Monthly Archives: August 2012
Ever since man invented the tools, the craft, the language, formula and the style of writing, he began the arduous task of laying down his thoughts, ideas and even his fears, strengths and almost everything embedded in his memory. Written down were his so called imprints, evidence that once upon a time, he occupied a space in the universe and tried to contribute to eternal consciousness.
Writing is a product of his mind, a summation of his thoughts. It is a process he invented in attempting to pass on whatever lessons he has learned, whatever developments and triumphs he has accumulated so that those behind him will be able to enjoy and benefit from. It is about his reflections, it is about his dreams, his aspirations, frustrations, pains, afflictions and agonizing moments. He may not have evolved completely to be that ideal persona he wished biology to take care of, but his lifestyle has changed radically ever since he successfully wielded the pen.
The books accumulated by writers contributed much to humankind’s strength. It has become his guide, his roadmap, his reference to live fully. Note that countries with greater readership are prosperous relatively speaking. They have advanced considerably well. Even in struggling economies, those who are well read are well off than their counterparts.
The writer therefore is a specie completely to be studied in isolation. His orientation and perspective are different from others whose persuasion is on another field. He may be sedate most of the time, a bit irritable and prickly, cantankerous even and to a certain extent petulant but that is his nature. He may even suspect that he is possessed, endowed with demons and ill tempered. There are several cases where writers are hermitic and difficult to please. They are never successful as a pillar of the family. They rejoice at loneliness and solitary life is the apex of their happiness. It is in this state that they derive full satisfaction, and it is in pure seclusion that their creativity is fully expressed. They belong to the world even if their own is just a simple nook.
The writer is one who has managed to evolve himself totally from his fledging predecessors. Writing has become his passion, whether he is aware or not, if only to share instinctively an idea to the world. He may be utterly asocial or anti-social, shunning entirely from the glare of any relationship but his product has stimulated progress to a full generation.
Society never celebrates the presence of a writer unless he is gone. His respect lies only once he reaches life hereafter. In reality however writers never die at all. Their writings are perpetual reminders that he is still living not only in the memories of those he touched but tied in the developments which mankind enjoys.
NEWS DISPATCH: Palawan Governor Joel and Mayor Mario Reyes are among the so-called “Big 5” fugitives in a list drawn up by the Philippine National Police. The others are retired Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, dubbed “the butcher” by human rights groups; Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr., who is wanted for murdering his wife; and Globe Asiatique real estate developer Delfin Lee, wanted for syndicated estafa involving P7 billion in fraudulent housing loans.
THE NATIONAL PENITENTIARY for quite some time has become a recipient of serious censure for handling offenders. It has been denigrated for maltreating inmates, disparaged for handling programs, condemned for loose management of high profile convicts.
Accordingly, the penal facilities are porous, its personnel demoralized, the administrators indifferent, budget insufficient, equipage floundering, programs faltering and no security policy effectively drawn. Worst, it is one agency whose legal basis (Prison Law of 1917) is vintage and operates through measures which is only based on reaction and consequence. If the one appointed at the helm of the institution is a trained asylum administrator then it functions properly. (We wanted to have a good pilot to fly us and we abhor the view to board a plane whose pilot is never trained at all unless of course we intend to quit whatever it is there in our future.)
I have heard a lot of prison administrators appointed by national leadership quip whenever they are confronted with critical challenges in managing prisons. Their complaints are eerily similar. The challenges in prison are different from those they stumbled upon where they came from. (Talk of a pilot who is about to land and has encountered turbulence expressing lamentation that driving a plane is different from his training as a basketball coach!)
Our penal establishments, especially the national penitentiary, are designed for ordinary detainees. The recurring theme of rehabilitating sick persons still the pervading approach applied although blended with token educational activities. This does not hold significant control when implemented on a special sector, say for convicted drug lords, celebrity personalities, high profile cases and high security risk captives. The penitentiary can hold toe to toe with pure predators, notorious and deranged characters but would fall short when it comes to moneyed, highly educated, largely influential, prominent and dominant class of incarcerated persona.
Prisons are not prepared for this kind of sector. It has no defining rule promoting control. It is not even primed to deal with gangs. Gangs predominate the landscape of institutional direction. Prisons have no power to check the circulation of contraband, money in particular. It could not even manipulate and dominate the reformatory climate through rules because it is vintage that its implementers would oftentimes find themselves at the tail end evading complaints for human rights violation.
