, those who were transferred back had already organized a network in various municipalities in the local town.
2007- Gen Vicente Vinarao: Meanwhile, gangs took over where the drug lords left in NBP and had already infiltrated the drug business using their territorial networks in the free community as trading centers. Gang leaders were rounded up and transferred to various penal facilities, to Iwahig, San Ramon and Leyte to break the cycle of drug commerce. While illegal drug circulation in NBP was reduced, illegal drug enterprise in penal colonies rose and expanded in its operation as a consequence. Gen Vinarao could have rectified the situation but he was replaced.
2008-Gen Ricardo Dapat: Gen Dapat spent his first three months, much like newly appointed Directors in the past, reviewing the profile of the agency. During Dapat’s administration, his concentration was more in the technical review of cases of celebrity prisoners. While the drug problem in penal colonies were already posing a problem, Gen. Dapat’s attention was lured towards the petition of various groups and lawyers on the status of inmate Manero (whose service of sentence has been completed but the Church was still interposing its objection on his release), the status of Aquino-Galman case and the eventual release of former Congressman Jalosjos.
Gen Dapat could have addressed the brewing illegal drug trade in the prison colonies but he was dragged into the Jalosjos release caper which cost him his relief and replacement.
2009- Gen Oscar Calderon: The former PNP chief found himself at the cross roads of a drug infested albeit congested facility and a period of learning how to grasp institutional problems. Like his predecessors who were more trained in combat (as PMAers and achieved the rank of Generals), his approach was mechanical. He required the construction of additional facilities to solve the overcrowding problem. Calderon offered that infrastructure more than security was needed to rectify the problem obtaining in the penitentiary and in other penal colonies. He also started exploring legislative means to upgrade the correctional agency. He has as yet to evaluate if his approach is effective, he was replaced. He was an appointee of GMA and the PNoy administration replaced him immediately.
It was under Calderon’s leadership that the future law (RA 10575) will be formulated. He organized a unit under his office to conduct a study and draft a legislative proposal for the improvement of corrective services in the country. He was however replaced and his proposal was paralyzed.
2010- Gen Ernesto Diokno; PPA Manuel Co; NBI Asst director Rafael Ragos: Diokno’s term was abbreviated when the Leviste case blew on his face. He has as yet to check the profile of prison management when he was haunted by pressure groups headed by media until he was forced to resign. PPA Manuel Co assumed for a while. Co was still reviewing the reports when he was replaced by NBI Deputy Rafael Ragos. The problem of drug in NBP and Leyte came to his attention. He followed the same approach made before by transferring inmates involved in drugs in NBP to Sablayan Penal Colony. He was still reviewing the effects of the transfer when he was replaced.
2011-Gen Gaudencio Pangilinan (DOJ. Sec. Leila Delima): Gen Pangilinan’s administration continued the approach of Gen Calderon in dealing with institutional problems. He pushed a program for the improvement and renovation of various institutional facilities. He even formulated a road map for the agency to fulfill in 10 years’ time (through Bucor Road Map 20-22). He renovated the NBP administration edifice and made it a prestigious facility worthy of note.
Former Director Calderon’s legislative study for a new law on corrections was revived during this term. Director Pangilinan further enhanced the statutory references to include his Road Map into the legislative formulation.
2012- Gen Gaudencio Pangilinan: It was also under his administration that he allowed the renovation of prison facilities to be initiated by gangs. It was a period of a self-imposed cleanliness and beautification campaign among prisoners. Construction of additional structures was noted during this period. There was no violence and the entire maximum wing had witnessed almost a total facelift. It was during this term when PNoy and DOJ officials conducted their official visit of NBP and were treated to an instructive inspection of a reconditioned facility. The prison leadership’s aggressive posture in refurbishing offices and impressive display of expensive reconstruction projects however caused a media stir which later evolved into an issue of scandalous proportion. Charges on questionable deals and contracts marred the administration. As a consequence, the Director was relieved and replaced.
2013- Gen Franklin Bucayu: The structural restoration during the previous administration was also as a period when there were noticeable excesses. “Kubols” made of quality materials were discovered to have been constructed indicating “VIP” accommodation. Gen. Bucayu inherited long years of security negligence until gang competition for superiority becomes the order of the day. Gen Bucayu spent three months of correctional immersion before he could determine the proper approaches. In three months’ time (average period a new director learns the rope, so to speak), gangs had made adjustments and had started to mount their initiation on the new appointee. A baptism of fire is usually projected in terms of deaths, violence, escape attempts and rumors of riots.
It was at this period when RA 10575 has been signed into law by the President. Bucor was directed to submit its references to DOJ for the drafting of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the law’s immediate application.
2014- Gen Franklin Bucayu: There was increment of prison deaths and violence. A truce among warring and competing gangs were called. An inventory of newly constructed facilities including numerous gadgets were determined. Regular shakedowns were implemented and security restrictions imposed. “Kubols” were taken down and made into regular prison cells. Most of these structures were transformed into art workshops, classrooms, libraries, barbershops—-to encourage inmates to gain a skill and skip vices. These Activity Centers were also organized to lure inmates away from gang related activities that border on illegal drug use and other vices. Prison leadership recommended for the mass transfer of inmates to penal colonies to rectify overcrowding and illicit activities as follow through to earlier recommendation. To bolster the move to decentralize prison population, the prison leadership recommended for a massive shakedown on the maximum security facility by a DOJ Composite team which revealed excesses by prisoners.
