Monthly Archives: February 2012
Last January 27, 2012 President Noynoy Aquino went to the Bureau of Corrections to grace the occasion of its roadmap launching. The President was impressed. (It was the first time in the history of the agency to have been visited by the Chief Executive.) The guests who came and observed the occasion were likewise impressed. The national penitentiary was no longer filthy, soiled and chaotic. It has become a prestigious office fit for institutional order. Prisoners have safe and potable water supply, food is properly served, health is strictly monitored. Not only prisoner welfare given attention but the professional outlook of officers was assiduously taken care of. Every aspect of prison administration has been addressed from a measure of accountability to adherence on transparency. Resistance to change has increased to the level of doubt. The whole prison administration could not believe it is happening. Yet it is there unfolding. As a consequence, the sleepy system was disturbed.
Those who were suddenly awakened by the stupor of apathy, those who earn their upkeep in disorder suddenly found themselves irrelevant. There were cries of discontent. For years, prison is supposed to be a place for pain and anguish; not a haven for fairness. It has been a locale for grief and sorrow and not about hope and change. Prison is an area for angst and misery and never a tender situation for understanding. All these would change in half a year. All these would finally have turned upside down. All these would occur at the assumption of a leader who would mix honesty with hard work, mix concern with industry. There were believers and non-believers.
In an agency which is almost obscure and outside the radar of administrative decency in the past, change is not a concept. The more it is secluded from social consciousness the better for its existence. And why improve a system whose denizens are considered the most dangerous sector of society. Why implore transformation in a cursed environment, when its conservatism is its reason for being.
A bold military man altered what could have been a regular feature of prison administration since its creation. Retired general Gaudencio S. Pangilinan was appointed at the helm of the Bureau of Corrections and since then never looked back. He began to revolutionize organizational relationship starting with the welfare of prisoners. He despised the old, unlamented rules on the handling of sick prisoners. (For years, medical treatment of prisoners is token acts without the necessary facilities necessitating referral to outside hospitals. He moved to modernize the prison hospital and now it services the prison community along the standards of modern hospitals. As a case in point, the prison hospital would have an Intensive Care Unit when before it has only a fledging emergency gurney to show.) He questioned the slow procedure in reviewing the cases of those who have completed their sentence and yet still serving time. He literally guided officers to maximize resources so that it could refurbish the offices. He submitted an idea that would remodel corrections to be at par with correctional administration in the world by crusading on a practical roadmap. He did not only pursue change like a warrior on the battlefield, he altered prison history by declaring war on indifference.
And he was winning despite the usual protests and objections of those who wanted to return to confusion and turmoil. It has been said that enterprising people live and prosper in an air of mess that they would rather have a laid back system but he reshaped all these malpractices. He wanted a straight path, the proper way of administration. It is for him and properly so, the only way. Armed with commitment and a strict work ethic, he changed the entire system for a few months what has been left unmoved for several decades.
Opponents of change wanted to slide back but could no longer reset what has been accomplished. It is already a fact of life. Corrections has come of age. And the only way to stop history from recognition, which has already been made, is to send it back and issue doubt. Such is what the prison scandal is all about. It is the return to the unlamented past with all the shams, deception and mockeries about treating improperly the incarcerated humanity.
For all there is to it, a positive history has been accomplished and, challenged with scandal or more, it has proven that the most despised field in criminal justice administration if courageously governed may still be the benchmark of control and appropriate public administration.
WHY THERE IS DRUG ADDICTION
Drug addiction , may I hasten to submit, runs in the family, that’s why. Let me explain. Children are vulnerable physically whenever weather changes and as a consequence colds, coughs and fever manifest. Parents, having been bombarded with medicinal intervention through media almost instinctively would prescribe and require medication as remedy. This is a regular fare in a family. Something is felt and there is discomfort, drugs are oftentimes the instant solution. Its there on television, on radio and on giant billboards. Something amiss, there is a corresponding drug to address it.
As one grows up, problems not only physical but psychological are ingested and felt. The normal reaction again is to reach out for some medication. If it is something that ails, bordering on something emotional, the immediate response is to look for some medicinal intervention. That is where drugs become common place , the usual route, a regular cornerstone whence a person finds comfort and remedy. He is inured, as a matter of fact trained early on, to take drugs to solve a problem.
