Monthly Archives: April 2012
Friendship is forged in adversity. The more cruel the environment, the better for friendship. The less strenuous, the weaker the relationship is formed. Hence, friendship is memorable during high school years, unforgettable during college years and tremendous if fashioned in prison. The Bible says “A faithful friend is the medicine of life.” (Ecclesiasticus 6:16)
Hazing in college is merely an expressive means, at times a fatal process, where friendship or brotherhood is developed. The boring period of academic life, or in correctional facilities the unstable situation breeds depression which could only be rectified if there is adrenalin rush. Hardship and difficulties in coping provides the furnace on which friendship, whatever it is, is structured accordingly. La Rochefoucauld in Maxims submitted that “ A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and the one that we take the least care of all to acquire.”
Gangs in prison and fraternities in Colleges were only a symbol on which to anchor one’s adrenalin rush. A reminder of friendship. It provides the color, the shape and the necessary life blood of camaraderie. It is precisely the meaning of alliance, of amity, of solidarity, of fellowship. Without this stimulating process, there is no excitement, no significance in every struggle to attain something. It is like a nation without a sense of nationalism; an organization without mandate; a man without manhood.
Thirty seven years ago, 38 of my classmates in Letran College bid each other goodbye during a ceremonious graduation day. A week ago, we, or what was left of the 38 decided to have a get together. We were only 9 or a measly 20% who made it. We presumed that most of our classmates were already abroad. Some if not most of them have retired from work and having some difficulties in their health. All of us are in the late 50s and early 60s and that means that we are already candidates for high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney trouble, liver ailment, prostrate or cervical difficulties, cardiac weakness, gout and/or physical deformities.
I could only see the usual familiar quality of my classmates from their eyes. Their postures have changed. Some added a number of pounds. The banks in their hair are gone and so is the glow. Hair color however could not hide the welter of wrinkles and the glow of skin. Surely youth has passed through and what remains were merely shadows of their former selves. I could vividly see their original poses from the silhouette of their mannerisms. Gone was the sprite. Gone were the juvenile antics. Gone was the youthful jape.
Years ago, we were the loud ones. Now, we were mostly the sober kind. We were once the trail blazers, now the blazed ones. The icons of yesteryears were the subdued elderly of today. Life is indeed a cycle. Time is catching up on everyone. The suppleness of youth, in a few strokes, is transformed into a weather-beaten leather of seniority. Thoughts become wisdom, jokes become witticism. Life goes on. And dying becomes an inspiration of the living.
NOTES: I am grateful for the visit of my college pals—Dan Bassig, Vio Mateo, Bong Feliciano, Tanggol Co, Ed Garcia, Angel Lee. They have seen how prison in Davao Penal Colony works under the aegis of their classmate from Letran College. I pray that Dan, a retired US Navy personnel and my buddy in kalokohan will overcome and triumph over a health adversity. He is too tough, a tough nut to crack actually. He will definitely win over time.
Anonymous letters are a bane in government. In the prison service (and actually in the whole bureaucracy), it can even break a career. It is used as template in running after a government officer and he does not even know what hit him. In law, if a complaint is unverified it is never reckoned at all. But in another legal provision, even if a complaint is unverified when the facts detailed in the complaint is verifiable then a case may be considered for investigation and prosecution.
In the prison service, if an officer is strict, he becomes unpopular and becomes a target for complaints. On the other hand, if he is lenient to the point of being tolerant, he is also subject for intrigue and speculation. Both instances, the officers are made to answer for such demeanour. In short, in no time at all, he must respond to numerous and countless harassment suits and cases. As a consequence, he undergoes stress and a bit sloppy. If he exudes this kind of a persona during his tour of duty, he becomes careless and vulnerable especially in attending to the requirements of the prison service. If he is a prison guard, he loses his temper. If he is a civilian personnel, he loses his focus and staff work mislaid.
In the prison service, an uninspired stare on a prisoner is enough to merit a complaint. And complaints can be fabricated to suit a specific instance. There was once a rookie prison guard who detested gambling among prisoners during his watch. The prisoners obliged only to concoct an incident where one among them is lured to rub his skin with a wet metal so that it would welt and become reddish. Once, the “welt” is all over his body, the group brings the inmate to the hospital with a complaint that the rookie guard mauled the fellow. A report was made. Charges were readied and poor prison guard, dismissed with prejudice to future employment. This is a regular fare which prison officers must confront every now and then.
In the prison service, the truth at times is a shade between un-truth and half-truth. The prison community struggles to be the free community and the latter interprets the former according to its norm. That is where the trouble begins. The prison community is the reverse of the free community. What is good in the prison community is bad in the free community. Subservience is the normative behaviour in the prison community, it is however a shameful act in the free community. Talk about loved ones in prison and the inmate cries. Talk about loved ones in the free community and everyone rejoices.
Death in prison is included in the list of releases. In the free community, it is otherwise. Sickness in the free community is a respite from stress, although it is a consequence. In prison, sickness is detested although it is sometimes feigned. A friend in the free community is mainly fair weathered ones. In prison, it is born out of adversity and trial. And yet, friendship in the free community is binding and that which has been forged in prison is brittle. This is the milieu of the prisoner, the prison officer, the volunteer and the like. If one cannot make anything out of it, things go haywire and it becomes a headache.