A composite team led by DOJ conducted a shakedown on the maximum security wing of the penitentiary and crack down on contrabands and other prohibited items.
Gang leaders and those identified as “drug lords” were bundled up and transferred to NBI detention facilities. Threats flew thick and wide.
Prison administration and DOJ were confronted by media on the effect of the shakedown and made to explain their findings. Unable to satisfy public bashing, prison leadership handed over his resignation.
2015- Gen Ranier Cruz (Doj Sec. Alfredo Caguioa) Under Cruz administration, he continued with the regular shakedown and gave it a crusading lapel “Oplan Galugad.” And the crusade, emboldened by a successful yield of various contrabands became periodic and almost a daily security affair. Media has been furnished with blow by blow account. The shakedown consumed much of security time and yielded almost the same number of contrabands leading towards a questionable process that seems to replicate the same activity over and over again. The effort looked like an amusing cycle and recycling although media has cast a doubting appreciation of the activity.
Those inmates previously detained in NBI has been transferred back to NBP and safely kept in a newly reconstructed segregation facility at the back of the maximum wing. Despite continued raid and shakedown, contrabands were still smuggled in.
2016- Gen Ranier Cruz (DOJ Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre) Gen. Cruz was replaced by PNP Chief Superintendent Rolando Asuncion. Under the new dispensation, around 100 elements of SAF took over the security ring of NBP maximum security camp and around 200 prison officers sent to PNPA in Camp Vicente Lim for a two week re-orientation course.
2016- OIC Rolando Asuncion (DoJ Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre)
National Issues and the Prison Service
Ironically, the Prison Service has grabbed national attention when it was bruited out that illegal drugs are manufactured inside the prison camp. Accordingly, there is even a tunnel where high grade drugs are mixed and processed. In that, imprisoned drug lords can still manage the distribution and circulation of the drug trade with impunity inside the confines of their well-furnished prison cells through high definition and state of the art cellular phones. There were information leading to a network where druglords were given protection by police generals, local government executives and cabinet functionaries.
Lately, there was even a so called drug matrix indicating that illegal drugs are smuggled inside prison from Northern Luzon.
While all these impressions, excesses or products of negligence can be handled effectively through regular shakedowns which security administration has pursued, tapping media to create a stir and expose the prison community to public hatred and ridicule to get publicity traction is already, in the estimation of reasonable play, unfair and uncalled for.
Furthermore, everyone in the correctional service was primed to be judicious because of the recent passage of the Anti-torture Act (of 2009). RA 9745 (Anti-torture Act of 2009) recognizes torture as a separate crime and provides a number of important guarantees to aid torture survivors seeking redress. To be at the other end of prison hatred and complaint is a career ending option for officers.
Yet despite security advice to maintain the privacy and sanctity of personal lives of inmates if at all it will be shown for public viewing and aggravation, prison leadership along with DOJ administration has decided to light the fuse of controversy by exposing to the world through media the personal demons of the prison community. All kinds of negative impressions circulated as hell broke loose. Suddenly, the world hated ALL prisoners for the excesses of a few. Suddenly, the entire agency became the butt of jokes.
Lately, it has even made as a scenic background to charge a former high government official, a Cabinet official no less, playing footsie with drug traders. A case of drag to riches, or from obscurity to electricity. When the Secretary of Justice and the Director of Corrections was advised properly that exposing the prison community and its rotten effects to the world is impertinent as it would merely affect also adversely the innocent, the appetite for 15 minute fame could not be ignored. Good or bad publicity is publicity. Whoever would do that, as the belief goes; it would be some kind of a highlight and talk of the town. The advisers of the Secretary of Justice to go to the jugular and reveal the rotten prison system of a specific corner would make a projection of her as savior and therefore may spike her name recall as soon as the bell of election campaign starts to ring.
Well, hell broke loose. Speculation flew thick from everywhere. The prison agency was besieged with memes and unforgiving attacks and humiliating insults. The impression that prison was five star hotel and a high end hub of inmates, that the facility has become a community fit for the royalty, with giant TV screens, Jacuzzi bath, perfume, stacks of cash, firearms, illegal drugs constantly flowing to the merriment of the entire prison population. That was what was projected and the Secretary of Justice and her staff were there to expose and stop it. It was a mere stain in the entire fabric but the impression it created was a collective blemish on the entire curtain.
After the usual congratulatory tap on the shoulder by media among those who figured in the raid comes the succeeding query. People has begun to ask how come DOJ allowed what has been cursed, like the proliferation of drugs, to go unchecked during the period of their term. How come druglords can still lord it over and seek protective assurances, even privileges, from their guardians? Why are druglords virtually allowed to conduct their nefarious business even if they are supposed to be recluse? There are numerous questions, institutional problems which have already been resolved through legislation. Congress and eventually the national leadership issued RA 10595 otherwise known as the Bureau of Corrections Act of 1913.
Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013
RA 10595 is the prescribed medicine that could cure what ails Bucor. It was passed by Congress in 2012 and was approved by the President in 2013. The law studied seriously all the issues that afflict the correctional system from congestion to contraband control, from prison movement to personnel administration, so on and so forth. Had it been implemented, there would have been no scandal that would rock a significant sector in the criminal justice administration. Instead of applying the new law, it got snagged. It merely staggered on the corridors of power. People who are supposed to be knowledgeable in translating the law into real terms could not get their acts together. Instead of curing what afflicts the system, they merely exposed it to the world.