This is the psychological state on which every person finds himself in a bind. If one is emotionally disturbed there are several pills, even vitamins that could respond squarely if not psychologically too. But the most effective and here is where illegal drugs come, are those which has a relaxing effect on the person. And there are lots of preparation. And here is a list of 10 of the most abused drugs, if illegally or illicitly taken may induce a person towards addiction and eventually to behavioural excesses or crime.
HEROIN: it is an opiate processed directly from the extracts of the opium poppy. It was originally created to help cure people of addition to morphine. Upon crossing the blood-brain barrier, which occurs soon after introduction of the drug into the bloodstream, heroin is converted into morphine, which mimics the action of endorphins, creating a sense of well-being; the characteristic euphoria has been described as an “orgasm” centred in the gut. One of the most common methods of heroin use is via intravenous injection.
COCAINE: It is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. It is both a stimulant of the central nerbous system and an appetite suppressant, giving rise to what has been described as a euphoric sense of happiness and increased energy. It is most often used recreationally for this effect. Cocaine is a potent central nervous system stimulant. Its effects can last from 20 minutes to several hours, depending upon the dosage of cocaine taken, purity and method of administration. The initial signs of stimulation are hyperactivity, restlessness, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate and euphoria. The euphoria is sometimes followed by feelings of discomfort and depression and a craving to experience the drug again. Sexual interest and pleasure can be amplified. Side effects can include twitching, paranoia and impotence, which usually increases with frequent usage.
METHAMPHETAMINE or “shabu”: also, popularly shortened to meth or ice, is a psychostimulant and sympathomimetic drug. Methanmphetamine enters the brain and triggers a cascading release of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Since it stimulates the mesolimbic reward pathway, causing euphoria and excitement, it is prone to abuse and addiction. Users may become obsessed or perform repetitive tasks such as cleaning, hand-washing, or assembling and disassembling objects. With drawal is characterized by excessive sleeping, eating and depression-like symptoms, often accompanied by anxiety and drug craving.
CRACK COCAINE: It is often nicknamed “crack” and is believed to have been created and made popular during the early 1980s. Because of the dangers for manufacturers of using ether to produce pure freebase cocaine, producers began to omit the step of removing the freebase precipitate from the ammonia mixture. Typically, filtration processes are also omitted. Baking soda is now most often used as a base rather than ammonia for reasons of lowered odor or toxicity; however, any weak base can be used to make crack cocaine. When commonly “cooked” the riatio is 1:1 to 2:3 parts cocaine/bicarbonate.
LSD: It is lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD, LSD-25, or acid, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drugs of the tryptamine family. Arguably the most regarded of all psychedelics, it is considered mainly as a recreational drug, an entheogen and a tool in use to supplement various types of exercises for transcendence including in medication, psychonautics and illegal psychedelic psychotherapy whether self administered or not. LSD’s psychological effects (colloquially called a “trip”) vary greatly from person to person, depending on factors such as previous experiences, state of mind and environment, as well as dose strength. They also varay from one trip to another, and even as time passes during a single trip. And LSD trip can have long term psychoemotional effects; some users cite the LSD experience as causing significant changes in their personality and life perspective. Widely different effects emerge based on what Leary called set and setting: the “set” being the general mindset of the user, and the “setting” being the physical and social environment in which the drug’s effects are experienced.
ECSTACY: It is a semisynthetic psychedelic entactogen of the phenethylamine family that is much less visual with more stimulant like effects than most all other common “trip” producing psychedelics. It is considered mainly a recreational drug that is often used with sex and associated with club drugs, as an enthogen, and a tool in use to supplement various types of practices for transcendence including in mediation, psychonautics and illicit psychedelic psychotherapy whether self administered or not. The primary effects of Ecstacy or MDMA include an increased awareness of the senses, feeling of mental clarity and an increased appreciation of music and movement. Tactile sensations are enchanced for some users, making physical contact with others more pleasurable. Other side effects, such as jaw clenching and elevated pulse are common.