And now this. If in the normal course of events, the Big 5 will finally be brought to the bar of justice and eventually be found guilty, will the penitentiary be able to control this group vis-a-vis the sworn institutional weaknesses it has as yet to resolve. Media is only too excited to get this development up their sleeve. Prison scandal sells like hotcake anywhere and in anyway.
“ILAGAN CITY—A day after claiming that he had escaped from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) together with murder convict Rolito Go and three others, recaptured prisoner Rommel Laciste on Monday retracted his statement, now saying that he was alone when he bolted the national penitentiary on August 15.”
—Philippine Daily Star, August 28, 2012
In my long career in the prison service, I only have noted a number of escapes mainly coming from that row classified as minimum security prisoners. They are those whose penalties are about to expire, those who only have a few months left before they are finally to be discharged. They usually have served time for an average of 10 years. If at all they would escape, it is no longer to commit a crime but to elude the possibility of commiting one while serving time. They are mostly reformed and no longer could pose a danger to the free community.
But escaping from a maximum security wing of the prison compound defies logic. Those serving time under maximum security classification are subjected to a rigorous multilayered security supervision that it is almost impossible to walk out from a defensive cordon. Around the perimeter fence is a secondary barrier referred to as “no man’s land.” Entering said enclosure, the tower guard has the full right to take down anyone. The only way possible for an inmate to breach the maximum camp is to build a several meter deep tunnel or to tear down through explosives the perimeter railing. Otherwise, an inmate confined in this facility has only one option to get out, that is, if he is already dead.
The escape of prisoner Rommel Laciste therefore represents a good template in studying how an ordinary prisoner was able to elude and hurdle a series of security barrier and successfully fly out of the cookoo’s nest, so to speak. What makes the Laciste escape intriguing is the fact that the prisoner had no means nor resources to break down security. He is not even a ranking gang member or considered one of those hardened and notorious although his crime speaks volume about his wayward personality. If he escaped in a simple manner, assuming of course that it really is, then something must be learned in his escapade. It is even incredible if he would just walk away from a strata of security personnel ringing every entry/exit points in his sweet time unless he is a certified illusionist.
We can blame security for this kind of gaffe or the porous nature of the penal structures but again, this is not the case. We cannot have a given instance of simultaneous stupidity and ineptitude. One layer can display such kind of folly but never the entire stretch composed mainly of a mixture of rookie and veteran custodial officers. Besides, no one messes around with a rookie. Yet Laciste succeeded where imagination failed.
How he did it is one full course which correctional administration must have to take a leaf from.
- Prison is a total institution like a seminary, soldiers’ barracks, tubercular institution and asylum for lepers.
- The difference however is that in prison, admission is not voluntary.
- That’s the initial view. But the accompanying procedure is a bit technical but clear. Prison should be treated like an ocean going vessel, a big passenger ship in the middle of sea. Everybody is on board passengers and crews alike. Nobody is allowed to get off. The ship must sustain everyone.
- The prison (or jail) officer is like a ship captain and as a matter of course, he must guide the liner and maintain discipline while it is voyaging and on a journey. That is the starting point. Visitors, as a rule, should be treated with respect and reverence unless they act like pirates.
- While on board, which in prisons inmates spend a considerable period of time, prisoners should henceforth be seen no longer as passengers but as students. Prisons should therefore in this manner function like an academe. Prisoners should be enrolled in classes and they should regularly be assessed according to the merits of their participation. (Gone were those days when prisons are instantly understood as hospitals, where prisoners are to be seen as sick persons needing confinement.) A policy on “no-skill-no-recommendation-for-release should be the guiding principle.
- The head of the facility acts like a Dean in the academe. This is where rehabilitation as a course is applied and its discipline imposed. Education is the backbone of every interaction.
- On the whole, prison administration projects a different, shifting persona according to the phase of correctional requirement. The correctional officer follows closely how administration fulfills it shifting mandate. Initially, he is a mariner, then an educator and an institutional facilitator. Failing to act the role promotes confusion and may complicate the way the prison is managed. Worst, one commits a blunder in handling prisoners.
- Having said these, the prison worker therefore should be distinguished from the rest of his counterparts in the whole bureaucracy. Principally, he is a different breed. Unlike his equivalent in a government institution, on a regular basis, he is exposed to deception, to hazards and threats, epidemics and violence, stress and tensions, pain and suffering, sorrow and anguish, torture and agony.