And rightly so, the world responded with shock. Issues which were discussed in the halls of Congress which merited the drafting of a legislative measure were once again in the limelight, this time in the raw. Corrections has been seen as terribly sick. But of course it is. That is the reason why Congress and the President issued the law, RA 10575. How come, three years and several whacking incidents, controversies and humiliating situations against a government agency later, the law is still in limbo, is beyond everyone’s imagination.
Bucor Act of 2013 intends to solve a major challenge in corrections but it is never implemented at all. It is as if exposing the ills, uncovering defects, baring controversies and divulging rotten practices could provide a cleansing process to a system. By ignoring or bypassing the law (RA 10575) we merely rejoice at seeing an ailment proceed from chronic stage towards its fatal end.
Just like in a pseudo hospital setting. A sick person is never given a medication. And when he turns to worse, the nurses and attendants are blamed.
It is hoped and fervently prayed that government should apply the law, RA 10575 (or revise it if it does conform to partisan or political policy) or amend it if not totally change it altogether. We know for a fact that prison administration is stale and defective. We cannot treat and restore to good health without medication or legislative intervention. That precisely is the reason why RA 10575 has been issued. We cannot succeed in the mandate of correctional administration by blaming everyone or hope for miraculous assistance.
But first things first. The prison leader, he who knows more and he who knows best, must be adhered to because he must implement whatever the law says. And the law is just waiting for its implementation.
If there is any beating a government agency may have undergone, it was the Bureau of Corrections that received the grandest whipping. Well, to be whipped is actually an understatement. Bucor was whacked!
It was a combination of politics, something personal, a bit crusading and a lot of controversy that made Bucor, what it was, as a staple of primetime news. Accordingly, Bucor is where all drugs were coming from. It was in the seedy corner of the penitentiary where circulation of drugs in the country is being administered. Illegal drugs were manufactured in some dingy tunnels within the prison camp. Worst, imprisoned drug lords were protected by police generals, local government executives and cabinet functionaries. From the highlighted drug matrix, there were networks where narco funds were deposited and gave away a linkage which is explosive and at the same time humiliating. All these, it has been said, were conducted within the confines of Bucor.
And because of the debasement which Bucor got, a number of its security personnel were all shipped to the police academy for refresher courses. Custodial management has been taken over by the Special Forces of the Philippine National Police. Prison administration went back to basic—-no frills, no activities, all penance.
As it has been commanded, prison round the clock activity revolves around mandatory headcounts in between hours within the specific dormitory where the inmates are designated. Visitations are restricted. Prison movements highly regimented. Civilian prison officers are also conscripted in various security related programs. Everything about corrections has been reviewed, amended and revised as far as institutional administration is concerned.
If there is any sector in government that has been affected by the changes brought about by political modifications, it is corrections. And it makes sense. In 2013, a law was passed, RA 10595 otherwise known as the Bureau of Corrections Act. It addressed most of that which ail the system. Since then, the law got snagged and was stranded. One controversy after another took over and one day, Bucor was at the guillotine about to be decapitated. Nobody raised the issue that there is a game changer law about to be applied. Silence virtually ruined the day for corrections.
Everyone with moistened eye on politics has used prison affairs to jumpstart electoral advantage, this at the expense of privacy, that which can be resolved without humiliating the prison community. Thereafter, it becomes not only the whipping boy but the scapegoat of everything that is bad about government service. Truly, Bucor has reached rock bottom as far as integrity is concerned.
But there is still a silver lining. The Bucor Act of 2013 is still a beacon worthy of appreciating. As the old adage goes, if one has reached the limits down below, there is only one option left, natural law says, there is no way but up.
Noong taon 1989, ang bahay namin sa Quezon City ay pinasok ng mga masasamang tao at ang nakakalungkot pa ay dinatnan nila doon ang nanay ko na mag-isa lang. Itinali nila ang kamay ng magulang ko sa pamamagitan ng lubid na nylon na parang hayop na mabangis, ang mata ay piniringan, hinalughug ang buong kabahayan at pagkatapos nito ay walang habas na pinagsasaksak ng 17 beses hanggang sa mawalan ng hininga ang kanilang dinatnan. Pumanaw si nanay sa edad na 59. Wala siyang kagalit at bihira lang lumabas ng bahay. Siya ay sakitin at kagagaling lang sa pagka-stroke, kaya mahina pa, hindi makatayo, pabulong pa ang boses at malabo ang paningin. Anong klaseng tao, kung tao man into, ang gagawa ng ganung bagay. Kung sana ay nanlaban ang nanay ko, o di kaya ay sumigaw o tumakbo maari pang nagalit ang mga salarin. Sa aking pagsusuri, may kinalaman sa ganitong pagkakataon ang pagkalulong sa droga ng mga gumawa nito.
Saglit lang nabanggit ang pangyayari sa pahayagan. Wala man lang ni isang taga gobyerno, taga Human Rights Office man lang, mga relihiyosong grupo na nagpahayag ng pagkagulat o pagkabahala sa naganap. Maliban lang sa aming pamilya at ilang kaibigan, kami ay lubos na naulila. Halos mistulang pulubi ako na nanlilimos ng tulong sa pulisya samantalang sa gobyerno na ako nagtatrabaho. May konting gumalaw pero mas lamang pa ang maka-awa kaysa sa pagkilos. Sa madaling salita, wala din nangyari. Nailibing ang nanay ko sa gitna ng pighati, at nailibing na rin sa limot ang karumaldumal na pangyayari sa talaan ng krimen sa pulisya.
