Monthly Archives: November 2012

IN DEFENSE OF PRISON GUARDS

I rise to submit my view regarding the trouble that plagued the national penitentiary.  There were rounds of accusations blaming the correctional personnel that the defects of prison administration were a reflection of their faults and inadequacies.  There were even implied charges that they were always at the top and bottom of the mess.  Media was recipient of information that behind every breakdown of discipline, like smuggling of contraband was always traceable if not attributed to the lowly prison officer.  It has always been said that the prison personnel are scalawags through and through.

This is however far from what is obtaining.  I have been in the prison service for more than three decades, much of it is spent in managing prison facilities and I know personally how incompetence is introduced into the system.  This may be a little outside of the usual impression but ineptitude is never found on the level of personnel performance.  It is never obtained in the rank and file.  It is never even manifested among the organic members of the organization.

Sadly and generally speaking, it is found on political appointments.  The prison service is a favorite rendezvous area of retired officials mainly from the police and the military.  And these officials, experts in their respective field, are found in the vortex of every correctional concern.  Their qualifications, not to mention their political connections, are beyond reproach.  They are the best one can dream of.  It is imagined that after their dazzling career in their organization, a stint in corrections may as well be their swan song in the public service.  After each term of office however, their names unfortunately would be besmirched, blemished and strained by scandals.  For others, they do not know what hit them.  For the rest, it was a disappointing episode.  In countering such charges, the blame is oftentimes shifted if not hurled directly at the prison worker.

Here however is the real score.

There were impressions that the prison personnel were behind every smuggling of contraband in the prison community.  That is myth.  If at all the prison personnel is forced or persuaded to bring in something inside the prison camp it is mostly food.  Prisoners would goad their guards to buy for them a piece of pizza pie, or fried chicken almost double the prize.  This is trafficking but these are regularly negotiated.  The prisoner would be able to taste something from the free community, the prison personnel gets a refund and a bit of revenue from the margin.  Prisoners never negotiate with his guard the entry of weapons, drugs and other illegal equipments.  Prisoners knew that it is bordering on impossibility and would expose their guards to unnecessary hassle.  Prison guards knew that the layers of personnel on each path towards the prison camp would make it difficult for them to smuggle anything unusual.  More so, a guard will never introduce something which in the long run might be used against him.  Safety dictates that he can only make on something through food and nothing else.

But there are contrabands seized and these may come from somewhere.  Here is how it is done.

Every political appointee who begins to assume prison leadership brings along a coterie of staff, mostly close associates from their former office.  Their sworn loyalty to their leader is manifest; they treat the word of their master as law and they see to it that master’s thoughts on the prison service translated according to the letter.  Their master, the political appointee, the one at the helm exudes principled ideals and every bone in his body is dedicated to good governance and the promotion of competence.

The trouble is that these staffers, these close associates once they are prowling in the prison camp projects the authority of their master.  No prison personnel can even touch them as in frisking, unless the prison guard wanted to invite harassment.  There were several instances when a prison guard posted at the gate would require these close associate for the mandatory frisking and questioning only to find themselves at the short end of authoritative anger.  Prison personnel were easily transferred to far flung penal facilities for performing their job.  Accordingly, they can be strict on everyone except for the chosen few, the close associates.

Now, these close associates having found themselves a cut higher than prison workers would be embolden to move in and out of the prison camp.  Firstly, in the guise of searching information.  Secondly, to project an air of transparency from leader to the constituency.  It is here where negotiation would start.  Prisoners knew that everybody has their own vulnerabilities.  They befriend those whom they know they can tap for some advantages.  They would shower respect and subservience and even allow themselves to be humiliated and enslaved.  Then they would go for the jugular and offer their new found friend something valuable.  If the close associate bites, then they are ripe for any transaction.  It is during this period when an unholy deal would take place.