OPIUM: it is a resinous narcotic formed from the latex released by lacerating )or “scoring”) the immature seed pods of opium poppies (papaver somniferum). It contains up to 16% morphine, an opiate alkaloid, which is most frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. Opium has gradually been superseded by a variety of purified, semi-synthetic, and synthetic opioids with progressively stronger effect, and by other general anethesia. This process began in 1817, when Friendrich Wilhelm Adam Sertumer reported the isolation of pure morphine from opium after at least thirteen years of research and a nearly disastrous trial on himself and three boys.
MARIJUANA: Cannabis, know as marijuana in its herbal form, is a psychoactive product of the plan cannabis satiba. Humans have been consuming cannabis since prehistory, although in the 20th century there was a rise in its use for recreational, religious or spiritual and medicinal purposes. It is estimated that about four percent of the world’s adult population use cannabis annually. It has psychoactive and physiological effects when consumed, usually by smoking or ingestion. The minimum avout of THC required to have a perceptible psychoactive effect is about 10 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. The state of intoxication due to cannabis conscumption is colloquially known as a “high.”; it is the state where mental and physical facilities are noticeably altered due to the consumption of cannabis. Each user experiences a different high, and the nature of it may vary upon factors such as potency, dose, chemical composition, method of consumption and set and setting.
PSILOCYBIN MUSHROOMS: it is also called psilocybian mushrooms. These are fungi that contain the psychedelic substances psilocybin and psilocin, and occasionally other psychoactive tryptamines. There are multiple collegial terms for psilocybin mushrooms, the most common being magic mushrooms or ‘shrooms. When psilocybin is ingested, it is broken down to produce psilocin, which is responsible for the hallucinogenic effects. The intoxicating effects psilocybin containing mushrooms typically last anywhere from 3 to 7 hours depending on dosage, preparation, method and personal metabolism. The experience is typically inwardly oriented, with strong visiual auditory components. Visions and revelations may be experienced, and the effect can range from exhilarating to distressing. There can be also a total absence of effects, even with large doses.
PCP: it is phencyclidine, a dissociative drug formerly used as an anesthetic agent, exhibiting hallucinogenic and neutrotoxic effects. It is commonly known as Angel Dust, but is also known as Wet, Ozone, Hanna H, Hog, Manitoba, Shlimbo and Embalming Fluid, among other names. Although the primary psychoactive effects of the drug only last hours, total elimination from the body is prolonged, typically extending over weeks. PCP is consumed in a recreational manner by drug users, mainly the United States, where the demand is met by illegal production. It comes in both powder and liquid forms (PSP base dissolved most often in ether), but typically it is sprayed onto leafy material such as marijuana, mint, oregano, parsley or Ginger Leaves, and smoked. PCP has potent effects on the nervous system altering perceptual functions (hallucinations, delusional ideas, delirium or confused thinking), motor functions (unsteady gait, loss of coordination and disrupted eye movement or nystagmus) and autonomic nervous system regulation (rapid heart rate, altered temperature regulation.) The drug has been known to alter mood states in an unpredictable fashion causing some individuals to become detached and others to become animated.
These are the prevalent drugs obtained which has been the direct cause of addiction. In the penitentiary, especially in the Philippine setting, while there were occasions when drugs like marijuana and shabu are intercepted and if smuggled, consumed, there is a lowly plant which is innocently introduced but has potent hallucinogenic effect upon those who would ingest it. This is one concoction which has poisoned, affected and manipulated naïve or the newly recruited prison officers. It is locally called TALAMPUNAY, the scientific name is Datura Metel Linn or Datura Fastuosa Linn. Or Datura Alba Nees. In English, it is also known as Angel’s trumpet. It has been known in every province. In the visayas, it is known as Kachibong and Taubibong. It has the following properties like tropanic alkaloids in varying concentrations; mostly parasympatholytic. The common side effects are tachycardia (fast heart beat), slight increase in blood pressure, dryness of the mouth and eyes, sedation. Its early symptoms of poisoning are dilation of the pupil, drowsiness, general weakness, with varying degrees of hallucinations. At toxic levels, tropanic alkaloids can cause hallucinations, delirium, mental confusion, coma and death. With medium doses, recovery can occur in 12 to 24 hours, however, with loss of memory and confusion that may last for days.
When a prison personnel or a visitor would be offered any drink, say coffee, and if it is laced with talampunay, chances are the person is hooked already. This deadly concoction is circulating in the prison camp and it is undetected, not even considered illegal, consumed by prisoners (because in small doses it has the effect of booze or liquor) and used mainly to lure those whom the prisoners wanted to cast a spell on.
