A Correctional Period
THE CORRECTIONAL PERIOD UNDER GEN VGV ADMINISTRATION
The blog in my former website Prisonwatch which I entitled “My Career profile during correctional periods” although published without comments , has been read somehow meriting a handful of responses. Accordingly, it is very personal. Well, for one, as the adjective “my” connotes, it is something personal. If in the course of its circulation, readers would find it very subjective then it fulfils its individual recollection. For those affected, especially the very people who were alluded to in the blog should, if at all they find it constructive to correct, may have it commented. That is what blogs are for in the first place. For readers to react—adversely or otherwise—to blog back so to speak. It need not be given any importance at all by those concerned but it is wise for those people, the followers mainly, to respond in defence of their misinterpreted leader or what could have been impressed as a disgraced or low-marked correctional period. The followers should respond to whatever has been there written about their collective term. The leader normally would choose good followers, brilliant ones to reflect the kind of brilliant character the leader possesses. These brilliant personalities should be there as vanguard, protecting the correctional period as if it is a sacred epoch. But where are these brilliant characters in the first place? In my blog “My Career profile…”, it inexorably noted the background condition of my agency as against my career development with emphasis, for lack of space or for purposes of highlighting, on my professional growth. How then these brilliant followers would perfunctorily fare in the same period? (Blogs are modern day journals or diaries kept and maintained as material for any interested historian. Blogs are usually, if maintained with a touch of scholarship, retained by such personalities with ideas (weird or otherwise) for their own (and his reader’s fascination or discomfort). Gen VGV’s individual team players ought to contribute also to level the playing field.)
In a reaction letter ,my blog was not understood in that term and that I should have been “objective (in) measuring the past BuCor directors based on their performance and contributions…”. If indeed my blog failed in that respect, the followers, those brilliant and chosen ones by the concerned leader should have come forward to submit their own blogs or comments stressing the leadership performance and accomplishment of their mentor. They should take the cudgels for the leader and correct what has been peddled rusely. Their brilliancy, the norms any leader would have used in selecting his followers, should have been heard. The blog was written several years ago and it has been there in cyberspace for quite sometime. There were numerous incidents and events that happened in between and could have changed the complexion of the blog meriting amendment or changes. But there were no comments to update and trigger the necessary update, well, until finally a letter came around. And no less than the leader himself was angered by the blog. Accordingly, he wrote and scolded “judged each of them (prison directors) subjectively according to your whims and caprices.”
A Correctional Period
Let me therefore respond not in the blog sense but in a manner how a historian would digress a specific period. The letter writer is former prison director Atty. Vicente G. Vinarao. This response does not intend to flare up or increase the ante of his rage over the blog but rather to discuss, this time along objective lines the correctional period on which he played the role as team leader. His followers should have been at hand to fulfil this discussion but they are nowhere—somewhere in life hereafter or someplace debunking the myth of their leader unfortunately. But let me be fair and exhibit professionalism if only to bring about a dissertation based on fact and reason.
Who are these imported brilliant lieutenants of former prison director VG Vinarao who made up the front line of his prison administration? Let us have a head count.
1. Franklin Vinarao 9. Supt Agalo-os
2. Alfredo Gozon: 10. Supt Poblacion
3. PS Paginado: 11. Atty Sanggalang
4. Atty. Nablo: 12. PGIII Cecil Lopez
5. Atty Elmer Rejano 13. Police officer Maata
6. Police officer Lukban: 14. Police officer Estrella
7. Police Officer De los Reyes 15. Police officer Venus Jaymalin
8. Jonas 16. Supt. Leopando
Where are all these people now, I mean those still in circulation? What happened to them? How did they fare during former director VG Vinarao’s correctional period? They were at the front line at that time, they should give us some insights on how strict and disciplinarian the period was and how earnest their administration in its desire to clean up the Bureau mess or shenanigans? They should speak up. Their pathological silence only aggravates suspicion. Well, I would even suspect their brilliancy after all if they continue on their chosen tact of being quiet. They ought to speak in a manner that should exhibit no paucity of professionalism. They should speak out albeit only in terms of accomplishments without any view on whether they were coddled, tolerated, promoted, sent abroad and enjoyed comforts. They were there to sacrifice with the leader in the first place. But sadly, it did not happen that way. They sacrificed their leader, and that is what they did. And the former director, believing in them, thought that they were contributing to his team and leadership.