Ilang araw ang nakaraan ng mabalitaan ko naman na may mga napaslang na tao kalapit sa aming lugar. Limang kabataang lalaking tadtad ng tattoo ang katawan, gusgusin ang damit ang nakabulagta sa gitna ng kalye. Silang lima ay tatad din ng sasak sa ulo, katawan at paanan at nangangamoy alak pa. Nakakalat din sa paligid nila ang 3 itak,2 sumpak,bungkos ng tali at ilang pitaka na may ibat ibang ID. Sila tumutugon sa ilang descriptions ng mga taong uma-aligid sa aming lugar tuwing madaling araw. Ito ay pinatotohanan ng ilang mga kapitbahay namin na may tindahan dahil gising na sila sa ganun oras. Wala nga lang makapagturo kung itong mga napaslang man ang may kinalaman sa krimen na naganap sa amin.
Umani ito ang sari-saring reaksyon sa sambayanan. Madaming nagimbal at nabahala. Noon ko lang nalaman na talagang may Commission of Human Rights pala. Alarmado sila sa nangyari. Noon ko rin napagmasdan na may aktibong pulisya sa aming lugar. Napag alaman ko rin na may Barangay pala na nangangasiwa ng katahimikan sa aming distrito. Halos nasa pahayagan at telebisyon ang nangyari. Madaming naawa sa limang katao na mukhang homeless. Madaming aktibista ang nagalit sa pamahalaan dahil ito aniya ay example ng salvaging na naman. Mga taga simbahan ay nagdagsaan para ipagdasal ang mga napaslang sa lansangan. At dahil sa meron TV coverage, may biglang nagpakitang pari na kunway nagbabasbas sa lugar.
Ang lipunan natin nga naman.
Sa kasalukuyan bagamat ilang taon na ang nakakalipas, nararamdaman ko pa rin ang sitwasyon ng kapwa ko biktima ng karumaldumal na krimen. Kahit na hindi pa sabihing grabe, basta krimen. Karamihan sa ating mga mamamayan ay naging biktima na ng krimen at ang ilan, hindi na siguro masugpo, ay ninais na rin sumama na sa sindikato at gumawa na rin ng krimen. Sabi nga if you cannot beat them, join them. Pero napakarami pa rin ang may konsyesiyang mamamayan ang ipagkikibit na lang ng balikat ang nangyari sa kanila, magdarasal na lang na makarma tumira sa kanila o magiging sobra ingat sa lahat ng bagay to the point na wala na siyang magawang kahanga-hanga.
Lumalabas sa mga nagaganap na pangyayari ay mga pabaya ang mga nagiging biktima. Parang sila pa ang may kasalanan. May magnanakaw daw kasi naman meron mananakaw. May namamatay kasi mahina sila at hindi kayang ipagtanggol ang sarili. May nare-rape dahil hindi maingat. May naloloko dahil hindi nakakaintindi. Para bang ang lipunan ay sadyang itinayo para sa mga malulupit at walang habas sa pagmamalabis sa kapwa.
May mga pulitikong halos ay ganyan na ang kaisipan.
Kaya naman kung may pagkakataon sa ating kasaysayan na may magtanggol o isulong ang isang himagsikan, panibagong liderato man ito o vigilante, na lipulin ang masasamang tao—- silang sira na ang pag iisip, wala na halos konsyensiya, parang zombie; ang ganitong paghihiganti ay tiyak na igagalang at hahangaan ng karamihan ng taong bayan—- silang mga tahimik, silang mga walang kibo, silang gumaganap ng parehas at tama sa ating lipunan. Sila ang nakararami bagamat hindi nga lang sila ang malalakas ang boses.
Ano pa’t umaabot na sa libo-libong namamatay dahil sa may kaugnayan sa droga ay lihim ito na kinatutuwa ng madlang lipunan. Meron din naman nalulungkot lalo na yun hindi pa nabibiktima. O di kaya ang hanap buhay nila ay asikasuhin ang makasalanan. Pero gaya ko o kaming nakararami na mamamayan, ang himagsikan na sinimulan ng kasalukuyang gobyerno ay sapat na para maramdaman ang hustisyang aming sinisipat-sipat.
Totoong may kinalaman ang pagkamatay o pagkalagas ng hanay ng mga nagdodroga sa pagbaba ng bilang sa krimen. Sino nga naman ang pupugot ng ulo ng kapitbahay mo kundi yun lulon sa bawag na gamut; maliban lang kung katabi ng bahay mo ang kampo ng Abu Sayaf o di kaya nasa kalapit mo ang isang nagbabakasyon galing Syria na membro ng ISIS!
Kaya naman nasa tamang daan ang tinatahak ng ating gobyerno.
Human Rights? Sa totoo lang, ito ay dapat para sa mga humans lang. Pero kung umaastang hindi tao ang isang mukhang nilalang, nararapat lang bilang karapatan ng isang tao ang ipagtanggol ang sarili laban sa mga pwersa na hindi na gumagalang sa kapwa tao. Kung mamarapatin nga lang ang dapat gumanap bilang kawani ng Commission of Human Rights ay mga membro ng vigilante ng sa ganon mapangalagaan nila ang kapakanan ng lahat ng mamamayan laban sa mga kriminal.
Yan ang tunay na Human Rights!
