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.