Monthly Archives: May 2012
I was sent to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as substitute speaker in the 2nd Annual Prisons and Correctional Facilities Asia and it was both very educational and informative.
It was very educational because there I learned a lot of approaches, advancements and programs which can be introduced back home in my country, the Philippines. During the two day conference, I was able to take note that Mexico, Curacao, Netherlands and Antilles were exploring administrative policies on early releasing. Columbia has already operated a house arrest and GPS tracking system. Brazil is on pre-trial and early release programs; Luxemburg concentrating on short sentence and early release, much like Andorra, Spain, Austria and Israel.
Well, that was par for the course. But the most significant insight I gained from my Malaysian journey, are the following: 1) That Malaysian Prisons are never experiencing congestion like most of its neighboring countries in Asia. The reason for this is the fact that the Malaysian government has an arranged correctional procedure in farming out prisoners to military camp for service of sentence. It has been referred to as the “Blue Ocean” approach. I have not received a clear explanation on why blue ocean. Anyway, the Malaysian prison has built a facility good for 40 thousand prisoners but it has only 33 thousand prisoners, 25% of which are foreigners. That means, according to a Malaysian prison official, they still have a “vacancy” for 7 thousand more.
2) That there are three major “races” dominant in the socio-cultural life of Malaysia. There are the, well, of course, the Malay, a strictly Muslim race. (Filipinos are closely related racially to the Malaysian nationals, even the language, the way it is delivered, the accent and all, everything seems a bit Filipino) There is the Chinese and the Indian. Moving around the capital of Malaysia, the city of Kuala Lumpur is a very revealing socio-cultural exposition.
In the Philippines, the Chinese and Indian play also a socio-cultural role and may have been mixed through inter-marriages, but in Malaysia, there is a distinctive separation and a sociological divide. The Malay are spiritually and conservatively on the side of Islamic faith. The Chinese are mainly Buddhist and the Indians have their respective beliefs based on their (or their ancestral) cultural upbringing. According to a Military observer, those from the Middle East—the pure Muslims—would rather spend their R and R in Malaysia than any other place or country in the world. Malaysia on the other hand plays a good host to their spiritual brethren, even offering economic expression in the country’s entrepreneurial landscape.
A cab driver, of Chinese descent, expressed his sentiment when asked how Chinese have assimilated into the Malay culture quipped, “Oh, over here in Malaysia, we, the Chinese and the Indian occupy the lowest rung in the society. We are the runners, the laborers, the marginalized here. We are never important except in running the wheels of the daily routine of the strictly Malay race. The Malay are very nationalistic next to no one in the South East Asia region.
No foreigner with dollar denomination could buy anything in Malaysia unless he converts it into Malaysian Ringgit. Any foreigner for that matter cannot use his currency unless it is in the local currency, much like Japan and any advanced country. In the Philippines, which I think would advance later, dollar are even preferred than its local currency.
But what amazed me is something I have as yet to find out the reason. I spent a great deal of time taking my meals in the so-called Food Street. It is one avenue, an ordinary alley about a kilometer stretch and on both side of the lane were restaurants whose tables have already spilled over the street. There were Chinese dishes, Malay, Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, delicacies from Asian countries, but I have as yet to see a stall from my country. Seems like there are none. But what amazes me, despite the splatter of excess food and spoilage of left over, there were no signs—no aroma of decay actually, and here is the clincher, there were NO flies at all! The scent of boiling broth, of grilled food, of leafy greens sautéed and heated along marinated meat and yes, there are exotic foods galore and of all meat supplies, there were different presentation of Asian cooking, especially on the manner of making a frog look delicious! I never tried eating one for fear that my throat would have warts later. My mother used to scold me before for playing with toad because I might get a skin disease all over—and it stuck in my memory, to the detriment of enjoying exotic food for a change.