Kung bagaman sa sinehan, ang huling programa sa gabi ay tinatawag na “Last Full Show.” Pagkatapos nyan ay uwian na at ang teatro naman ay magsasara na. Ganyan din ang sitwasyon ng tao. Pagdating sa edad na 50 pataas, lalo na yun nasa mahigit ng 60 (gaya ko at sampu ng aking mga kaibigan, colleague dati sa trabaho at mga kaklase) nasa kalagayang “last full show” na rin.
Masuerte ang umabot ng lagpas 60, lalo nay un nasa edad na 70 o mahigit sa 80. Yun nasa 90 pataas, miski na malakas at maayos pa ang pangagatawan, andiyan naman ang mga degenerative ailments sa nerves at brain o yun tinatawag na Alzeimers or pagiging malilimutin. Talagang hanggang diyan na talaga ang tao. Meron exceptional pero generally speaking walang lumalagpas ng 90, kalimitan nga lang nasa linya ng 60 at 70.
Matapos ang ganitong serye, panibagong henerasyon naman ang pumapalit. Nasa ala-ala na lang nabubuhay ang mga punanaw.
Maliban lang sa mga drug pushers!
Mga sumakabilang buhay ng bata pa ay puro sa aksidente or malubhang sakit. Andiyan si John Lennon, napaslang sa edad na 40. Si Elvis Presley naman namatay sa edad na 44 naatake sa puso. Si Michael Jackson sa edad na 50 nasobrahan sa gamut. Si Paul Walker, magaling na artista na gumanap na race car driver sa Fast and Furious, namatay sa edad na 40 sa aksidente ng sasakyan. Si Amy Winehouse, 5 beses nagawaran ng Grammy Awards, namatay sa edad na 27 sa pag inom ng alak. Baka panis yung nainom na alak!
Swerte si Dolphy dahil sa edad na 84 siya pumanaw. Hindi katulad ni Diomedes Maturan, ang Perry Como ng Piipinas, sa edad na 62 inatake na sa puso. Si Jess Lapid, kasagsagan ng pagkakilala sa kanya bilang action star ay napaslang sa edad na 35.
Si Bruce Lee, namatay sa pag inom ng sobrang gamut sa edad na 32, sa kasagsagan ng kanyang pagka sikat sa pelikula. Si Steve Jobs pumanaw sa edad na 56 habang siya ang kinikilalang bantog na imbentor ng Apple at mga programa sa internet na nagpalaganap ng malawakang kaalaman para sa mga nilalang ng mundo. Si Heath Ledger, bantog na batang artista ay pumanaw sa edad na 28. At marami pang iba kabilang na rin ang Mahal na Hesu Kristo sa edad na 33 at si Gat Jose Rizal sa ganung edad din.
Ang kasalukuyang henerasyon ay napaka -swerte. Noong araw, kapag umabot 50 ang isang tao ay kahanga-hanga na. Ngayon normal lang na umabot hanggang 80 pataas. Kasalukuyan din nalilibang ang karamihan sa dami ng kaalaman na nakatago at napakahirap tuklasin noong araw. Ngayon pupuntahan mo lang ang YouTube at ituturo na lahat ng gusto mong gawin at gusto mong linawin o gusto mong panoorin o pakinggan. Kung gusto mo naman alamin ang isang komplikadong bagay, hindi ka na dapat pumunta sa ibat ibang lugar para mag library o magsaliksik, sa internet lang Google, meron ka na kagad ideya kung ano ang iyong sinasaliksik.
Ang kaalaman ay madaling ng matuklasan. Halos wala ng sikreto sa ating mundo. Nabawasan na rin ang misteryong bumabalot sa ating mga paniniwala at natira na lang ay mga pawang ritwal at tradisyon.
Mahirap tumanda noong araw. Ngayon ang pagtanda ay puno ng adventures at kasiyahan. Miski na sabihin pa na “Last full show” puno pa rin ito ng excitements at thrills. Noong araw ang palabas ay mabagal at malabo pa. Ngayon, bukod sa High Definition, ang lahat ng projections ay favorable sa senses, at madaling maunawaan at nabibigyan pa ang karampatang respeto ang isipan. Meron pa ngang tinagurian virtual reality. Halos wala ng komplikado sa panahon ngayon.
Kung sa kaalaman lang and pinag uusapan, ang nabubuhay sa ngayong panahon ay halos alam na rin ang buod ng kaganapan sa darating na 500 taon pa. Kaya ang “last full show” ay masasabing “the show must go on!” pa rin.
Like a game of Chess, PhP Du30’s latest move—-on declaring vacant all appointive positions in government—is considered a brilliancy. It has never been made before neither has it been explored nor contemplated. Everybody knows that appointive positions are largesse for the politicians. It is there as political reward during the campaign or for whatever loyal projections it may repay. For those in government or those wishing government to be the paragon of ideal public service, they merely have to grin and bear it. Political appointees are the bane, the curse so to speak in government service.
Du30 gambit checkmates government corruption in just one move!
Political appointments are reward positions whether it is admitted or not. That is the reason why when a political appointee assumes his post, his instinct naturally would guide him towards that which made his designation possible—the reward part. And the rewarding part of his position, the unspoken language between appointee and his benefactor—-sounds, smells and looks like corruption in a perfumery. The appointee gets the commission on every transaction there is. He even can formulate measures to make mandatory any procedure that would also make something for him. After his term, it is presumed that he has already recoup whatever expenses, sacrifices or dole outs he may have expended during the campaign period. Corruption, his only means and the only political favor allowed, would have bled government coffers and his constituencies towards hardship. Whatever, there is exchange of favor given, it is even steven from the vantage point of fairness. Meanwhile, government service is rendered in filth, awashed with abuses and irregularities until another batch of political appointees take over the reins and the cycle goes unspoiled.