It was in the letter expressed thus: “It is quite lamentable and regrettable that you (Supt Tesoro) have placed your own personal convenience above that of the needs of the public that you must serve.” During Gen VGV’s time, I was never given a chance to prove my worth and almost all those times, I was placed in the freezer and merely given token functions. How I wish to serve better. But being floated was never a dull moment for me. In spite of and despite such a situation, I was able to write three books (six books actually but only three saw the light of publication for lack of funds), one of which became a textbook in Penology. Suddenly, I had all the time in the world to teach at a university and four government training institutes—Philippine Public Safety College, UP Institute of Human Rights, National Jail Training Institute and the Judicial Academy of the Philippines. Most if not all of my students in PPSC are now regional directors of BJMP. Those who became my students in the criminology course at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa are now holding sensitive posts in PNP, BJMP, PPA , BuCor and NBI. I lectured penal science to a number of city and provincial judges at the Judicial Academy of the Philippines and now, most of them are occupying the post of Executive Judges already. I would also act as consultant to Senate, Caritas Manila and CBCP during that time. It is not therefore accurate that I have forgotten public service even if during those times I was never tapped by Gen VGV’s team to hold a sensitive position.
Now, where are all those lieutenants , those brilliant personalities taken under Gen VGV’s wings to help govern the prison service while I was in limbo or in the words of Gen VGV, while I was pursuing personal convenience?
For one, a surname sake of Gen VGV comes to mind, Franklin Vinarao. His common expression of “very bad” reverberated on all corners of the admin building whenever he would pass by. He was assigned to monitor everything and true enough; he was a constant harbinger inside the maximum security wing of NBP cornering inmates with means for monitoring purposes. I would never forget this creature because for once, he went to see me while I was Superintendent of San Ramon Prison and penal farm (SRPPF). He required all SRPPF personnel to sign a petition for an audience only to use the same signed petition as attachment to an already drafted complaint against me. The complaint progressed into an administrative case and became basis for a case in court against me. I was sent back to Muntinlupa and yet, I must have to appear before the court of Zamboanga for the case. He really wanted me to foreclose whatever savings I have and spend everything to pay for my fare and counsel! He was that cunning. When Gen VGV’s term was over, he even had the gall to approach me to assist him to be retained where he was. Records however came back at him. He was discovered to have faked his credentials and there goes his career—one which virtually made him the precursor of a dirty trick officer. Under his watch, I had some 17 administrative cases and two cases in court. Each administrative case meant instant dismissal from the service and the court case could merit an average of 10 years imprisonment. He and his department must be that mad at me. He wanted me to be disreputable and my career obliterated through lies and machinations. How despite his moronic feats he was respected by the VGV administration was beyond my comprehension. (Not one case stuck though yet it took me several years to clear myself from all these harassments. Well, that is what is meant by swift justice by government at that time.)
There is Supt Leopando who got his doctorate degree during Gen VGV’s term according to the personnel officer but I have yet to see if he could write a whole sentence in English—the medium of academic instructions even on such Doctorate courses in vernacular literature. I don’t know whether he was chosen by administration because he prides himself as a member of the graduating class in Ortanez University—a school notorious as a diploma mill and which merited its closure by Deped. He lectured once but the only English I would hear, and repeated at that is the phrase “see to it” and after that, no more. He was of course Gen VGV’s favourite target range buddy, while Gen VGV displayed precision shooting and the fellow acted as a circus crew, spoon protruding on his mouth with an egg , and on signal, Gen VGV would squeeze his firearm , while figuring out the sight through his rolex watch and bang! The egg was a goner in split seconds. He was clearly Gen VGV’s dutiful partner in entertaining gun aficionados and the compliant partner was also, funny it may seem, the designated superintendent of the national penitentiary! Right now, notwithstanding the trust and confidence Gen VGV had showered him, he would find time discrediting the VGV administration. Worst, he would even peddle a lot of negative acts committed during Gen VGV term. In my case, I merely expressed how I fared during those times in my personal essay done in blog. Leopando on the other hand, would even go to such extent as feeding hard-hitting, superb columnist Ramon Tulfo and all his (Leopando’s) media stooges all the shenanigans during the VGV administration. GEN VGV’s friend Gen Diokno during the latter’s incumbency would also be a recipient of concocted stories on the notoriety and those schemes he forged with during VGV administration because of his role as consultant.