I have seen Japan; I have toured Australia; dropped by Singapore for a while but Malaysia is something I could relay my racial connection with gusto except for the fact that at the exchange rate for my peso as against the Malaysian Ringgit which is 15 times greater—that is my P15 is equivalent to MR 1, indicates a situation where my country needs 15 more years of sincere governance to achieve what Malaysia has achieved at present. And, to think that sometime four or five decades ago, my country was above everyone else in Asia.
And by the way, there is also something that I observed, trivial it may seem. Unlike in the Philippines, 7pm in Malaysia is still daylight! But of course, at 6am in Malaysia, it’s still pitch dark while in the Philippines, the sun is about to burst. But there is something worth the local pride in Davao City where I am based if I will compare it with Malaysia. Davao cab drivers are a very, very honest lot than their Malaysian counterpart. I am also personally inclined or biased in favor of Indians, they act with cordiality, a bit humble and easy to get along with than their Chinese neighbor.
But on the whole, Malaysia is very much like Australia, Japan and Singapore—countries I have been to. Strolling around downtown is like malling in the Philippines. That is right, Kuala Lumpur is one big mall I have visited.
HARD FACTS AND THE TRUTH:
ON THE MATTER OF TRANSFERRING
NEW BILIBID PRISON/ CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION FOR WOMEN
- On September 6, 2006, PGMA issued Executive Order 568 in re Transferring the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) from Barangay Poblacion, Muntinlupa City, to Barangay Cuyambay, Municipality of Tanay, Province of Rizal. It was a result of a stand and study conducted by a Committee created for purposes of determining the use of government land presided by Housing and Urban Development Council chair, then VP Noli de Castro with several government agencies as members (DoJ, DENR, NHA, BuCor, OP, LRA, among others). EO 568 ordered DOJ to “carry out or cause the transfer of the New Bilibid prison from its current site at Barangay Poblacion, Muntinlupa City, Metro manila, to Barangay Cuyambay, Municipality of Tanay, Province of Rizal.”
- EO 568 is specific. Accordingly, “The DOJ shall be responsible for the performance and coordination of all tasks and activities related to the transfer of the New Bilibid Prison such as the preparation of the technical plans for the new site, the procurement of works and services, and the development and management of the new correctional facilitiy, in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and other concerned government agencies.”
- EO 568 issued a timeline to jumpstart the process of transferring. Hence, “ The DoJ and other concerned agencies shall prepare and finalize the implementation scheme and financing plan for the transfer of New bilibid Prison within six (6) months from the date of issue of this Executive Order.” Five (5) months later, DOJ SoJ issued Department Order 164 dated February 20, 2007 “Constituting a Special Committee on the Implementation of Executive Order No. 568 series of 2006” chaired by Doj Usec Fidel Exconde, Jr. The Committee had around three meeting sessions but never had enough periods to deliberate specific provisions of the EO.
- On November 26, 2009, two years later, Presidential Proclamation 1952 was issued amending Presidential Proclamation 1159. (Note that after the issuance of EO 568 in September, 2006, there were two consecutive Presidential Proclamations issued (PP 1158 which allocated 270 hectares in Tanay, Rizal Province and PP 1159 which declared NBP as Government and Socialized Housing site). PP 1952 amended PP 1159. In said amendment, the emphasis was changed. Instead of the whole NBP estate affected by the development plan covered and designed pursuant to PP1159, what was indicated was the 78 hectares only from the whole NBP estate to be distributed in favor of DENR and Office of the President. In other words, PP 1952 rendered the NBP Development Plan as irrelevant and without legal basis anymore. If at all there will be changes, only that prison program or activity within the affected 78 hectares which will be moved out. The entire NBP estate remains as it was under the amended Presidential Proclamation.
- Under this situation, BuCor under whose supervision NBP belongs retained its usual and regular conduct of its mandate. Since the development of the 78 hectares OP and DENR was conducted on a low key manner, the construction of a major access road splicing through the middle of the NBP prison reservation created a number of inconvenience which later would be the cause of certain security irregularities. The infrastructure meddled literally with the usual movement of minimum security prisoners on whose area of work assignment, the access road passed through.