Before, when a prison guard enters the service, he dreams that one day he will be a Superintendent. Now, it is different. A prison guard dreams that once he retires, he will not be charged of any case. Never mind if he will not be promoted as long as he has no pending case. To be charged administratively or criminally is a terrifying situation for those in the prison service. A certain prison guard in Davao who was slapped with an administrative case committed suicide. A number of prison officials who were about to retire were met with a series of administrative charges too. For those in the prison service, to be ignored and bypassed is already a blessing.
NOTES: When I met Congressman Rodolfo Biazon a few weeks ago, we discussed prison programs. I suggested that instead of modernization in prison (because it is almost impossible to modernize if the benchmark is USA or Australia), legislative effort should be focused on the passage of a Corrections Act. He reckoned.
DOJ Legislative Consultant and former DOJ Assistant Secretary Atty Teresita Domingo believes that transferring NBP prisoners to the penal farms is a doable option rather than planning for the transfer of NBP. (Atty Domingo left for USA for heart treatment. We pray for her early recovery.)
Kudos to Atty. Lourdes Vicente (better half of Dr. Warlito Vicente, one of the finest surgeons of Davao). Atty Vicente retired in government service as legal officer of the Office of the Muslim Affairs and has chosen Correctional Institute for Women in Mindanao as her work place. She is teaching Arabic, Islam Principles and acts as legal consultant to the prison community as well. May her tribe increase!
A 70 year old widow visited prison and was impressed with a 85 year old prisoner. When she got home later that day, the widow was a bit distressed. “What happened Mom?” the daughter inquired.
“I have to slap his face five times!”
“You mean, he got fresh!”
“No,” she quipped. “I thought he was dead!”
A prisoner was convinced to become religious based on a story by the chaplain. Accordingly, there was this Christian who was pursued by a big lion. He leapt, jumped and tried to elude the beast and finally, it was the end of the road. He was cornered and could not do anything. And so he turned his head upwards, faced the heaven and prayed “to make the lion Christian.”
Almost instantly, the lion dropped to its knees. And prayed, “Bless us Oh Lord in this thy food which I am about to receive….”
An impassioned chaplain decided to start his homily inside the prison chapel with a stirring reminder, “Everybody in this community will die!”
The minister however was surprised to see someone in front smiling broadly. “Why are you so amused?” he asked.
“I visited a friend here,” replied the man, “and I do not belong in this community.”
After a preacher died and went to heaven, he noticed a heavily tattooed man given a higher place than he had. “I don’t understand,“ he complained to St. Peter. “I devoted my entire life to my congregation.”
“Our policy is to reward results.” Explained St. Peter. “Now what happened, Reverend, whenever you gave a sermon?”
The religious admitted that some in the congregation fell asleep.
“Exactly,” said St. Peter. “And when people see this ex-convict, they not only froze, they prayed!”
A prison officer went to heaven and met God, who granted him one question. So the prison officer asked, “Will the Prison Modernization Bill be passed into a Law?”
“I have good news and bad news.” God replied. “The answer is yes, but not in my lifetime.”
A prisoner died of an accident while on his way to the prison chapel for baptism. He met St. Peter at the pearly gates. He asked if it was possible to be baptized in heaven. St. Peter said he would make some inquiries and would get back at him.
A year later, St. Peter found the prisoner and told him he would be baptized. “Can I also ask for a legal assistance so that my case will not be a bar for heavenly privileges?”
“Good grief!” St. Peter exclaimed. “It took me a whole year to find a preacher up here—and now you want me to find a lawyer!”
The Bureau of Prisons (now Bureau of Corrections) had a series of presidential appointees as Director and it is worth checking how they fared. They may be misunderstood during their term but they exuded some kind of charisma somehow and therefore their accomplishments were all worth appreciating. Let us reminisce how they were. (Since I came in the prison service in 1977, my recollection starts with the incumbent director then.)
Acting Director Vicente Raval. He was designated Acting Director by then President Ferdinand Marcos and despite the fact that he was in an “acting” capacity, on record, he was the longest reigning prison director. During his 11 year stint, he was a figure feared by almost everyone—officers and inmate alike. But it was during his incumbency that prison officers had a good break in sustaining their requirements. Director Raval encouraged the officers to maintain livestock, swine raising among others to support their economic conditions, especially in sending children to school. The agency at that time had a ship where prison products were transported in various places; its prison program also includes a dairy and it was maintaining the biggest livestock in the country.
OIC Catalino Macaraig. He was undersecretary of justice in charge of prison supervision. He temporarily took over the reign after Director Raval stepped down. He never made any changes nor reorganized the offices which Director Raval realigned.
Director Vicente Eduardo. He was appointed Director by then President Ferdinand Marcos as a political statement after the strongman lifted Martial Law. He moved around and inspected prison facilities as if he was the one directly supervising it. He was a picture of a micromanager, always hands on and scrupulous to details.
Director Emilio Cea. He stayed only for a while (6 months). His administration although abbreviated by confusion had encourage the birth of a prison union, a composite group of prison officers, which would later mature into a professional association. It’s unfortunate that the disparate members of the prison system would gel into a tight and cohesive organization against his dictatorial tendencies. He may not have wished for enemies, but his style literally formed the backbone of a strong prison organization.
Director Meliton Goyena. He could have been the best prison director had it not for a run-in with the prison chaplain. Despite the controversies generated by a licentious media (this was the time when the EDSA glory has not faded yet, where everyone was pitted against an issue) he was able to introduce a number of reforms in the prison service: a revision of the prison manual, competent staff work, reference to legislative research and an introduction of health practices among prison personnel through sports.