- Unlike in any other persuasion, he must be alert at all times. Negligence is fatal. Laxity is lethal to his state of mind. Carelessness is critical to his survival. Slackness is incurable if not irreversible for his career. Exposure in the prison community is an invitation to crime. He is always at the end of an incident. He is blamed if he commits a mistake; he is blamed if he omits an important stake. He must be nowhere in the prison community. Yet his presence must be felt.
- Prison work is a career for the philosophers, a vocation for the saintly, a calling for the just and a profession for scholars.
- It should never be seen as a livelihood, a source of revenue, or even as a trade. There are those who initially succumbed to the perception that prison is business, that it is a job to be done or a work to be completed, only to realize that it has impinged on his awareness on being fair and has eventually negated his sense of understanding on what is true and proper.
- Handling the incarcerated humanity demands precision and correctness. That is why it is called Corrections.
(Note: Executive Clemency is the power of the President in criminal cases and in state convictions to pardon a person convicted of a crime, commute the sentence (shorten it, often to time already served) or reduce it from death to another lesser sentence. There are many reasons for exercising this power including real doubts about the guilt of the party, apparent excessive sentence, humanitarian concerns such as illness or an aged inmate, to clear the record of some who has demonstrated rehabilitation or public service or because the party is a political or personal friend of the President. (This definition is lifted from Federal law interpretation which Philippine laws reckon.)
Prisoners need not lose hope. The rule on the issuance of executive clemency has been amended to define in clear terms how a person serving time will eventually be released.
Under the new amended rules made by the Board of Pardons and Parole, inmates who suffer from serious, contagious, or life threatening illness or disease and those prisoners with severe disability can now be recommended for executive clemency.
Based on the amended guidelines under the extraordinary circumstances, an inmate suffering from serious, contagious or life threatening disease ,or with severe physical disability such as those who are totally blind, paralyzed or bedridden can be subject for recommendation for executive clemency.
However, the condition of the inmate should be certified “under oath” by a physician of the Bureau of Corrections Hospital and likewise certified under oath by a physician designated by the Department of Health (DOH).
Under the same guidelines on extraordinary circumstances, the Board shall also recommend to the President the grant of executive clemency when any of the following extraordinary circumstances are present:
• The trial court or appellate court in its decision recommended the grant of executive clemency for the inmate;
• Evidence which the court failed to consider, before conviction, which would have just justified an acquittal of the accused;
• Alien inmates where diplomatic considerations and amity among nations necessitates review; and
• Such other similar or analogous circumstances whenever the interest of justice will be served thereby.
In such case none of the extraordinary circumstances enumerated the Board may review or recommend to the President the grant of executive clemency to an inmate provided the inmate meets the following minimum requirements of imprisonment.
For commutation of sentence the inmate should have served:
• At least one – third of the definite or aggregate prison terms;
• At least one-half of the minimum of the indeterminate prison term or aggregate minimum of the indeterminate prison terms;
• At least 10 years for inmates sentenced to one reclusion perpetua or one life imprisonment, for crimes/offenses not punished under Republic Act No. 7659 and other special laws;
• At least 13 years for inmates whose indeterminate and /or definite prison terms were adjusted to a definite prison term of 40 years in accordance with the provisions of Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code as amended;
• At least 15 years for inmates convicted of heinous crimes as defined in RA 7659or other special laws, committed on or after January 1, 1994 and sentenced to one reclusion pepetua or one life imprisonment;
• At least 18 years for inmates convicted and sentenced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment for violation of RA 6425, as amended, otherwise known as “The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972” or RA 9165 known as “The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Acts of 2002”; and for kidnapping for ransom or violation of the laws on terrorism, plunder and transnational crimes;
• At least 20 years for inmates sentenced to two or more reclusion perpetua even if their sentences were adjusted to a definite prison term of forty years in accordance with the provisions of Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended;
• At least 25 years for inmates originally sentenced to death penalty but which was automatically reduced or commuted to reclusion perpetua.( As amended by Board Resolution No. 24-4-10 dated April 13, 2010.)
For Conditional Pardon, an inmate should have served at least one-half of the maximum of the original indeterminate and /or definite prison term. (As amended by Board Resolution No. 24-4-10 dated April 13, 2010.)