- This situation would further be highlighted during the conduct of the DOJ Panel created for purposes of investigating the so called Leviste case which started in May 18, 2011 (the date when inmate Leviste was arrested while on furlough in Makati City) . In said DOJ Panel findings, it was noted that NBP grounds are loose that contributed to security lapses. The road construction added more confusion in the course of the investigation lending an ambiance of disorder. Hence, when the final report of DOJ Panel was submitted, the issue of transferring NBP has been resurrected. As a result of the DOJ Panel report, DOJ issued the creation of a Technical Working Group on June 22, 2011 to study NBP problems which included the plans for the transfer of NBP.
- The DOJ TWG never met but the Panel’s Report was furnished concerned members including the Director of the Bureau of Corrections.
- In response to the DOJ Panel Report on the matter of transferring NBP, BuCor submitted on October 6, 2011 a memorandum to DOJ in re NBP Transfer. In said Memorandum, Bucor enumerated its plan for the transfer program. (ADB through Japan Technical Assistance Program has commissioned consultants to conduct a study. A series of consultations with the Department of Finance led to the proposed inclusion of a funding scheme for the 2013 budget.)
- On February 7, 2012, DOJ issued a Memorandum based on PMS Sec Abad Memorandum on the Presidential Directive (dated January 26, 2012) to check the relocation of BuCor facilities in relation to local government units affected. This is also a response from an earlier review conducted by DoJ in their 2nd Management Committee meeting (February 6, 2012) on the matter of transferring NBP and CIW.
- This would be followed by a series of coordinative memorandum from DoJ, BuCor and other government agencies. BuCor shifted on its view as far as the relocation site is concerned. Instead of heading to Tanay where a parcel of lot has been proclaimed for prison transfer, a portion of a military camp in central Luzon was eyed instead. The site would be ideal since it is strategically located in the middle of Luzon, a practical site to service both north and south of the island.
- On February 27, 2012, Bucor submitted a Memorandum to DoJ on its recommendations on the Transfer of NBP/CIW. It included six principal considerations for the transfer scheme and highlighted five related recommendations to jumpstart the transfer process.
- On March 29, 2012 the Office of the Solicitor General issued an office order creating an OSG-BuCor Task Force to review, check and defend BuCor assets and property holdings. This is relevant and in keeping with the transfer scheme since the initial approach would entail the distribution of prisoners from NBP to penal establishment earlier determined by DoJ as regional prisons.
- On April 2, 2012, BuCor issued a special order creating the Committee on the Transfer of NBP and CIW.
- Recent DoJ Order in response to the February 27, 2012 BuCor recommendation, approved the transfer of prisoners to various penal establishments including military camps. The tenor of the transfer therefore has been defined and has commenced accordingly.
- 1. The much vaunted, much discussed transfer of NBP as contemplated is not actually a wholesale transfer. Presidential Proclamations issued were amended to mean that NBP estate, that is, only a portion of it will be used for socialized housing. It is already on track and given. The earlier site development plan drafted (which covered the entire NBP estate) in relation to a previously issued Presidential Proclamation, after the latter was amended, has been abandoned already.
- 2. The issuance of a DOJ Order as follow through to BuCor transfer memo confirmed the fact that the transfer process is a redistribution procedure of prisoners to various penal establishments and military installations. Not only is the BuCor central office assured of its official area since it would be retained but a portion of that which has been declared for housing indicates a specific section is intended for correctional officers.
Sometime in 1970 I was admitted as freshman in Letran College. There was an entrance exam although I could not recall whether it was checked at all. I merely passed and breezed through it. Next time I knew, I was already enrolling. There I met a group of fellow youngsters fresh from high school. We were graduates from different secondary schools from all over the country. We were a hodge podge of initiates dreaming of a college degree for a possible crack at prosperity in the future.