Director Eriberto Misa. He was already in his senior years when he was appointed. He was formerly the assistant director when he was suspended for political reasons years before. He started to restore those prison practices which were affected by previous changes in administration. He wanted to emphasize the strict role of prison officers in the imposition of discipline in the prison community. He organized the first SWAT team in prison.
Director Vicente Vinarao. He introduced into the prison system the ambiance of a school. As a former Superintendent of the Philippine National Police Academy, he belaboured in imposing discipline and science in the management of prison resources from proper designation of prison manpower to training of prison personnel. He improved the defensive quality of prison instrument of restraint and control. He drafted the manual for the execution of death penalty through lethal injection.
Director Pedro Sistoza. He was a bemedaled police general before he was conscripted into the inner sanctum of a populist president (President Joseph Estrada) and seen also as a drinking buddy. But of all prison directors (past and present), he never had any ruse or entanglements with the supply system and the procurement procedures. He never dabbled in transactions and kept his hands clean all throughout his administration. It was under his administration that death penalty was revived and executions were conducted.
Director Ricardo Macala. He was politician through and through. He was an instant friend both in the prison community and among prison officers. He was liberal in his policy on the treatment of prisoners. It was during his term that New Year celebration inside the maximum compound was greeted with bangs and explosions—an occasion he allowed prisoners to enjoy. (Luckily, there were no casualties or injuries during the fiery celebration.) It was during his term when the concept of organizing a correctional facility for women in Mindanao was explored.
OIC Ramon Liwag. He was a career officer of DOJ and reached the post of Undersecretary of Justice in charge of correctional supervision. He held on the reign of OIC of the Bureau of Corrections for 3 months barely changing what has been operational for sometime. He merely acted as caretaker of the organization while waiting for the appointed prison director.
Director Dionisio Santiago. He retired as AFP Chief of Staff and was appointed as Director of Corrections with the rank of Senior Undersecretary of Justice. He began the move to renovate various offices in the central office of the agency first by improving the entrance gateway for prison visitors and refurbishing a space as social hall for prison officers. He administered the agency much like the military organization and introduced the concept of completed staff work. He resigned after he was by passed and was never consulted when a portion of New Bilibid Prison reservation was proclaimed as subdivision area for other government agencies.
Director Vicente Vinarao. He was the only prison director to be given a second wind in prison administration. During his incumbency, he rewrote and updated the prison rules. He also reformed the system of computing the time served of prisoners. It was during his regime that the grant of parole and executive clemency in the prison community would be administered smoothly. Within his term, the correctional facility in Mindanao would have its soft opening.
Director Ricardo Dapat. Like Director Cea, his administration was abbreviated albeit punctuated by a series of scandal. His administration was however kindly seen by officers because of his generous nature. He may be rough but he was game and tolerant. During his term, the full operation of the correctional institution for women in Mindanao would become a reality.
Director Oscar Calderon. Of all prison directors, his administration was devoted to continuity. He never reshuffled anybody. For him, all activities must continue and should never even for a while suffer any intervention. He endeavoured to be a friend of everyone—be it prison officers or prisoners. His regime was one of stability.
Director Ernesto Diokno. Like earlier Cea and Dapat administration, his term was abbreviated (7 months) by a scandal not in his own making though. He came at a time when his appointing authority was having a bad day in media and he was one of those listed as collateral damage. His short stint however was given to mature management and understanding on the strength and weakness of the organization; the latter should have been an area where he should have addressed and rectified. He could have been an effective administrator but he resigned amidst the pressure of media.
OIC Manuel Co. He was holding several portfolio—as newly appointed Probation Administrator and as member of the Board of Pardons and Parole, when he was summoned by DOJ to temporarily hold the reign of OIC in the Bureau of Corrections. He stayed a little over four months as caretaker. OIC Co was catalytic since his career started as prison guard in the organization and moved up the ladder until he transferred to Probation and this where his star shone. As Prison OIC, he knew the milieu whence he came from.
Acting Director Gaudencio Pangilinan. He started in high gear bearing the advocacy for the right path. A military poster boy and a workaholic at that, he transformed the prison central office, almost overnight—well, actually in less than 8 months, into a world class facility. His accomplishments were so monumental that all combined performances of all directors before him could hardly matched. It was in his administration that the incumbent President visited the agency and inaugurated a policy direction through a thoroughly reviewed Roadmap.
It is refreshing to note that a military officer has transformed the central office of the Bureau of Corrections into a world class facility. It’s a truism that changes and reforms must have to start somewhere. If it could not be conducted through programs or through the performance of its officers, at least it could be reflected through the facilities utilized by officers and inmates alike. As it were, the main administration office of the agency is a spanking edifice reflective of discipline, integrity and vigilance: a quality which the prison roadmap has determined, a situation which all serious students of corrections wished for.
But the military campaign to literally transform the entire prison service would stall. There are people who are affected by changes and there will be resistance. It’s a struggle, a constant and relentless effort, to press what is necessary depending on one’s interests. There will be a force to push a concept or program and there will also be a countervailing force to neutralize it. It’s a cycle, a never-ending process in prison. No one becomes a hero, a performer worth admiring in the pursuit of reforms in correctional administration. As the saying goes, “ang sumisikat lang sa bilibid ay araw!” (No one shines in prison except for the Sun!)