Stated in the same guidelines that “Compliance with the above – mentioned periods of imprisonment shall be without prejudice to the results of publication, community interview, pre-executive clemency investigation report, institutional conduct, NBI records check, psychological test, notices, comments from the victim or victim’s relatives, court certifications of the non-existence of any record of pending appeal or case, and other pertinent documents and factors.”
My heart goes for those who met a tragic end and left a promising career that fateful Monday, claiming the lives of a national leader, SILG Jess Robredo, a veteran and Samaritan flight instructor, Captain Jessup Bahanting and a capable student pilot, Kshitiz Chand. I am especially drawn in a scenario which I could only imagine, using circumstances as basis for my supposition.
Here we have a government official who wanted to go back home after a hard day’s work but could not find a regular route. He may have overshot his schedule and he does not want to delay his trip any further. He must have to take the trip home using available means possible. He took one option: use a private plane.
We have at that instance Captain Jessup Bahanting, a veteran pilot and flight instructor, manning his aviation school along with his student pilots. Captain Bahanting rose to public consciousness when his plane was used for retrieving a medicine for snake bites in another island, a singular feat which saved the cobra victim. It was by any yardstick a heroic act. He probably received a call from a government functionary seeking aviation assistance for their boss. That was the time when Secretary Robredo’s and Captain Bahanting’s stars converge into a common cause.
On the flipside of destiny, we have a 21 year old Kshitiz Chand, Nepalese student pilot under the stewardship of Captain Bahanting’s school. The Nepalese student must be one of Bahanting’s ace student, one who is literally boarding within the tarmac barracks and ready at any given time to engage any of the flying machine available. Chand as a student pilot must have to earn his 150 flying hours so that he could get his “wings” and his pilot license. As it were, he may be a competent pilot already but must have to complete his flying hours requirements. I know because I have a son who is also a student pilot.
The three personalities came together that fateful day. Captain Bahanting rolled out his own plane, a Piper Seneca . He was on that day host to one of government’s most powerful official and therefore must have to show what he is made of. Captain Bahating was also proud of his students and so he allowed his pilot student to take the seat at the cockpit and complete the mission. That would mean so much flying hours for the student; that would mean another feather on the cap of Captain Bahanting; that would also mean arriving earlier home for SILG Robredo. All winners in the equation.
But along the way, there were tell tale signs of contrast. The weather was hazy and it was late in the afternoon and visibility could have been difficult. According to the survivor, another personality who was incidental in the scene, he noted that there were also blinking lights flashing warning on the dashboard when they were up in the air. As they were about to land in one airstrip, they have to maneuvre and shift direction. The plane was having some mechanical troubles. Pilots are trained never to be panicky and so they must have tried to improvise. This was where the entire mission was locked and proved fatal. The student pilot may have lacked that experience, that confident mind set to steer his plane into a mode of stability. Any experienced driver will tell us that at high speed, when his vehicle loses the breaks or conks out, he can still control the wheel and steer it away from danger. At that time the student pilot was nowhere that level of experience yet. Captain Bahanting must be smarting at that time and trying to calm his prominent passenger, probably explaining that it was just one of those occasions and that it could still be remedied.
The wreckaged revealed that Captain Bahanting and SILG Robredo was still buckled when they were retrieved. It indicated confidence and assurance. The student pilot was not in the cockpit anymore and was plucked out floating outside the plane. This meant that the student pilot could no longer contain his fear, still a novice at that and he had already unbuckled himself, ready to jump except that he was still with his poised instructor. Well, for the survivor who must have sensed danger but could not express it in the face of his boss, his demeanor was already in the survival mode. If at all the plane would crash, which he could have imagined earlier having noted the warning blinks, he would have to dare the elements, jump out and fight for himself.
Thus came the end of a tragic story as it began in a happy note.
“VIP prisoners” is a pejorative term which media conveniently described those inmates who once graced high society and has been accorded some form of celebrity status in the free community and now serving time under a regime of incarceration—- in style.
The prison community is never surprised at their presence. As a matter of fact, their arrival is excitedly anticipated. These are the people whom the common prisoners can shake down, threaten and forced to come across. They are an economic blessing to the imprisoned sector.