How about Joel de los Reyes, Gen VGV’s point man, the immediate special assistant? The last time I heard when he was still in the service (and before he left for abroad), he got an item in the prison service only to be dropped for submitting some spurious documents to back up his eligibility. It is a pity because Joel is such a nice person, one who always read good books but then I have yet to see how he fares in literature. He was good and a professional worker though even if at times he acted as if he was more superior than his benefactor. He was also a good planner. He even tried to convince a prospective caterer and tried to negotiate that he and his director must get 20% commission from the contracted price, this on top of other requirements —like dollar allowances whenever they would attend conferences (which are aplenty) abroad, as he intended to squeeze off so much from the caterer. The prospective caterer, Mr. Jimmy Uy , vomited the whole day.
Another personality is Poblacion . He would pride himself, according to his regular talks with prison officers, that he is Gen VGV’s clone. Nobody would buy it anyway because he cannot hold a candle in terms of the looks department. Well, to start with, when he was assigned as superintendent of NBP medium security camp, he would pass himself off as one of VGV’s finest officers. It did not take long when he would employ his nephew and a number of relatives and began a systematic collection from inmates with resources. The collective complaint did not go without a whimper. He was relieved at NBP Medium , and he was promptly designated as Superintendent of Davao—as if Davao Penal Colony is a Siberian assignment! At the helm of Davao Penal Colony, he began to display an air of martial law in that facility. He would surround himself with prison guards who were detested by the organization, would arm them to the teeth and daily, as he reported for work, he would parade himself complete with armed personnel around him, followed by a jeep load of armed civilians (the vehicle was even mounted with a tripod atop a sub machine gun!). It was no wonder that one of the residents of said facility was even gunned down inside the compound where the superintendent’s quarters is situated. He was about to turn the facility inside out until one of the most horrifying incidents happened. Six inmates took captive and hostaged a number of personnel. In the siege and rescue that followed, all six inmates died including the facility’s teacher! I understand that he was never even reprimanded at all. He merely took a leave and later, after a few years, under the same administration, he was conscripted anew to take charge of NBP kitchen as consultant!
Let us have Paginado, he came from the law enforcement branch as a good drill sergeant and recruited into the prison service. He was reserved most of the time until ambition got the better of him. He applied for a higher post but when CSC reviewed his credentials, he was dropped for being ineligible. During his stint at Sablayan, his attention was called for using the car of an inmate. Worst, the inmate even escaped. His face and name were flashed on TV more frequent than the PCSO commercials. That started the decline of Bucor’s prestige in maintaining prisoners. Further on, that reduced the reputation of Gen Calderon who never wanted such personalities in the first place, so goes his articulation.
How about Agalo-os? He was prim and proper until he was given the post of Superintendent, another lateral entrant, from the police service, a retiree. Over and above qualified prison officers, he was the chosen one. He completed his masteral course and was indebted to prison service for the accolade and recognition. His celebration would have been completed had the prisoner who wrote his thesis did not submit a complaint. (This is the same prisoner who also wrote the thesis of some division chiefs and some superintendents,ghost writing even including the book of former director Gen Santiago!) Presumably, as a result of his scholarship, he was designated to head Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, and after cavorting with local politicians in the area and allowed Iwahig’s vast tracts of land transferred to local government (where he was able to get a parcel of land, along with squatters who were also given lots by local government from Iwahig land which were conveyed to DAR), he moved sweetly to another penal establishment, at San Ramon Prison and penal farm (SRPPF). After a couple of years at the helm of said penal farm, San Ramon would receive a directive to be transferred to a mountainous area in the locality of Bongyao, Zamboaga. It was an unfortunate blow since SRPPF is historically the oldest prison in the country. Of course, he could not articulate any defence or justification because he does not know anything about prison work, since he was from the police service trying to sink his teeth in the prison service just as yet. Changes in the national leadership and the prison leadership sent the transfer development into a hiatus luckily. The last time he came into circulation, after Gen VGV administration , was during the time of Gen Sistosa where he acted as NBP Superintendent during the death penalty days, those times when lethal injection was commissioned to be applied. He was there. He was in charge of the red phone (the director designated his role to Supt Agaloos)—the direct line to the President (then Erap). What could have been a timely rescue from Bishop Bacani who was able to convince the then President (who was playing golf in nearby Sta. Rosa at that time) to stay the execution, timely as it were, but nonetheless it was a failure. The one manning the red phone was busy giving interviews to media (in addition to or perhaps to compete with the person who was directed to act as spokesman, Supt VJT). The execution proceeded and the public was surprised including the good bishop who was already expressing his gratitude in the pulpit of the Cathedral, only to learn that the person he intended to save has died already through lethal injection! Memories forgotten, he drove himself up and with remorse, spent his remaining days abroad as choir tenor in a church.