It’s a pity that Reverend James Lee, a Korean national but a Filipino at heart, has transferred to Pangasinan—the haven of milkfish production. Well, according to the kind minister, he merely took a respite. He never left prison actually but only showed a friend in the beginning that he can perform Christian charity work even if it means to visit prisoners for a day. That visit would encourage him to stay longer to preach the Good News to a sceptical community. Before his prison ministry, he had a congregation founded in Northern Luzon and he merely joined a Filipino friend who wished to visit a relative in prison. He accompanied his friend as they trek Muntinlupa in search of an inmate. They found the inmate-relative and found also the situation worth a challenge. In a few months, Reverend Lee was in the midst of the maximum security compound engaging the hardened community to an exploration of faith.
Reverend Lee is a respected prison evangelist who advocated Christian principles among prisoners in the National Penitentiary. (After graduating from a course on theology in USA, he chose the Philippines to be his mission site—and why not? The Philippines is a tropical country compared to Korea with its unforgiving climate, where in a year, 9 months are winter.) In the Philippines, he would build temples for prisoners—his new found friends. And he would stay with them exhibiting an example of a true Christian missionary. His charity not only extends through material support but also staying close and representing the requirements of the prison community. He built temples in several prison farms, the first is situated in New Bilibid Prison, and then to Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm and the latest is at Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm. And the beauty of this charity work is that he is doing this without fanfare.
And then there are these groups of land speculators in Mindanao which chose Davao Prison and Penal Farm (Dapecol) as their target to promote their scam. The modus operandi of the group is to look for a developed area in the said penal farm, identify the boundaries, contract a subdivision planner and submit the plan to DAR. The group knows that DAR will never entertain such baseless activity but nonetheless would receive the document even if it would be thrown out later. The duplicate which would have a mark of “received” by DAR would now be used by these speculators in recruiting innocent farmers in remote areas to part with their small fortune in exchange for a cheap developed farm in Dapecol. And it is here where the social problem becomes explosive.
Those affected by the scam will have to seek intervention from their local political leaders and community elders. Instead of hunting for the speculators, the scam artists, they would rather join the victims in their quest to get a portion of the prison land for their own. That is where the conflict begins to complicate. While the victims, the farmer groups who were recruited and mulcted are about to face a blank wall; while the scam artists are all laughing all the way to the bank; community leaders and political stalwarts are breaking their heads on how to resolve the problem. It is high time to close rank to break the backbone of deceivers who victimize the farmers once and for all.
It has been said that New Bilibid Prison will have to be transferred somewhere. First, it was planned to be relocated at Laur, Nueva Ecija. A task force led by then DOJ Assistant Secretary (for Technical Affairs) Atty Teresita Domingo spent quite a considerable time and effort determining an area in Central Luzon planning and drafting a plan only to be met with a statement from the national leadership that there is no fund available for that purpose. This was during then President Ramos time. The relocation issue however did not die. As a matter for fact, it was passed on from one prison administration to the next.
To date, while there was an Executive Order issued by former President Arroyo (in 2006) identifying the area where NBP is to be relocated (in Cuyambay, Tanay, Rizal Province) it would also be set aside as one area which has no strategic value. Instead, another area would be identified as ideal. This is situated in Crow Valley, Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon. It is in the middle part of Luzon. Everything has been figured out from construction to funding, from transfer procedure to policy review. What is lacking however is the sincerity to make it happen. Sincerity is born out of a competent understanding on where to begin. DOJ through BuCor’s representation has initiated the correct approach—redistribution of prisoners. It is not the issue of transferring actually which is the ideal way but the redistribution process.
NOTES: The Facebook craze has caught up with most penal establishments. Davao Penal Colony, Iwahig penal Colony and Sablayan penal colony have their respective facebook accounts. Visit them and add them in your list of friend.
The DOJ Panel Report has as yet to reach the Office of the President for final review and disposition. The “report” circulating in media was only a draft. (The Witness Protection Program has provisionally allowed the complainant, Mr. Kabungsuan Makilala into its turf effective February 24, 2012.)
A group of professionals (composed of Ms. Rizaline Tesoro, Joane Davadilla and Jocelyn ) from Manila visited Davao Prison and Penal Farm and was impressed by the facility of the Correctional Institution for Women in Mindanao (CIW-M). Since they have visited also the world famous resort Pearl Farm, they thought that CIW-M facilities, its cleanliness and orderliness could match the resort’s maintenance!
General Gaudencio Pangilinan (current Director of Corrections) one afternoon indulged a number of his staffers to a small talk by way of reducing their stressful work. His staff was compelled to prepare the details of the agency roadmap and that is quite strenuous given the timeline for said activity to produce materials. It is a research feat heavier than any academic assignment. Anyway, the afternoon soiree went this way:
Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan (GSP): “I intend to share with you some ideas. And mind you, I expect that all of you should participate and respond. I do not want anyone of you to suffer the same fate as that of a former colleague of mine, a general at that, who was very silent during the course of our discussion, only to be airlifted later for food poisoning!”
Staffers: “Why food poisoning Sir?!!”
GSP: “Since the general never spoke during that period, he swallowed a lot of spoiled saliva!!!!”
Staffers: “Hahahaha!” We will take note sir!”
GSP: Now, ok, are you familiar with evolution?”
Staffers: “Yeeeees, siiiiiiir!”