For prison administration, their attendance is a signal of blight, an institutional irritation, a nuisance. Here is a group or a person who would be used as front of gangs, as their representative, spokesman if not their main defensive agent for additional privilege. Prison is a big community ruled by discipline and controlled by a series of regulations. To gain a privilege or two means relieving the prison camp from a fraction of its restrictions. In other words, prison suffers from the discomfort of imposing total control—the lifeblood and essence of imprisonment.
Whenever a person of social importance albeit notorious as conveyed by public perception is about to be convicted, the penitentiary is abuzz. Every gang focuses on its connection with prison functionaries so that the eventual admission of said person would be accorded them. In effect, as soon as the celebrity gets into the penal camp, a number of representatives from gangs would have a day for bidding. The winner will eventually bag the person and from there, the person is protected but in return must have to throw in and cough up some of his personal resources.
Note that it is not prison administration that confers a special status on the so called VIP prisoner. It is the gang and the prison community as a whole. They defer to his presence, they kowtow with his requirements and they show respect at his every whim. They elevate the status of the person on the pedestal of esteem. It is a truism that there is indeed honor among thieves, so to speak. And whatever has been said against the incarcerated celebrity prisoner, he gets the necessary adulation and reverence from his fellow prisoners.
As his influence grows in the prison community, so is his confidence. He is emboldened since he is backed up by gangs to extend his interactive horizon until he transcends up to the level of his custodians. From there he transacts and offers material assistance. This would be repeated and exchanges become frequent until familiarity is bred and alliances formed. It is not astonishing to note that there are even custodial personnel who out of convenience and familiarity have joined the fraternal ranks of gangs!
When the prison officer gets sick, it is the gangs or a group of prisoners, especially the celebrity inmate who gets into the picture of facilitating aid. To a certain extent, he may even have some reservation as to the readiness of his organization to extend succor to him. Oftentimes, he may even perceive his organization as harsh whenever he fails to file his sick leave. The efficiency of his ward to extend support has transformed him into a veritable collaborator and an instant affiliate in any chosen plan by the prisoner or gang for that matter.
The influence of celebrity prisoner moves slowly up until it reaches the door step of the camp administrator. From there, privileges are haggled and concessions are concurred. It is not a shocker anymore why visitors could “stay in” on a weekly basis in the penitentiary, staying in overnight right inside the very cell of prisoners themselves!
It is also not astounding anymore to see prisoners displaying a set of gold necklaces and signature wristwatches on their personal effects. This on top of signature shirts, high end sneakers and some arrogance to boot, to the displeasure of some rookie personnel who could not comprehend what they are witnessing on a grand scale. It also staggers the consciousness of a new caller to find some prisoners driving a mechanical transport, drinking expensive wines, relaxing in an air conditioned nook, visited by starlets and contributing to the internal cause of the organization without compunction or reluctance. They are simply a part if not a major contributor in running the affairs of the entire prison setting.
As a consequence, prison administration has eventually lost control of how the system should be handled. Gangs virtually have taken over the consciousness of prison life. It is here where celebrity prisoners have inflicted the curse and aggravated the inability of prison administration to fulfill the mandate of managing the affairs of imposing discipline and order. Some prisoners no longer act as prisoners anymore. They simply have taken over the reins of prison supervision.
Fortunately, this situation is never obtained in the rest of the penal establishments in the country. This can only be found for quite sometime in the maximum security wing of the national penitentiary. Hence, over in that deity forsaken spot, it is more fun to be imprisoned!
President Aquino calls for the dismantling of syndicates in the national penitentiary after one of prison’s celebrity prisoners, Rolito Go, went missing for a day. (The day after, Go materialized claiming he was abducted though.) It has been common knowledge among denizens in the prison reservation that inmate Go is not only operating a financing plan through his lending business but is also allegedly breaching security by surreptitiously moving in and out of the area from where he is supposed to be confined. Impressions from other prominent inmates in the past almost always rub on him since he was after all a part of the batch.
Before him, there was Romy Jalosjos who had been suspected of diverting his route from a DOJ permitted hospital check up to some other place. It would be discovered that it was Jalosjos’ brother who was actually seen somewhere else. The same had been bruited about against Dingdong Teehangkee, Robin Padilla, Norberto Manero, Governor Jose Villarosa and recently, former Governor Jose Antonio Leviste. But is there an organized group, a shadowy cluster of persons, a syndicate that facilitates this kind of prison violation in the face of outright restrictions imposed by prison rules and prison administration?