Drug addiction in the free community has been said earlier runs in the family, but in the penal setting, where vulnerabilities are high, it runs more on gullibility.
THE PLIGHT OF SOME PRISON VISITORS
In my more than 30 years in the prison service, I have been a witness to the dynamics of life in the prison community. There were dramatic occasions and there were lots of tragic ones too.
Incarceration is a test of will, of perseverance, of resolve and determination. Here is when relationships are subjected to extreme ordeal, to unmitigated hardship, to unqualified adversity. In other words, imprisonment is suffering for those whose ties were severed by penal prescription.
For the married prisoners, the trial of separation exacts a heavy toll. The man is helpless to assist his spouse and maintain his household. The family he left would have to fend for themselves and as it were, exposed to the elements. It is the initiative and creativity of the spouse to sustain what has been left and if possible, in the name of love or whatever has been forged during cohabitation, to conduct regular visitation. There were instances when there is a triumph over adversities. When after a period, the man is released and goes back to hearth and home, scars of imprisonment and pain written on his spirit, and fades away with his loved ones on the background. This is however is one dream a married prisoner idealize. Only a fraction meets this kind of scenario. The rest have broken homes, oftentimes the man perishes as a consequence of violence or illness, or as it has often been reported, the family has gone on separate ways.
The other half of the population are those who are not married, and those carrying common law relationship which among the majority of prisoners have this kind of status. Their visitors are a mixture. They are the choice subject of romantic flirtations. They are up for negotiation through pen pal (and recently through texting). They sustain quite a number of relationship at a time when prison administration has lowered the restriction on visitation rules. These visitors, mostly those infatuated with machismo projections, are easily cajoled and wheedled into a whirlwind relationship. Prison talk is sweet talk for those seeking romantic overtures. Imprisonment connotes limitation and in a homogenous setting, the entry of the opposite is gender is a welcome invitation. It is not a secret when one discovers a former nun doing errands for her imprisoned lover, and also a wife whose husband is abroad, a desperate professional in need of a companion, so on and so forth. The list is almost endless.
Once a relationship is forged, romance is almost instant. The visitor becomes dreamy, optimistic and whose head is in the clouds. The prisoner, the one visited, finally gets a respite, a connection to the outside world, and a runner at that.
This is where love is trivialized. This is where relationship is toyed. This is where bonding becomes brittle. For those starry eyed visitors wishing for a lifetime of a relationship would discover that after the person they would constantly care would be released, they would find themselves holding an empty bag. A released prisoner knows full well that any relationship is a baggage to be discarded at all costs, this notwithstanding the fact that he benefited from it for a considerable period of time in the penal facility.
What happens to the visitor is a repeat of past performance. The one who stayed behind, the friend, inherits the visitor and so with a new relationship would progress until finally, age catches up and poor visitor, she would never get a chance to recover her dream until insanity catches up on the person.
THOSE DAYS AT THE LETHAL INJECTION CHAMBER: as a participant observer
It was Director of Corrections Vicente G. Vinarao who organized the use of lethal injection as a medium for carrying out death penalty. This was in 1997. A year later, after the so called death chamber was built and every piece of screw installed and all the materials built around the facility have been properly attached including the gurney, that which is used to be the “death bed” of the convict, the first convict would be sent back to his creator will no longer be through electrocution but through a cocktail of deadly injectable dosages introduced intravenously. Death through electrocution (via electric chair) had seen better days and the fledging contraption, while a dreaded piece of furniture may not be able to cope up with the exigencies of times. Not that during the period brown outs or power failure was endemic but for purposes of humane expression, the use of lethal injection carries a lighter emotional load than the horrific scene shown through electrocution. (The electric chair conducts a full transmission of 3,300 volts as it would flow through the body of the condemned man. There were instances when burnt flesh would reek within the enclosed chamber if not a wailing pain heard from a distance. Electrocution was for a period, there were around 65 convicts who perished under the scheme, traditionally used by the State in executing the law on death penalty.)