Only an exceptional few political appointees can be said to have responded well to their calling.
PhP Du30’s brilliant move is unparalleled and may have instantly earned him the proverbial label as a great administrator, the best government leader there is or even as a national hero! Before his ascension to national consciousness, public service is projected in a mentality “tapos na kayo, kami naman” or “kumita na kayo, kami naman” and these are all predicated on corrupt if not inefficient, lackadaisical performance. The public, the clientele is at the far end always, their interest merely uttered during campaign period but after the election, the same seal of frustrations are recycled until the next election is scheduled once again.
PhP Du30 is correct. Even in the absence of political appointees, government service will still function. And this might surprise the skeptics even more because government service may even function better if not exceptional without the appointees. Why not? Those who would take over are career officers who grew up in the institution, knew the vagaries and problems for years, and they have the commitment and devotion to resolve problem areas without even thinking of a reward. Suffice it to say that their smooth retirement in the service is the only rewarding option they can be proud of to receive.
I doff my hat to a great leader! Kudos! Your move made all your predecessors as amateurs.
It tastes like ham and cheese or donuts with coffee. It is very much peach and cream, quiet and blue, faith and reason. It requires concentration, a lot of anticipation, thrilling moments, handful of suspense and bucketful of surprises. This is where blunder means sloppiness, carelessness and inordinate negligence. There is also brilliancy. Chess which originated in India before the 7th century was the most enjoyable mindsport civilized man could embrace however in a fleeting manner rivaled by FB though. No other being outside of his specie can play it well except latter day computers! It is a relaxing activity. And the beauty of every game is not in winning as I learned lately but in losing.
A lot of my friends, peers and colleagues are chess players and they are not the ordinary kind. They play like ranking gamers if not as grandmasters. They are oftentimes ahead of five moves than the regular competitor. And they can easily “check-mate” anyone without giving them the decency of resigning. They are that shrewd when it comes to playing chess. They are unforgiving, almost cruel and less generous.
Chess has been a passion for them, a time filler, an ice breaker, a mood qualifier, an appetizer. Every figment of reality is viewed as if it is a piece of woodwork on the chessboard. And they allocate a period in a day to sharpen their moves. That spells a lot of discipline, a lot of self-control, a lot of sacrifices. In every game of chess, it is impossible to win without gambit, scheme, maneuver and most of all without sacrificing. One learns the art of surrendering with poise more than winning with confidence.
During my high school years, I was almost on top of the chess totem pole in our parish church where I was an acolyte. Great chess players, most of them seminarians, would find time challenging everyone in the convent and that was where I started to earn my spur. I could beat the oldest of them, the elder parish priest himself including his retinue of chess aficionados. The Chess Invitational in the parish did not push through because they assigned me as screener. Participants must pass through me. Unfortunately, nobody has beaten me even if I am “queen less.” That was the time when the religious almost banned chess in the abbey. I became a pariah. No one was playing chess out in the open as long as I was around. I was left holding an empty bag. With no one to play with, my chess acumen and interest waned.
Like any sports activity without practice the player becomes dull and rusted. And I underwent such an unfortunate predilection. I have almost forgotten the routine. Government service that stretched for almost four decades virtually removed the predator in all my chess moves. Worst, there are even programs in computers which one could use in competing and which are unforgiving. Before, the books would show the way and manually, the player would copy the fight on his chessboard. Now, there is a Grandmaster edition which anyone can play with to sharpen his moves.
And as soon as I retired, I plucked out the program from my file and went ahead to challenge a built-in ranking player. I was a bit sloppy at first but as soon as our pieces are colliding on the board, the beast in me was slowly manifesting. I won the game! The first in several years since I played really serious was predated during my juvenile years yet. Old and without practice, I cannot believe that I won.
And then, with much time and no stress related work, I again played. Well, the machine must have sensed my moves and probably studied my various strategies. The second game I lost. The third came and the fourth, the fifth and the sixth, all of which I lost. It is not losing through weak moves, I lost because of the superior moves of the program!
It is here that I realized that it is more fulfilling to lose than win. My threshold of pain increased. My patience extended. My forbearance stretched out. And it is in losing that the mind is whipped in adrenaline strengthening recall and making the memory robust with lessons.
That is correct; as I play chess, while expecting to win, I am also surely excited enough to lose. Right now, I appreciate and get much cerebral inspiration in losing.
If indeed we believe PhPrexy Du30 declared a war on drugs as a mere political propaganda, then we are all mistaken. His declaration has been made and we are actually in the midst of war. In war, the only sad part is the so called collateral damage. In war, everything is fair game, including fairness and innocence. There is no such thing as selective war or a cautious one. In combat, any soldier would swear that he cannot dictate the grenade to explode only on his enemy and that shrapnel should evade the bystanders.
And the President is candid about it. He even imposed a period, a deadline. Accordingly, the war will commence as soon as he assumes the national leadership up until about three months onwards to six if necessary, then his administration will check whether the war made a dent or has resolved anything at all.