Or was the alleged planned diversion of trips of high profile prisoners merely were successfully transacted arrangements between the captive prisoner and his destitute custodian escort concluded through negotiations and bribery. A case to case situation? A wag once said, cash-to-cash basis.
Both intances, a so-called syndicated activity and individual discretion yield a considerable statement that reflect the true state of organizational morale. The same can be said of a soldier who would rather sell his issued firearm and ordnance to his enemy in exchange of an additional allowance. The same can be said of a law enforcer who would act as protector of some criminal elements if not leading a criminal group to sustain a higher quality of life. These are reflective of low morale, poor training and outright ignorance of whatever ideals they must pursue. There is just too much temptations, enticement and appeal (or, at the other side, fear, threats and menace) that lures a person to compromise his career.
High profile prisoners have an arsenal of resources they can use against anyone they fancy to disagree with. They have a battery of lawyers they can use to harrass anyone. They can impose a threat or even grease a difficult situation. Those around him, his custodian, his institutional superiors know what is better for them. They would rather acquiesce and get something than stick to the rule and get booted out unceremoniously.
In other words, if there is a pattern, a situation that appears headed towards an impression that incompetence in handling high profile prisoners has achieved a syndicated proportion then it calls for some reflective moments for policy makers. Getting one’s act together is oftentimes expressed almost customarily. But first, there must be a complete understanding of the problem. Taking apart or dismantling something is difficult to execute unless one knows where to begin. Ask a mechanic. There should be an initial diagnosis aside from the usual tact of investigation. (A former prison director suggested even that the penitentiary should be thrown in the farthest island and all the prison officers replaced. It was short of saying that to roast a pig, we must burn a house.) A practical understanding of the whole prison service, its idiosyncracies and peculiarities, the foibles and habits, the practices and abnormalities must be defined before any action is to be properly applied.
Less than this, any effort to resolve the problem would merely be shallow and worst, once the problem reappears later after hybernating, it would have grown into a graver form.
I have had that rare opportunity to have worked very close to a number of appointed prison administrators—as a matter of fact, on all of them— in the Bureau of Corrections for the last 35 years. I started work as Guidance Psychologist when the agency’s name was still Bureau of Prisons. When it was changed in 1987 to Bureau of Corrections, I was a Division Chief. A few years later, I would be promoted to become a senior prison official as Penal Superintendent IV—-the highest ranking in the hierarchy of prison security. And I would be a regular fixture in the office of the Prison Director.
Since I was a newbie psychologist during my first year in the service, I was already pushed to assist in the office of the Director and from there, it would be a routine for me as a staffer as prison administrators would come and go. I have that extraordinary exposure to see up close how prison leaders work, their individual world view, their personal preferences, their orientation, their biases, their manners, their weaknesses.
All the prison directors I have worked with were competent leaders in their respective special concerns before they retired and appointed at the helm of the prison service. It is only but natural that they would bring in and introduce their orientation in a field almost outside of their chosen profession or vocation. Almost all of these appointees came from the uniform service. They have struggled to reach the apex of their career until retirement beckons. From there, they will again be reconnected to another challenge. From there they will have to make adjustments if not some changes and reinventions as far as their prejudices and preconceptions are concerned.
Most prison directors are icons of commitment and meaningful leaders except for a few who acted as comic relief in a dreary and lonely field like Corrections. Most made their mark as adept disciplinarians, skilled scholars, proficient managers and competent administrators. Most of them wanted to make prison service a swan song for their long career in government. Some made it with flying colors, others simply faded away.
For those who made a dent, an impression and a wholesome mark in the field of corrections, they have earned a historical place not only in a pillar of criminal justice administration but in the heart of the prison community. They are only a handful though. There is Raval, Goyena, Vinarao, Diokno and Pangilinan. Their respective administration comprised the milestone of anything positive that can be expressed in the corrective service. All of them gave their best, offered their finest hour, and tendered paramount concern in the service of the incarcerated humanity. To build a monument for them is an understatement.