I have classmates coming from the North, from the Visayas and I think, there were also from Mindanao. I have classmates with Chinese ancestry too. Majority were scions of prominent families. Letran College has been known as an exclusive school for boys, until school administration allowed the entry of female students. I think we were the first batch to have female classmates. Letran College became the foremost initiator of the co-ed system.
Four and five years later, our female classmates would rule. Our valedictorian was a female. She was Vivian Tornea, presently a ranking official in the Overseas Welfare Administration (OWA). The rest of the boys would just sing halleluiahs. Most of the girls would also dominate our classes. I never recalled anyone among us, the boys, would even challenge such dominant academic posture of the girls. We were merely confined to pranks and pulling one mischief after another, pushing tomfoolery and creating trouble. It was never a rewarding experience at all but unfortunately, I was one of the leading lights in the shenanigan sector. Everyone, was for me, a subject for ridicule; a figure for laughter; a model for amusement. Of course, I learned the trick when I was in high school and was reinforced further when joined by another prankster—Dan Bassig, scion of a successful real estate practitioner of Pasig City.
I was having a grand time laughing all the way, pinching my classmates, joking with everyone until one day, I realized that my grades were all falling apart. My serious classmates were advancing while in my case, I was failing one subject after another. The result: my batch graduated a year ahead of me. It was a very sad and inopportune time. For me, the period wasted was regrettable and disastrous. Worst, my parents were not even aware of it. I graduated without a peer, alone one October month, half a year later. While my classmates were having a grand time hunting for jobs, I merely retreated back home licking my academic wounds and laughing, not on my favourite subjects—my classmates, but on myself.
Years later, I would find out that a number of my classmates were already above the rim. Some were full-fledged lawyers; others bank officials, successful entrepreneurs, high government officials and triumphant businessmen. Those guys and gals who made it came from the middle class. Those who came from prominent families splinted. Some improved their lot and the other half, suffered setbacks. One of them was Igmidio “Jun” Dacanay, my buddy, constant company and exempted from my aggressive jokes. He would be around as audience to my stand up comic expressions. Jun was a scion of a transportation magnate and bus carrier Dacanay Express, plying the route of Manila-Baguio-Manila. Their family business was one of those which crashed because of Martial Law. Their evening trips were affected when curfew was imposed. From there, their business slowed down and they never recovered. To date, Jun is a Pastor, a calling which according to him was an effect of his rehabilitation from a traumatic period. Once, he was a prominent name in Baguio and instantly, his family’s wealth disappeared, and he became a non-entity. He was depressed to the point of suicide.
More years later, decades more actually and we were all nearing the twilight of our years, the midlife period. I would note some classmates were already having some grand time with their grandchildren. Some have retired from work. Others were still enjoying the perks of high end privileges as a result of their positions. In my case, I merely coasted along in my government post. At times, I was exceptionally appreciated, and in some instances, I was harassed. During these periods, I would find some classmates worthy of visiting, as others would find time visiting me.
Jun Dacanay visited me several times. The last time was when he brought me longganisa, that which was the pride of Baguio, and I suspect, a specialty which he was marketing side by side his preaching routine.
My constant callers were Vio Mateo and Bong Feliciano. They would drop by my office, pull me out and the three of us would just immerse in nearby hot springs at Los Banos, Laguna. It would become almost a crusade until I was sent to provincial sorties.
There was Dan Bassig. He retired from the US Navy and as a US citizen, his residence is in California. But he would rather shuttle to and fro the country of his origin. He would suddenly pop up and would complain for some physical ailments. At that time, I had a friend who was having a session with a faith healer. Dan would confess and would plead that he was cured of his restless leg syndrome. He came later to ask me to visit once again the faith healer. Previously, he was in a group of those seeking reliefs too. When Dan asked me where all the guys he was with, I must disclose that they were all goners already. Dan never insisted to visit the place once again.