GSP: “Okay, what about evolution? What do you think it is all about?”
Staffer A whispering to Staffer B: “Hehehe, I think it is about a story of a monkey becoming man.”
Staffer C: “Sir, it is a concept advanced by Charles Darwin.”
GSP: “Okay, very good. Listen up. Evolution is about changes. We are all aware of the fact that we are all made up of genes. These are like microchips in our body that receives a lot of stimulation, responses and they accumulate a number of impressions which make up our entire physical and intellectual posture. Now let me pose a question to each one of you. How old is your father when you were born?”
Staffer A: “Sir, I think my father was 22 years old at that time.”
Staffer B: “Sir, my father 25 years old when I was born.”
Staffer C: “In my estimation sir, I think my father was 31 years old at that time because I am the youngest.”
GSP: “The reason why I asked your father’s age is this. From zero age to what his age at the time of your birth, he has accumulated a lot of ideas, experiences, perhaps failures, successes, skills, etc. Those would be imprinted in his genes. So that when you are born, you are already carrying those genes with you. If your father is old enough when you were born, chances are you are a better slice than those whose father is relatively young. The genes carried by those whose father is older are more matured, more adjusted and more developed. That is what evolution is all about when seen in the perspective of one’s character.
Note: I read a book sometime ago (I forgot the title though) that discussed a certain Jewish tradition pertaining a marriage arrangement made following an ancient tradition. Accordingly, a woman’s age is multiplied by two plus seven. That would be the ideal age of her man on their wedding period. Example, a woman is 18 years old. 18 is multiplied by 2 equal 36, plus 7 is 43. Hence, the man in the middle east especially so in Israel is years older than his wife. If this is true, then it is understandable why Jews have more intellectuals and geniuses than any country in the world.
ON THE MATTER OF TRANSFERING THE NATIONAL PENITENTIARY
…to another site outside of the Metropolis
Sometime in 1940 during the Commonwealth period, there was a move to decongest the Old Bilibid Prison. It was also the year when construction began on what would later be known as the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in the outskirts of Manila, further south near the boundary of Laguna province, a part of Rizal province then, within the Muntinlupa estate. In the early 80s, the final transfer of all insular prisoners would be completed and the Old Bilibid Prison would be decommissioned from its use. (The vacated facility became a haven of squatters and virtually the enclave of pickpockets and illicit trade in Quiapo area—along Recto Avenue. A portion would be occupied the city central market on one side and the Manila City Jail on the other.)
NBP started full operation in 1945, a perilous period and at the height of Philippine involvement in World War II. It would become a Japanese garrison and later would be the confinement area of war criminals, prisoners of war and collaborators. In the 50s, the penitentiary would also be the detention facility for political prisoners and in the 60s would be a hotbed of the most violent riots ever recorded in prison history.
When Manila expanded its demographic activity and would become a central metropolis, the adjoining cities and municipalities—including Muntinlupa (then a municipality and now a city) on the southern side of Manila—high-end subdivision sprouted like mushroom enveloping the prison reservation of New Bibilid Prison on all its flanks. In 2005, a serious move was conducted to determine the feasibility of transferring NBP to another site outside of Metro Manila area. Several options were studied. Several sites were offered. Several teams dispatched to conduct a study. The transfer program however came at a time when national economy has as yet to get its bearing properly organized. In other words, the budget for the transfer of the penitentiary became an overarching consideration to overcome. It has been estimated that construction of a penal facility that would absorb the twenty thousand prison population of NBP requires a minimum of 20 Billion pesos (and this was in 2006).
That amount to be sought from Congress at that volatile time was already tantamount to asking the legislature to commit a political sepukku. Besides, Congress was predisposed to grant said financial appropriation provided that it would create revenues to government. Funding the construction of barangay road which means advancing the cause of farm-to-market traffic flow would increase productivity and therefore more revenues for government operation. Building prison facilities on the other hand, spending almost the same cost, would never realize any return-of-investment scheme, well, except for the fact that the prison reservation would not stand out as a sore finger among the rows of exclusive subdivision in the area.
In 2007, the transfer of NBP to another site determined by the DOJ composite team (composed of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council or HUDCC, DENR, DOJ, NHA, BuCor) fizzled out (due to a series of changes in DOJ leadership and eventually after another shift in the national leadership) and as a belated response to a pending matter after an executive order of PGMA was issued slicing a part of the NBP Estate in favour of government subdivision plans. To date, the western portion of NBP prison reservation was released in favour of NHA for said purpose. The remaining part still subsist and an active reservation area utilized and under the management of BuCor.
In 2008, HUDCC through its housing program spearheaded by NHA built a relocation site for those living along the railroad tracks. A 50 hectare land was effectively deducted from NBP reservation and a low cost housing organized. This was followed by the subsequent development and occupancy of some 78 hectares in favour of DENR and the Office of the President.