Gang leaders know that these close associates are never bothered at the gates.  They can enter at will and nobody would inspect and frisk them.  They can bring anything from bladed weapons to firearms, from drugs to explosives.  And these can be procured at a cost favorable to the bearer, no haggling for discounts and no rebates whatsoever.  These close associates know that money is free flowing into the prison camp.
As a matter of fact, millions of pesos are in circulation at a given day.  Commerce is alive and sale of contraband is always a luxurious activity.  The close associates are never bothered at all since they are within the safe distance, near the prison leadership and away from danger if violence would erupt.  Besides, there are always the prison guards to blame when push comes to shove.  It is the lowly guard who are exposed to danger and violence more than the close associates.  And since these people know that there are those who can be censured and impugned, their nefarious activity is bolstered and become more emboldened.  They know that they would not stay long so their mantra is to make hay while the sun shines.  Not long after, the term of the prison leadership is up and scandal has broken.  Their master, a forlorn figure, while in their case, they are all laughing all the way to the bank.

The prison community knows well these personalities.  The prison organization has high regards for the prison leadership, make no mistake about it, but it is the close associates who abuse and make a mockery of their master’s integrity that takes the cake.

So, excuse me while I bend some notes.  It is not the prison guards who are to be blamed at all when trouble ignites.  A deeper probe would yield a different class of personalities who are behind all these.

Prison guards, I say, hold your head up high despite the accusations.  One day, those who are liable will finally be revealed.

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REFLECTIONS ON LIFE

 

By now, my dear sister must have been there in the great beyond—specifically in Heaven because she is never bad—- with our parents already.  I could only reflect on the time they have spent here, the responsibilities left behind for me to fend and those matters that they intended to realize, but never made it on time.  Mother left us when she was barely 59 years old in 1989, still strong although she must have weakened considerably after suffering from three successive strokes.  She was gone in an instant not because of ailment but because of treachery of criminals.  I vowed to hunt these perpetrators to the end of the earth.  Father followed at a ripe age of 86 sometime in 2008.

Nanay was gone when father was only 67 years old and my father, ever the workaholic, was very active in the academe.  Tatay was forced to retire though after reaching 70 but would rather seek an active and productive routine after that.  Tatay never slowed down even after reaching the 80s.  He would find time visiting and helping prisoners.  He was still hale and healthy although he had undergone the cruelest medical procedures when he was in his mid and late 50s.

On hindsight, we must have some kind of “signos” after reaching the midlife period.  Nanay, Tatay and lately Doris went through a fatal situation.  Well, as for Tatay, he breezed it through. Nanay and Doris were not as lucky.  And that meant a lot for typical Filipinos who succumbed to a grave ailment after reaching the half-century mark.

Medical science is even more pronounced when it comes to studying this specific age range.  Accordingly, eyesight becomes poor, for males the prostate becomes vulnerable, for females it signaled a menopausal stage.   Problems with kidneys, lungs, internal organs, blood pressure and the heart are almost automatic as if the period of 50 indicates a warning sign, some kind of a bell ringing before the recess period.  Diabetes, arteriosclerosis, emphysema, aneurism, cancer and a host of other fatal diseases are sworn to appear in this period.  And why not?  There was a frozen fossil of early man discovered in mountains of the Arctic period, which was studied by scientists, and they have concluded that the remains of the man died due to old age.  The bones were carbon dated to have existed within the period where Mammoths were not yet extinct.  The age of the Stone Age man was 37!

We were still lucky to have transgressed this early period of mankind.  But with civilization comes a host of challenges both to health and lifespan.  While we have extended a period within which to enjoy life, it comes with a number of challenges to confront and overcome.  Firstly, the vices.  Secondly, the tensions.  Thirdly, the means of sustaining whatever it is that brings forth contentment as against those that promulgates pain and sufferings.  There is calamity, viruses, incompetence, war, accident and all forms of life threatening instances in between.  Amidst this influx of considerations, there is a small space we call as life.  It is there where for a pigment of time we all relish company and share everything that we have.   It is this minute detail in man’s life, that which he calls lifespan, where he compresses everything from his education to adventures, enjoying everything to fulfill a dream and at the same time battling every demon that spells pain and agony.  This is a period in man’s life when he may be considered a hero or a heel, a protagonist or villain, a leader or a scoundrel—depending on which side of history he may later be categorized.

