QUALITIES OF PRISON LEADERS
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.