In 2009, a major alternative road spliced the entire prison reservation to create a detour link for the exclusive and high end subdivision coming from Cavite and Las Pinas as an access thoroughfare into the South Luzon Expressway. The middle part of the prison reservation became a passage way and virtually opened to vehicular traffic as it was likewise exposed to all subdivision and relocation sites within the vicinity. Suddenly, without the awareness of the proponents in the housing program and without even realizing their gullibility, the civilian community and the subdivision where their relatives would find their respective residence, became in effect vulnerable escape routes in the event of a prison upheaval. The area they have occupied and presently undergoing development is precisely the security buffer of the prison community. Any violent spill over without the buffer would literally expose anyone on its fatal consequences. (A situation happened at Camp Bicutan when around 3,000 prisoners led by renegade detainee Commander Robot sparked a violent riot where several inmates died. During the conflagration, the Camp and its environs shook to its foundation and extending several kilometres from the area, the violence would be felt up into the Expressway. And in said detention camp there only 3,000 detainees. What we are concerned is the plight of 20,000 convicted prisoners in NBP compacted in a space without a security buffer anymore.) It is like building a vacation house along the shoreline where tsunamis are constantly imminent. The proponent for the housing of DENR and the Office of the President, knowingly or unknowingly, must be that recklessly hurried to say the least.
In 2010 onwards, construction of subdivision roadways has been at a high point and only a few phases are left before the housing structures are built and eventually awarded. In 2011, as follow through to this development, another attempt to pursue the transfer of NBP has been organized. As a matter of fact, it is a regular feature in every prison administrator’s policy program to commit itself in the process of rebuilding the penitentiary in another site. This time around, the prospective recipients of the NBP estate housing courtesy of the executive order realize that there is wisdom in transferring the prison facility outside of their jurisdiction. It is akin to realigning the waves so that no tsunami would hit them.
As it were, the site where the penitentiary is to be moved has as yet to be ascertained. Worst, Congress is not warm in appropriating funds unless it is convinced on the wisdom of the transfer. (Note that for the last 30 years no legislative resolution or laws were passed relative to prison affairs.) If at all the funds to be divine would come from sales of the NBP estate, at most it could only translate to a facility which could accommodate a fraction of the prison population. Assuming that in concrete terms, a site has been determined and that fund are available; the construction of the facility would take a minimum of 5 years to complete. And this is only for the migration of 25% of the prison population. The security tsunami still lurks within the corner.
Transferring the national penitentiary with such volume to transport is not a joke. It is a serious business which should be conducted with utmost care. While it would greatly benefit correctional administration, the cost however is very prohibitive. Never mind the displacement of personnel, the inconvenience of officers and the process of starting from scratch, the prison community will be re-ordered according to a set of proper arrangement. The virtual violent traps which have been built by the prison community to conform to illicit activities will be removed. Discipline from all the ranks will dawn in a new environment. Prison administrators will finally be able to conduct the appropriate correctional regime necessary in running the system. There will be fairness in the application of rules. Corrections will have achieved its proper calling. And further on, those (DENR and OP stakeholders) who were lucky to have been awarded a piece of lot in NBP will have a gracious future to bank on without fear, without terror, and without the trepidation of a sudden uprising in their midst.
But of course, before going into the motion of entertaining an administrative desire, the practical requirements ought to be within reach. Is there an area where transfer can be conducted? (If so, where is it? There are several sites singled out but none as yet has been ascertained. ) Are there funds for the purpose? (If so, where is it guaranteed?) These are two basic components to be realized as upfront in any serious endeavour. As it were, prison administration whether we like it or not is never a priority policy requiring serious executive and legislative, much more so, judicial consideration as long as poverty, homelessness, unemployment have as yet to be taken care of by national government. The efficiency of correctional administration lies at the very heart of a disciplined and flourishing society. Advanced countries experience the same challenges we are also confronted with. (Reference to an article “Prison Condition Around the World” at http://www.philippineprisons.com). But transferring facilities is the least solution to correctional problems.
If at all there is a political requisite or exigency (although this has been a wish since the incumbency of then President Ferdinand Marcos; the same wish has been carried over to the succeeding presidents—except President Cory Aquino— up to the present.) to transfer correctional administration, it should never be aimed at the facility but rather on the prison community to start with. There are five prison and penal farms in the country where 15 thousand prisoners may be farmed out. The mathematics of transferring prisoners may be formulated in this manner: 2,500 can be transferred to Sablayan Prison; 2,000 to San Ramon Prison; 1,000 to Leyte Prison; 5,000 to Iwahig and 5,000 to Davao Prison. The remaining 5,000 in the former strong 20,000 prison population of NBP will be retained for purposes of a diagnostic program. As far as the Correctional Institution for Women is concerned, since there was a pressing need by the DSWD to recover its land occupied by CIW, the NBP Minimum Camp (otherwise known as Depot) squarely fit for its use. (The excess population especially those from the Visayan and Mindanao, may be transferred to the CIW Mindanao.) The personnel complement will have to be divided accordingly and it goes without saying, the proper budgetary allocation too. On this score, NBP or what remains after the area has been reduced accordingly will stay as it was. NBP as a facility will be decommissioned. It is as it should be the site for BuCor Central Office and the gateway for its technical or diagnostic division; on top of the fact that it is also in charge of a historical monument, symbol of the country’s correctional system and headquarters of correctional policy formulation. If this should be the outline of the transfer program, it would only take a year to conduct with minimum appropriation to expend.
Options however are still available and the transfer of NBP/CIW still in the works.
GAY GOVERNANCE AHEAD
What happens when our country in the near future will be led by someone closely identified if not an active member of the so called third sex? And this is not impossibility. There are signs already and in local politics, in barangay, local government and even in Congress, there are dazzling indications that they have in all likelihood made their presence. Assuming that they are able to assume power and now at the helm of national government, let us hear how they would discuss our national problems and in the process lead our country once the make-up pouch of national leadership is on their lap.