Alfredo Gozon was one of the officers of the dreaded PNP TrafCon. After he retired from the police service, he was recruited to form the inner circle of VGV administration. His record as a police officer is worth several action films going by the column of Ramon Tulfo. His entry, lateral entry that is, into the prison service was also decorous in the sense that he restored sanity in the training of the group called VGV’s Finest who were all at that time subjected to a number of hazing and violent procedures (several trainees would back out, some would suffer irreversible physical injuries while those saved by Supt Gozon would survive and occupy important custodial positions later). Later, he would be designated as replacement of Poblacion in Davao penal colony. He was for a time the fair-haired boy of the administration until a very personal incident happened. To date, he had nothing good to share about the VGV administration, only lamentation and lots of dirge.
Popoy Barcenas was a non entity, a veritable obscurity in government although he was once on top of the so-called PNP Chocolate Boys, those street smart policemen wearing brown uniform manning every corner of Metro-Manila in the early 90s. They became very controversial that PNP found it fitting to abolish the unit. Without a job, he was repackaged and introduced into the prison service and appointed with the position of Superintendent. He was immediately given the post to govern Sablayan Prison and penal farm (SPPF) in Mindoro. His guts were legendary according to SPPF personnel. He was able to buy a farm lot, kilometres away from SPPF and yet he would boldly and daringly conscript a number of prisoners, trucked them all and would bring the group to maintain his farm. He imposed discipline and control over SPPF and nobody would dare cross him because of his apparent proximity to the appointing officer. SPPF became in no time his kingdom and every warm body was his vassal, until the Good Lord through sickness enlisted him in life hereafter.
The rest of the recruited team members or followers had their own respective anecdotes but they do not deserve the waste of ink. It is not memorable in the first place. They were merely there not because of concern or advocacy, since they do not know the science of corrections whichever directions they would bend their brains, but because they happen to be recruited to be there to serve as background of administration. I just don’t know if their existence blended well with such terms as competencies of the leadership. There are a few though who are deserving of salutation but as the saying goes, a swift on flight does not a summer make.
I admit that they were my peers during Gen VGV’s term. I do not know where they came from, but the most that I could remember was, they were all the best that could be offered by administration bar none. And where did they push VGV’s administration in terms of addressing the leader’s strictness and penchant for discipline? Nowhere, of course. The leader could only inspire his followers to do his bidding. But if one has these characters, then one can say goodbye to accomplishments. The leader is as good as his followers no matter how extra ordinary the leader is. Even if the leader wants to believe that “the interest of public service is more paramount than personal convenience”, if his followers pursued a different agenda, assuming of course that these followers have the necessary intelligence to pursue something, although from the way they carried themselves it is otherwise, then no amount of pleading or pouting will the situation or track record will be re-invented favourably.
I need not give my rating for the team. A cursory reading of how the team members conducted themselves were record enough to arrive at how the leader managed the correctional period under his watch. The brilliancy of Gen VGV as a person unfortunately was not enough as against the incorrigibility of his friends. Gen VGV was not remiss in his role as coach to his team. He would pronounce to his team the oft repeated mantra of his administration, “Harsh or callous as it may seem, public service and public interest must always take precedence over personal ones.” Deep in my heart I know its significance but VGV’s team chose to ignore it.
In other words, the low mark (the expression I used in grading a period) did not come from my imagination. It was actually built by Gen VGV’s team brick by brick!