And so the battle lines are made. Enemies has been spotted, marked and identified. There were even efforts to telegraph to the enemy lines that war will begin and that areas should be cleared and those at the other end must capitulate. That is one of the kindest tact the war could offer. Outside of that, it will be bloody, unforgiving and inexorable. From the Presidential pulpit, came the pronouncement that war is a relentless crusade to be waged by the armed apparatus of the State.
War is war and anything in between is subject. If there is anything that would favor those in the midst of the war, it is not the fence sitter or the collaborator, only those favored by luck. It is akin to the person who is fortunate; one who bought a ticket from the lottery on the belief that he would win, tongue in cheek, and then wins it! Only a few survives and so many perish in the process. But that is what war is all about. I fear the word itself!
Forget good manners, forget human rights, forget right conduct for a while.
Government is determined to have the upper hand. It has the resources and organization to boot. It must have the resolve and audacity to see its completion. It has the initiative, although belated since the previous administration merely took a glance on the situation, but there is still time and the only factor that will make the war a lasting one is the credibility and integrity of the one leading it.
The consequence of losing the war betrays the future of the country. If government becomes a narco state then everything is in shambles. Every transaction is marked with bias and prejudice. Those leading could no longer profess justice and those enforcing fairness will merely be paragons of inequality.
Sometime past, China was a prosperous tea exporting nation when Europe traded opium to make Chinese subservient to their economic requirements. During ancient times, Europe was almost dependent on tea from China that the latter intended to mark up the cost. Europe was infuriated at the yellow race. In effect, they exported hallucinating hemps into China so that a drug crazed China would not have the intelligence to argue and compete. In a brief period, the ruling dynasty of China felt the effects of the mind-altering substances until history recorded the so called Opium war among Chinese population. It was during this period that the great helmsman Mao Zedong led a ragtag army of rebels bannering communism and took over the reins of government. A war on drugs was ruthlessly waged, thousands were executed and China was saved from wanton destruction. The Reds won. The rest is history.
A war on drugs has historical antecedents and we might as well learn from it. This government is on the brink of a crisis as determined by national leadership. There is a need for a strong response, not the wishy washy kind, not the indecisive manner and vacillating way. If at all there must be a war then so be it. There will be sacrifices; there will surely be damages on every front. God forbid even the guiltless may be doomed. But what are important in the course are the benefits which the succeeding generation, our grandchildren, their children and families, would out rightly gain.
Singapore was a backwater protruding pier in the 50s but with a credible and crusading leadership effectively commanded the city-state into what it is today, a miracle of a nation almost as developed as any advanced country in the world.
Forget how we are. Our society badly needs redemption. Let us think of our loved ones’ future. That way they can say that we have done something for them.
When I learned from my father’s contemporaries that my father saved truckloads of suspected guerrillas in San Pedro, Laguna who were scheduled for execution by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, I thought that government should recognize such heroism. My father has that special skill of learning a language easily at a young age and he used that to such advantage by arguing with the Kempetai, assuring that those they arrested were not rebels but ordinary farmers and fisher folks in the area. The Japanese regiment released hundreds on the basis of my father’s explanation in Nippongo and from there on, on my father’s watch, the invading army never bothered the provincial folks in that part of Laguna anymore.
I thought that my father deserves to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, although he is interred at the exclusive Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina alongside my mother and only sister. But of course that is mere wishful thinking. History is not made of physical structures but more about social consciousness.
The Presidential Burial
It has been decided that former President Ferdinand E. Marcos who died of kidney, heart and lung ailments while in exile in Honolulu, Hawaii in September 28, 1989 at the age of 72 will finally be interred in the “Libingan ng mga Bayani.”
From the time of his death, Marcos was interred in a private mausoleum at Byodo-In Temple on the island of Oahu where his remains were visited daily by the Marcos family, political allies and friends.
As of 2015 his remains were interred inside a refrigerated crypt in Ilocos Norte, where his wife, Imelda, son, Ferdinand Jr., and eldest daughter, Imee have since become elected political leaders in their respective turfs.
Political animosity however made it difficult for the Marcos family to pursue the burial of their patriarch in the Libingan ng mga Bayani until the Du30 administration came into light.
it has been said that Marcos during his lifetime was so preoccupied with his role in history that he made every effort to portray himself always in a heroic manner. He rewrote Philippine History through the books he authored including an ideology which he applied in the course of what he termed as “constitutional authoritarianism” a cover for Martial Law indicating that the people need not worry except the oligarchs, criminal syndicates and the rebels.
While the country was under his dictatorial watch, he imposed discipline as a cultural highlight and built structures that would last and serve even after his term has ended. To his credit the Heart Center for Asia, Lung Center, Kidney Center of the Philippines, Cultural Center of the Philippines, National Highway, San Juanico Bridge were just a few of the lasting legacy he left behind serving the general population.
Until politics intervened. And he was pictured in a manner depicting villainy.
Libingan ng mga Bayani
Heroes’ Cemetery, also officially known as Libingan ng mga Bayani in Tagalog, is a Philippine national cemetery within Fort Bonifacio (formerly the American Fort William McKinley) in Western Bicutan, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
It was established as a fitting resting place for Filipino military personnel from privates to generals, as well as Filipino heroes and martyrs. Among those buried in the cemetery are most of the defenders of May 1942 (during World War II), and those who fought in various battlefields of the Allied Liberation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. It also contains the national Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is established as the Filipino counterpart to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, which houses the remains of United States personnel who died during the same war.