In the late 90s the cost of sending the condemned man to life hereafter was P10k. The cost may be triple at the present rate and may increase in the succeeding period. During the period from 1998 to 1999, there were 9 convicts executed before the death penalty law was amended. And that was the time I was named not only as the face who dealt media with updates as spokesman but also would double as the one in charge of execution. There was no spokesman identified before until one day, I was called at the Department of Justice and was instructed to keep media posted on the impending execution. Then President Joseph Estrada wanted to show the world that he is decisive and that death penalty can be conducted without glitch. That time, it was a good 23 years later when the last execution was made. After the Cory government, which abolished death penalty, government re-introduced the death penalty law on 11 crimes. (the previous death penalty law specified around 23 crimes). While previously, there were around 800 prisoners under death penalty, under the Cory government’s abolition of death penalty, all penalties on capital punishment were technically reduced to life imprisonment.
Until an upsurge of crime disturbed the nation’s nerves. Government began flexing its legislative muscle until Congress revived the death penalty law. Under said law, the mode of execution is to be carried through lethal injection. This was during the Ramos administration. Heinous crimes were the order of the day, from massacre to rape to serial offenses. Violation of drug laws were likewise meted with death penalty. (The Ramos government never had time to implement the law though until the Estrada government took over.)
Then, one fine day at the Bureau of Corrections, prison administration received a letter from the court with an assigned date for the execution of death penalty. (The procedure there is that after the high tribunal, the Supreme Court, has affirmed the penalty of death, the papers of the convict goes down to the lower court, that branch which meted the capital offense for determination of the day of execution. Once a date is scheduled, the court sends a letter memo to the Director of Corrections to prepare the necessary groundworks.) It was the case of Echagaray, the step father who raped his step daughter repeatedly. A case of statutory rape since the victim was a minor. The penalty was death. The lower court has ruled, affirmed with finality by the Supreme Court, brought the affirmation back to the lower court and now the lower court upon receipt of the final verdict, has given the date. The Bureau of Corrections, after more than two decades of silence will have to exercise the power of the state to impose death.
Those assigned at the death chamber to introduce the deadly dossage were called the phlebotomists. There were quasi medical personnel. They were trained to introduce intravenous contraptions on patients. Their usual assignment is in the hospital. There were neither a nurse or an attendant, but there is a description on what they do and it is a qualified position under civil service standards. There were four of them in the employ of the agency.
The Director has the upper hand in the preparation for the execution. While it can be said that former Director of Corrections Vicente Vinarao was already an authority on the new mode, since he was schooled and oriented in foreign countries where lethal injection is the medium, another Director, one without any orientation except that he was appointed as a political move, to take over the reins of corrections. Director Pedro G. Sistosa, a kindly man, a gentleman of the old school, was entrusted with the preparation. It was here where he would gather prison officials who will carry out the judicial mandate. There were the phlebotomists, the prison guards, security supervisors, people from the kitchen, religious groups and the public information unit. I was assigned as spokesman.
When the Director shared the date for execution to a few officers, including me, I immediately started organizing a media corner. Others were waiting for details from the new Director. It was three weeks more before the final bell. A few days later, when everyone was frantic on what to touch first, I was called to the Director’s office for some instant planning. The cocktail of injectable solution must be procured and sent for analysis to the poison center of the Philiippines before it would be used. (That’s right. The fluids to be introduced into the veins of the convict are ordinary substances used in the hospital for treatment of certain ailments. It is not poison, it is neither expired.) The lethal injection chamber has been spruced up as it was a spanking facility during Director Vinarao’s incumbency. Then Superintendent Agalo-os, a lateral entrant and a carry over officer from the previous administration, notwithstanding his first exposure on prison administration was expected to supervise and guide the entire proceeding. He begged off. (Superintendent Agalo-os was very religious man) At that time, the Church was agitated on the forthcoming date. The Church has learned that death penalty will be conducted. The phlebotomists, all four of them, were seen as consciensitized already by the religious. The security personnel were novices and those who have witnessed death by electrocution has long been retired. The Director, much more so, the Secretary of Justice (then Justice Serafin Cuevas) were shaking on their boots as their performance may not merit an award. The President, then President Joseph Estrada, a multi awarded actor, wanted to deliver one of the finest accomplishment in criminal justice administration and the execution of death penalty spells the great difference. There was no room to be an amateur in a game where the life of a human being is to be snuff out for a cause.