I could just imagine. The newly elected president is conferring with his newly appointed Executive Secretary inside the recently furbished Maharlika Hall in Malacanan. The Hall would be rearranged to include bright indoor plants outflanking the massive curtains meticulously spread out in pastel colours. The flowery scent pervading in the Hall signifies freshness. Original paintings from the masters are hanged proportionately and the walls are blissfully clean. The two top officials, as expected, are seriously in a huddle. Both are considered leaders in their respective field, highly respected and with no stain in their names. The President is settled in a relaxed fashion, in his casual dress with matching crochet scarf smoothly flowing from his neck. His Executive Secretary on the other hand is delicately seated from across the large presidential table, pen, stationery and an embroidered handkerchief in hand. They are truly a picture of matronly elegance.
Elected President (EP): (to his Executive Secretary): “Manay, anesh ang sitwasyon sa ating bansa? Kaya pa ba natin ibangon ang mga purita?”
Executive Secretary (ES): “Hayyyy Tita, dafat magagaling at hindi echosera ang ilalagay natin sa pwesto. Nakaka pagoda yata ang umintindi ng gobyerno.”
EP: “Plangak ka diyan! Tingnan mo maigi mga appointees natin baka masingitan tayo ng mga sholbam at Pocahontas. Paki-usapan mo rin na mag bow na ang mga thundercats! Bantayan mo rin sila baka wala pang isang buwan mga Rica Peralejos na mga yan!”
ES: “Oi, ikaw nga diyan, bantayan mo mga clasmarurut mo baka mag fade beauty mo. Yung iba Cynthia Luster naman. Yung nilagay mo sa dakung department puro lapel, kyoho naman! Karamihan sa kanila ang lakad lang puro lafang.”
EP: “Junakis sila ni mudra yun noh at tiyak seryoso at hindi magiging Lucrecia Kasilag!”
ES: “Basta, sasabihin ko sayo kung hindi okray. Sana maayos sila magpalakad at malayong maging Lupita Kashiwahara. In Fairview, lagi kong sinusundan kung sila ay mag anaconda sa atin.”
EP: “Yung nirekomenda mo sa National Defense paminta pala. Pero pagsabihan mo iayos ang bihis, ang dating niya kasi morayta!”
ES: “ Ikaw nga yung nag crayola lang yung chimney cricket mo nilagay mo na sa pwesto. Huwag ka, siya ay puro chuva at chika lang!”
EP: “Ikaw naman, tandaan mo malaki naitulong niyan sa atin, lalo sa iyo, lagi kang tommy lee jones yata! Iwasan mo na ang mag taray. Basta tulungan mo na lang siya at idedma mo ang maging geli de belen!”
So there you are a joyful glimpse of things to come. Welcome to gay governance. Don’t worry. Some of the greatest men in history had gender challenges too. Need I tell you about William Shakespeare? How about Leonardo da Vinci? Oscar Wilde. Michaelangelo. Alexander the Great. Aristotle. Rock Hudson. Vic Vargas. Leonardo de Caprio. Rustom Padilla. Keanno Reeves. Boy Abunda. Boy George. Just to name a few. As for me, wiz na ako say.
I am just wondering, if such time will come, who will be appointed as prison director?
PRISON CONDITION AROUND THE WORLD
Prison administration in the Philippines has been confronted with several challenges and the problems obtaining in it is not isolated in the world. A determination of issues, problems, pain points and ordeals from different countries indicate almost a similar pattern of administrative and organizational suffering. Understanding how correctional challenges have been remedied by some countries inspires not only political maturity but also public service development. Let us take note of the following:
A large number of countries, including. Austria, China, Finland, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico,
New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, indicated that their national legislation on the
treatment of prisoners was based, or had been greatly influenced by the UN Standard Minimum Rules in the Treatment of Prisoners. However, persistent problems in the application of national provisions were mainly due to chronic overcrowding in many prisons and insufficient prison infrastructures.
Among the national good practices highlighted in most studies, Argentina reported that overcrowding in the Federal Prison Service was successfully overcome by the end of 2007 through the development of space allocations parameters, taking into account the indications of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and better distribution of the prisoners.
Austria was devoting particular attention to the possibility for prisoners to work and reported about
50 different categories of work in its prisons. Belgium had introduced regular family visits for all
prisoners, with special emphasis on strengthening the parental bonds with their children. In Brazil, a
Public Defender provided prisoners with full and free legal assistance and also bore the responsibility
to regulate the enforcement of the sentence.
Canada referred to the implementation of a new model of training in community supervision
(Strategic Initiative in Community Supervision). Day reporting centres were developed in 2008 to
provide services to offenders placed under community supervision and to ensure their accountability
taking into account their risk level.
Chile had introduced the “11 measures to restore dignity” addressing various prisoners’ basic needs,
such as living conditions, hours spent outside the cell, spiritual assistance, as well as improving care
and health service in emergency situations in prisons.”
Furthermore, there were reports submitted to UN highlighting to a certain degree their commitment and adherence to human rights. Note the following:
China reported on its measures to prevent torture. Ecuador illustrated its “Modelo de Atención
Integral” for persons deprived of their liberty, with the objective of improving the quality of life in
the centres for social rehabilitation and to enhance the individual capacity of each person deprived of his/her liberty to reintegrate into society. Estonia referred to the Drug Rehabilitation Unit in Tartu Prisons and the cooperation with the non-governmental organization Convictus Estonia for group work activities on drug misuse and HIV/AIDS. In particular, the practice of HIV testing and the medical aid available to positive patients in prison settings earned the Tartu Prison the Best Practice Award of the World Health Organization in 2003.