It was first established on May 1947 as the Republic Memorial Cemetery. It was then renamed to its current name on 27 October 1954 by President Ramon Magsaysay.
Philippine presidents Elpidio Quirino, Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal; vice presidents Arturo Tolentino and Salvador H. Laurel; national heroes of the Philippines; generals Artemio Ricarte and Carlos P. Romulo; Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes; and senator Blas Ople are also buried in the cemetery.
On the cemetery’s entrance it is written: “I do not know the dignity of his birth, but I do know the glory of his death.”
According to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Regulation The Allocation of Cemetery Plots at the LNMB issued on 9 April 1986 by former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos and President Corazon C. Aquino, along with members of the military, the following persons are entitled to be interred at Heroes’ Cemetery:
*Medal of Valor awardees
*Presidents or Commanders-in-Chief, AFP
*The secretaries of National Defense
*AFP Chiefs of Staff, General/Flag Officers, active and retired military personnel, and former AFP members who laterally entered/joined the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)
*Veterans of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, the First and Second World Wars, as well as recognized guerrillas
*Government dignitaries, statesmen, national artists and other deceased persons whose interment has been approved by the commander-in-chief, Congress or the Secretary of National Defense, and
*Former Presidents, Secretaries of National Defense, widows of former Presidents, *Secretaries of National Defense and Chiefs of Staff
However, those who were dishonorably separated, reverted, or discharged from the service, and those who were convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude cannot be buried at the cemetery.
The former President FE Marcos was never convicted at all. There are still cases pending but nothing has spelled conviction yet. Well, except for the Guinness Book of Record (which featured him as a bad guy) which is not a legal instrument at all but more of a data spiel.
National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines
Republic Act 289 or An Act Providing for the Construction of a National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes, and Patriots of the Country created the Board on National Pantheon. The law was enacted on 16 June 1948. However, such a pantheon has yet to be erected.
A Religious View
A spiritual pundit once challenged a follower with a hypothetical question. What if, according to him, the Pope issues an encyclical requiring all Churches and Temples to set a special corner for Judas Iscariot to be venerated along with Saints, notwithstanding betrayal but on the basis that he was once an active Apostle? Will that be acceptable to the Catholic laity? Is it blasphemous or heretical? Coming as it were from the See, will it gain adherence among the faithful? I don’t know. Perhaps it may be reckoned although for two thousand years, this idea has never been explored. This may also be a syllogism which is applicable in venerating heroes too.
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost “ says an activist and I believe it too. My father, myself and my friends in the Correctional System have done it and even if we are not recognized, worst even misunderstood, we never wished for heroism. But one thing is sure. Our deeds will never be forgotten nor buried in any Libingan. It will always find its repose in the hearts of our friends and loved ones.
During the wake of my father, a longtime friend and a neighbor came. He just arrived from Uganda where he was an OFW contractual worker for almost 5 years. He was architect-engineer and assigned by a US firm to certify if UN assisted infrastructure projects have been completed. It was a rewarding job except that he was always on the field right where the local community resides.
It was a near shocking, almost shuddering experience for him. We had a very interesting conversation.
“Kamusta pareng Ador ang buhay OFW?”
“Naku, pareng Ven, hanggang hindi ka makarating sa ibang bansa, hindi mo talaga mamahalin ang sarili mong bansa.”
“Mukhang matinding bansa yung napuntahan mo yata, sa Africa ba yun pare?”
“Pareng Ven, ang mahihirap doon ay talagang mahirap. Kung ikukumpara mo mahirap dito sa Pinas, and poor dito ang pinaka middle class na nila doon!”
“Buti hindi ka kinain doon Pareng Ador!”
“Hindi naman Pareng Ven, hehehe. Alam mo pare dito ang pangarap ng mahihirap ay magkaroon ng sariling bahay, pirmis na trabaho, maayos na pagkain. Doon pare, hindi ka maniwala, ang pangarap lang ng mga tao ay magkaroon lang ng kulambo!”
“Hahaha, tangina naman pareng Ador, baka naman sa ospital ng may sayad yung napuntahan mo!”
“Hindi pareng Ven, talagang ordinaryong community yun doon. Walang makain ang tao doon kundi rasyon na galing sa gobyerno na puro munggo lang. Ang langaw dun kasing laki ng ipis natin. Kaya kung ang isang pamilya ay kakain o matutulog dapat nasa loob ng kulambo. Grabe ang kahirapan doon. Dito sa atin, ang pulubi kahit paano mukhang mabubuhay pa, doon pare, talagang naghihingalo na!”
“Sabagay pareng Ador, ang mahirap dito tumambay lang sa palengke, may pang ulam na, makakakain kahit paano. Pero dun sa napuntahan mo grabe pala ha??!!”
“Ay sinabi mo pa! Kaya nung lumapag ako dito sa airport natin, yun unang poste, poste yun pare ha, niyakap ko na kagad ng maiigi, iniyakan ko pa na parang kamag-anak, at sa paghagulgul ko, sinabi kong hindi ko na iiwan ang poste!”
It was a harrowing exposure especially for someone like my neighbor who virtually grew up in a community where being poor is a matter of choice and not as a destiny.
It dawned upon me the consciousness that indeed the “good life” is there in our own community of orientation. It is there where not only relatives but friends can easily be accessed. Well, at this point, distance is no longer a factor as it was in the past. There is FB to rectify the loose ends. And it means not only the good life, but a better one. So rejoice!