I was called by the Secretary of Justice and commanded to take charge of the execution. Alone in his office at the Department of Justice, Padre Faura, the good Secretary was clutching a thick folder, my file 201 and he was giving me certain orders to make the execution a solemn judicial exercise and not a public circus or a comical spectacle. I was looking for my supervisor, the Director of Corrections but he was indisposed.
Back at NBP, I conferred with the Director on the instructions of DOJ and began to directly supervise a handful of those selected to perform the rituals of execution. Accordingly, the date of execution should never be leaked to anyone. At that time, only the director and I were holding the court envelop. I was actually on a dual role, a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hide character. I was the face, explaining the steps and certain details on the forthcoming execution before media and after my prescon, would don the uniform of a commanding officer.
As execution supervisor, I would always report to the Director all the details of the preparation. And the Director calls on the persons whom I would require for some pieces of action through some fearful instructions. I have to literally pull strings so that everyone involved in the activity will move accordingly.
A day before D-day, everything had been laid out. We were able to wall-through and goad to perfect the cadence on everyone involved. We were able also to conduct several mock-ups sometimes to the horror of some volunteer prison security personnel who will be tied up on the gurney. Unfortunately for the first guy to be laid down and tied, the leather straps were still stiff and it was quite an agonizing sight to see somebody painfully subdued. While it can be said that the lethal injection was never a painful stab, the rituals, the new equipment of restraints were too glossy for any movement. The lethal injection while not poison is to be administered in high dosage.
One such fluid, a size of a vial is that of a traveller’s mini tooth paste tube, if at all injected into a 2 ton behemoth, say a full grown elephant, the giant would spend a week in deep slumber. Administer the same to a 50 kilogram human being and he would spend almost half a year sleeping, or in a state of fatal comatose already! And there are four of this drugs to be used. Well the first is not fatal actually because it is an ordinary dextrose. It is the first to be attached on the convict’s arm. What was hidden on the tube was the connection of the line on the series of medium size syringes where all the lethal dosages of the drugs are stocked. Each of the syringes is to be pressed on one after the other. Each phlebotomist was ordered to empty the syringe whatever is the situation after a given signal. Once the cue is made, all the phlebotomist must have to perform their roles. All the security personnel who marched the dead man walking would form the phalanx prepared to take over the reins of pushing the syringe if in the process the phlebotomists would decline to perform their duties. I was the commander of this group.
The day would come to conduct the operations. The Department of Justice has given the green lights to media for coverage of “the day.” 5am at the maximum wing of the New Bilibid Prison, a group of seven prison officers were commanded to escort out the condemned prisoner out from his detention cell to be transported to the nearby lethal injection facility, a good half a kilometer away from the main prison camp. There were two approaches to be made. One was a decoy escorting flow for media purposes and the other, the real one, for purposes of security. The approach was disapproved by the Director and I was summoned to conduct the normal flow where the real subject is to be escorted out where the media are milled. For me, it was a nightmare but for purposes of recording, the decision was an honest one.
The security personnel walked through the corridor with the subject, in full prison uniform, head not shaven unlike those to be electrocuted, retrained by cuffs on hand and feet, cordoned by auxiliary prison officers and escorted towards a waiting van. There was pandemonium as soon as the first security contingent appeared. Photographers and reporters shoved one another to capture the drama. There was at that moment no order to reckon except after the van has left the scene. The road leading to the lethal injection chamber had been sealed by a series of choke points.
The subject has finally been delivered to a small holding cell within the chamber. The cell measured two meters by three and its walls, ceiling were made of pastel colored tartar rubber. No one was allowed to move closer to the room except for the prison chaplain. That early, the subject was asked by the team leader of the escort what particular request he may want to eat for the day while waiting for the hour of reckoning. At that juncture, the inmate submits a list. In the case of inmate Echagaray, he wanted ice cream and spaghetti. A security personnel was dispatched to produce the request. If the institution kitchen can produce it, the request will be given, if not, a related replacement is given.