Director Gaudencio S. Pangilinan, the recent appointee, (although he filed an indefinite leave to allow inquiries on the way his agency functions) deserves special mention in this category. He may have accumulated only a few months, a full year actually, but his work ethics were such that he never wasted a single minute attending to the requirements of the prison service. He was virtually present the whole time. He was everywhere, in all corners of the prison community and his accomplishments for the period were so monumental that it could even exceed all the combined performances of all his predecessors. He reformulated a working outline—he calls it the roadmap—and from there charted to improve the entire correctional service in the country. And like his appointing authority, the President, and on a personal note, he was darn honest and incorruptible. The warrior in him—remember that he is a combat general—made him single minded in winning against all odds. This quality easily could make him the best prison director ever.
Investigator: “Bai, nabalitaan mo ba na may dinukot na preso sa loob ng bilangguan?”
Inmate: “Ha?!! Ano po yun Sir? Kailan po nangyari yan? Wala pong ganyan.”
Investigator: “Eh, ano ba ang totoo?”
Inmate: “Puede po siguro na merong preso sa loob ng bilanguan na dinukutan ng kapwa niya!”
August 16, 2012 inmate Rolito Go was declared missing. He was last seen in the morning in the prison chapel where he was assigned as worker but he failed to report in the afternoon head count. Evening came but Go was still nowhere. The next day, his family came to NBP offices to report that Go was abducted by unknown persons.
The entire law enforcement apparatus of government was thrown into a tailspin. The prison leadership was meticulously reviewing its procedures, details on how it happened. For the prison administration, it was plain escape. For the rest of the government machinery, it was a case of a missing person as yet to be determined on the status whether it was a case of kidnapping, escaping, abduction or any related incident. Media and the public in general were speculating as to what happened. Media had splayed on news their take on Go’s situation.
Earlier on, Rolito Go was already featured in an expose that would rival a fellow prisoner—Leviste, in terms of receiving preferred treatment. Leviste would be chastised for leaving the prison reservation and the prison leadership—Gen Ernesto Diokno, a kindly officer and gentleman—would get the brunt for such misdeed. He resigned and several personnel were charged administratively.
Rolito Go would have been sent back of the maximum security camp but later would be reassigned back and his minimum security category restored. Accordingly, Go was sick and qualified for the minimum security status. Of course, Go, while sick, was a high profile prisoner and would require a higher classification status. His work status was eventually restored and it would prove to be the making of a potential scandal. Two custodial officers were relieved when Go went missing for a day.
Under prison rules, if a prisoner cannot be located within 24 hours, a status report on the missing person is immediately reported. If the prisoner cannot be accounted for after the period, then he is declared an escapee already. A flash alarm sent to all law enforcement agencies. There is no such incident as a prisoner being kidnapped or abducted. Kidnapping presupposes abduction for purposes of obtaining custody. Kidnapping is therefore applicable to any freeman only. A person is kidnapped to be held or detained against his will. If a prisoner is kidnapped, then the reverse is obtained. Under this awkward situation, he is abducted to join the free community, unless the one who kidnapped the prisoner is also a prisoner himself.
What is perplexing and unfortunate in the equation for determining responsibility is the effect on the administrator. Prison officers are guided through policies enunciated from the top. If the prison officer errs, he gets the axe. In prison, the organizational understanding on policy and implementation are lost in the course of application. Politics and intrigues, intramurals and factional rivalries get into the picture. Delineation of proper division is lost in the maze. Everybody gets the blame and culpability is heaped on just everyone. Worst, guilt is even presumed at the top as an expression of command responsibility.
Anybody assigned at the helm of prison would note that rules are oftentimes blurred by confusion. This would force the leader/ administrator to micromanage or track things up by hand. This is where the critical part of administration comes into light. If the organization is not up to the level of responsiveness, then faults would explode and the one on top is readily to be blamed. If the administrator on the other hand allows incompetence or merely ignores tell tale signs of ineptitude, then nothing is done, no accomplishment performed and service merely proceeds with inefficiency.
There is no middle ground in prison administration. It is never to be seen as an ordinary function. Prison work means control. And every rule should revolve and gyrate within its ambit. Straying outside the mode of control is losing ground. Events like escaping unnoticed, being lured into abduction or plainly allowed or tolerated to abuse and be abused are symptoms of losing control. These indicate the need for a revamp in the organization. Not from the top but from the middle layer down the ground. But the one on top should have a clear understanding of control as a vital element in supervising the prison workforce.
It is correctly moved that a prison road map has already been formulated and has charted this situation towards a meaningful policy on control. But unfortunately, events would conspire and stall what should have been pursued to bring about positive change in the prison service. Now, it is back to board one.