Germany had an enhanced programme of e-learning in prisons, which proved highly beneficial to the
disproportionately large number of prisoners with educational shortcomings, particularly as it
allowed an individual pace of learning. In Guatemala older prisoners were properly identified and
registered with a view to providing them with special care responding to their health requirements.
In Israel, in 2007 the Supreme Court declared that the State must provide a bed to every prisoner heldin an Israeli prison. In its decision, the Court stated that the right to sleep on a bed is a minimum
standard of living and dignity.
Italy reported on a pilot project for offenders between 18 and 34 years of age, based on a voluntary
commitment to undertake defined educational and work activities and to respect internal rules. The
project (Progetto Giovani) was open to low-risk first offenders and was aiming at their social
reintegration. Lebanon indicated that efforts were being made to eradicate illiteracy among prisoners and that it was possible to pursue higher studies in prison.
In South Africa, the Department of Correctional Services had implemented a multi-pronged strategy
against prison overcrowding, involving, inter alia, improved use of conversion of sentence to
alternatives, enhancing community correctional supervision and encouraging national debate about
reasons for incarceration as a sentence”.
It is unfortunate that the Philippines has not submitted its report on how it fared in the pursuit of SMR principles. There were legislative attempts to redefine prison service through a law on modernizing its system. It is still on the level of resolution and as yet to progress into a draft bill yet. Other countries have made a headway towards this end. Accordingly,
Switzerland had recently revised its Penal Code, including new provisions according to which work
in prison and the participation in training courses are considered to be of equal value for the purpose of rehabilitation. The United Kingdom emphasized its programmes for the prevention of suicide, self-harm management, as well as violence reduction.
The Philippine prison setting however inactive in the international forum is not in way distressing from how it should project its institutional posture. There are two agencies involved in corrections, the Bureau of Corrections under the Department of Justice and the jail system under the Department of Interior and Local Government. Even if at times these agencies are functioning under strict political lines or with different departmental mandate, there are non government agencies which are consistent in its presence. There is the International Committee of Red Cross. It literally reviews, conducts studies and assists all correctional facilities in the country. And of course there is the academe and the private sector involved in formulating a template in the proper managements of correctional resources. On the whole, the lessons learned from practices all over the world could provide a clear direction in developing further or advancing the cause of humanity in Philippine correctional administration.
A TRIBUTE TO MAN’S SUPERIORITY AND THE DISCOVERY OF HIS OWN IMMORTALITY
It has been said that man, the so called Homo sapiens, has a lot in common with all living things— genes, character, intelligence and even those that animates or that which creates life. Plants and animals must reproduce if only to further their specie. Everything revolves around infinite movement and sex. Man thought for some time that he was on the same plane, on a similar path, on the usual level with all animate inhabitants of the planet, from bacteria to giant mammals. But there is a marked difference, quite tenuous and hazy but a great divergence after all. Man is the only living creature that can think not in the instinctive way, but in a contemplative manner. Man is the only living creature that can utilize the stimulating and omnipotent power of his mind.
Of course, mankind has no match when it comes to the fury of nature. He, like any living matter, easily succumbs to its might. His mind could as yet control nature and use it to his advantage. But science is getting nearer. Man has formulated technology at this time and he has lived comfortably like no other time. He has to tame nature through the technology he has invented, use its awesome power to propel his vision to greater heights. Man must conquer everything and even redefine miracle to mean that he could also perform it at the flick of a finger.
There are however lapses which he must address. He has to find a cure against cancer. He must reckon his medical know- how to lick away Aids HIV infection. He must find a way to control terrorism and crime; write off even from his jargon any reference to war and bigotry. Man is still far from what perfection is yet he is trying everything to fulfil it. It is not outside his competence but within the sphere of his awareness.
His imagination knows no boundaries and he can stretch the limits of his mind. He has that capacity, something which no other living being could exercise. With his competence, he was able to conquer the skies. He could even muster enough calculations that he was even able to leave his planet and proceed to the moon and other planets later. Not only that, he marvelled at space and recently landed a robotic machine right at the surface of planet Mars and into some galactic space. He has as yet to probe the deepest part of his planet, address the most tedious thoughts ever haunting man like devising a system that would allow man to live forever. He is already in the process of entering into this realm.
As it were, there are computations on how to arrive at the equation of longevity. Accordingly, ageing is not a normal flow of man’s nature. Although man follows very closely the life cycle of all creatures, man holds the key in reversing it. His mind is an exceptional instrument that could understand and analyze, invent and develop the necessary response to any problem. Properly trained it can also send signals, redo physics and conduct metaphysical configuration on matter.
If at all man has reached the pinnacle of his analysis as in failing to discover or even concoct some cures to his ailment, he can dictate his body to heal itself. Mind over matter, as they say. It has been a component which ancient philosophies and current medical doctrines have in common. But it does not mean that man must rely on such gift of posturing. He still must have to contrive the proper remedy so that it could be used to treat the whole of mankind especially those not predisposed in healing oneself, let alone being dependent on science to cure his diseases.
On the whole, man has already in a scientific way, explored the rudiments of that concern we call immortality. Unlike in the olden days, man may yet to live forever.