Meanwhile, at the administration building where media had camped out, the Director happened to leave his office to proceed and freshen up in his quarters. That was the time when media reporters jumped up on him. Their queries were varied but one response floored them. They asked, “Sir, ano po ang pananghalian ni Echagaray? (“Sir, what is the meal of Echagaray?”). The peeved official answered, “Hindi ko alam. Yung kakainin ko nga sa tanghalian hindi ko pa rin alam!” (“I don’t know. I also do not know the food I will have for lunch!” The media left in search of the spokesman instead.
Over at the lethal injection chamber, the priest was already at hand. He was close by trying to catch the attention of the condemned man. The convict on the other hand, his hands clasping a rosary, although not in a prayerful mode, was on deep contemplation. The guards, the close in and the one in charge of the holding cell were watching alertly at what was going on, inside the cell, in the room adjacent the cell, where the phlebotomist were installing the syringes, where technicians were attaching the necessary tubes and wirings to the monitor, the lightings, the straps, the clock. All of them waiting for the hands of the clock to strike 3. 3PM is the designated time for the execution. Well, all of them except me who was stationed beside the red colored telephone which is directly connected to Malacanan.
The Echagaray execution would be postponed that day. We received an order two hours before the designated time and everybody gave a sigh of relief. The inmate was literally a vegetable but could be seen euphoric because of the stay. I assembled my officers for some reminders and went out to change my serious expression, and project a friendly pose to meet the media. There were pleasant exchanges between those who do not favor death penalty, but I had a lot of difficulties explaining on those who want blood. The day was over and we were back to our normal posts. Only a couple of officers were with me to withdraw the bottles containing the lethal fluids to have it safely kept at the hospital vault.
A couple of months later, the reprieve would expire and we were back again on our toes to replay what has been conducted before. The routine was almost the same; the media were back in their normal posting. But this time around, we undertook a different approach. We used a decoy. Smoothly we were able to transport the inmate to the holding cell of the death chamber, while the media were all around the decoy, jumping and literally flagging down the van. It was only when they realized that they were milling on something fake that they backed off.
Back at the lethal injection chamber, my officers were seriously manning our respective positions. It is almost past 2 PM and every officer with a role to play was on their respective areas of assignment. The security personnel were in every corner. The chaplain ministering to the last rites; the phlebotomists were alertly seated across their syringes; the hospital chief standing across the heart monitor beside a big circular clock; the director beside me in a corner where the red telephone is situated. At half past two, the door of the viewing room was opened for the selected few to witness how the execution is to be carried out. The close in security was given the signal to escort the inmate to be brought to the adjacent room. Almost in clock work precision and a bit ritualistic, the inmate was laid on the gurney and his extremities strapped almost simultaneously. The phlebotomist was ushered in to attach the dextrose hose onto the arms of the inmate. The phlebotomists and the security personnel were ordered to move out of the room and only the Superintendent was close by, positioned at the head of the condemned man. There was a microphone attached almost dangling above the head of the inmate. The Superintendent taking a glimpse at the small square hall on the partition of room separating the phlebotomists and the gurney; where an empty drinking glass is placed to stall the cover. Once the time is up, the Superintendent gives the sign (previous to the execution, the Superintendent is required to make gestures, like removing his eyeglasses, or scratching his head, to telegraph to the one in charge of the empty drinking glass to remove it from the small opening. Once the small hole closes, that signals the phlebotomist to empty their syringes one by one until all the fluids are drained.) the curtains are opened exposing through a transparent glass wall the figure of the laid inmate for witnesses to view. (Those at the viewing room were family members of the condemned man and the aggrieved party, members of media, representatives of various criminal justice agencies and local government officials of the town.) The Superintendent gestures and whispers aloud at the inmate what his last words were, and while the inmate is about to spew a few consonants, the deadly dosage was already flowing unto his veins. In 8 seconds, the inmate would snore and a fraction of a second, there was silence. A few seconds later, the chief of the hospital enters the room, facing the viewers to announce the exact time the inmate succumbs to death. The security personnel enter the room to close the curtains and the corpse is untied and brought to the waiting ambulance for delivery to the facility’s morgue.
A minute after 3 PM, death is pronounced and 8 others would follow on different dates on years 1998 and 1999 until another law would be passed abolishing death penalty.
All through out the execution, I would be there directing the details of how it would be carried out. A task which I never imagined myself to perform but nonetheless was required of me as a matter of duty for the State. For every execution, I could only utter AMEN.