There was also Rudy Gundran. Rudy is still connected at SSS and quite facilitative for his friends. Because of his competence, I was able to ask his assistance to help me enrol all the “tambays” of Recto and Quiapo as SSS card holders! Even pickpockets are SSS members now under the category of self employed!
And, yes Tanggol Co. Tanggol was the most consistent. He was there in Muntinlupa displaying his European car and when I was assigned in Davao, he was there with her European wife! Once I had an occasion to visit Beth Salonga, owner of FerSal Appartele and Salonga Music Store. Her musical instruments carried the name of her husband, the brand Fernando. I used to attend an instant mini-reunion at the house of Marlyn Torres-Galvez, presently deputy Ombudsman.
Of course, there is always Joseph Castelo, a serious guy and supplier of security papers, on league with Angel Lee, a respected owner of a brokerage firm. I met once Ted Granados, and the last time was when he was contemplating on a Congressional seat in Leyte. I was informed though that he was cheated. And then, there was Ed Garcia. He was a successful government lawyer until he transferred from one department to another. Last I heard of him, he was moving abroad. Rolly del Rosario I understand left for Canada. I once saw him decades ago when both of us were fledging marketing personnel. I was then a med rep of Mead Johnson, in Rolly’s case a salesman for Johnson and Johnson at Bicol region.
I once saw in one occasion at Marlyn’s residence Noel Trinos’ favourite seatmate, Carina del Valle. And yes, once before when I was completing my graduate studies at UP, I chanced upon Noel who was then taking up law. He begged and profusely supplicated me not to see him after that. I did. He was fearful that I might pepper him with jokes until he grows callous on studying. Next time, I heard was that he is a full fledge lawyer already. I met Dar Santos who was at that time a no non-sense lawyer and was checking a case at Muntinlupa. I was already the Superintendent of the National Penitentiary at that time. We never had a long conversation though since he was in a hurry for another legal appointment. I was about to pull a gag on him and tell him that I will recommend the release of a number of prisoners, thousands of them, especially those whom he defended and lost.
There was this Marquez (the first name escapes me always). He was transferee from a seminary and spent a couple of semesters at Letran. I don’t know if he graduated in another school but he was one of Muntinlupa’s successful automotive supply store. We just recognized one another when I was buying a spare part for my car.
I have this classmate who is a top gun in the Office of President, Bobby Dumlao, a lawyer and director of the Presidential Action Center. I remember the guy so well. We had a tiff during our sophomore year and we were then on a youth camp in Baguio. Our batch was marooned inside a public school classroom.I was sleeping soundly when out of the blue he awakened me by slapping his slippers on my face! There was laughter all around and he became an instant slapstick. And who will not get mad. In my case, I merely kept silent and slept. But a few hours later, when everyone was snoring, including Bobby, I had a grand revenge. I shoved my boots into his mouth! While he was spitting madly, as our group suddenly awakened, laughter reverberated kilometres away. From there on, he never forgot the incident and carried the slight and offensive act for years until decades later; we would be reunited under the aegis of government service. Both of us having completed law and having a good position in our respective organization would have a face off in some cases. We have forgotten our juvenile antics already although I am still alert when beside him.
I would still dream that one day I would be able to attend a reunion where all our classmates would be in full attendance. As it were, I would be a recipient of some snippets of information on the whereabouts of our professors. Atty. Hector Villacorta, a funny man during lectures and a serious law practitioner would shuttle from one high government post after another. He was recently until he was politically replaced as Chairman of the Veterans Administration. There was Prof. Cesar Marquez, prim and proper and full of machismo when he was our icon in English is now leading a life as a transgender in Baguio City. Prof. Punongbayan was for years, as our philosophy mentor, returned to his first love—selling mussels in Farmers’ Market in Cubao. The rest, I have as yet to check out.
I still cherish those years in Letran, although at that time, I would rather call it “Let’s run!”