The Beatle signature song “In my life” had as its chorus “Life is very short…” rang a familiar expression for humanity.  While the human specie through generations of evolution may have concluded numerous mind-boggling discoveries, he remains the same.  The human specie is almost perpetual except for the individual member.  Nothing has changed in man for hundreds of years; hence the Bible has retained its freshness even if it was written eons ago.  There was even a non-fiction book that declared that our generation is the 600th already and except for the fashion in terms of clothing, nothing substantially has been altered ever since.

There is one clear advantage of this generation and those that will follow compared with their ancestral past—-it is man’s ability, his expanded and conscious ability to appreciate the reality of his short life.  It may comparatively be a shortened one or prolonged for a few summers but it is almost everything there is in one’s theme.

There is one clear attribute which man has today and which eluded his ancestors before which made life not only significant but meaningful—it is man’s absolute capability to immerse himself in wisdom.

Life has never been the same; short it may be, at least for those aware of this.

DORIS

She was a blazing star, luminescent and full of life.  She was born in one sunny afternoon of September 11, 1955, a Sunday, at St. Jude Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila and as soon as she began to walk, a couple of summers later, she was already reading and writing.  As soon as she could define colors and numbers, she was into honing up on her reasoning.  She was my younger and my only sister, Doris, already showing her genius at an early age.  She was never ordinary despite her effort to remain one.  She was always outstanding in every way she would turn herself.  She was the center whenever challenge had been determined.  She was almost a goddess, not only for us, members of her family, but in every organization where she would get involved with.

 

I remembered when we were in our teens and I was considering seriously entering a bicycle race.  She took our bike and gave all the boys in the neighborhood a scary challenge.  All of us were using a racing medium and there she was in a simple tool and at the end of the tour, she was almost in the lead.  She complained to me later that her legs felt like it was as big as my torso already!  We had a good laugh at that time but her girlish ways evolved into a fine lady of the academe.  She never relished any activity where she would witness her brother to lose.  But age caught up and we were separated not only in school but also in persuasion.

 

My sister wanted to study, to read books and show her mettle in the classroom.  On the other hand, I would get into street corner bantering, read behavior and show my mettle in violence.  She never had any occasion to see the streets.  She was more at home in the library, accustomed in front of her class, confident in research and used to serious discussions.  She was more familiar in theoretical analysis and quite poor in judging reality.  She literally grew up appreciating concepts than ascertaining that which goes around her environment.

 

She accepted that which was always offered to her, she was a bit vulnerable and gullible at times, because everything to her was presumed as honestly and truthfully presented.  She had no doubting bones, neither would she exhibit distrust.  Every suggestion, every proposition she would deduce as something reliable and worth her faith.  It was our mother who would caution her always; to thread the safe side.  And worst, it would always fall on my lap when things would go haywire for her.  For us, we would always give my sister that wide latitude of advantage and understanding because she was our front runner.  She was in charge of winning for us and in school; she was literally always on top.  That was indication that she was our leader and as such would demand a lot of support and assistance from us.

 

Her capability to focus was exemplary.  The trouble however was that she would care little about herself whenever her mind was concentrated on something.  She had difficulties in determining immediate reality and would always engage in intellectual examination.  Everything for her must have to pass through a formula or else she would just ignore.  Scholars had that attribute of snobbery and my sister was never an exception.  As a matter of fact, she would diplomatically accept something but would rather do what would please her mind.

 

She was more prepared to live in the academe, preferring mind games and all the boring subjects stacked from one row to another.  That was where her excitement manifested, to review, to assess and mentally apply theories.  Going home or staying in her room was never in her itinerary.  She hated the prospects of holidays and anything that disrupted school routine.  She would consider her family and school as one and would interchange her concern and commitment as if there was no difference at all.

She inherited every gene from father, himself a true-blue academician.  She loved her school so much that she had redesigned everything about her according to the standards of her organization.

 

Nothing can unsettle her except one occasion.  This was when her school was proposed to be transferred to another country.  She was a division head of Colombo Plan Staff College, a UN sponsored school for technician education.  The planned relocation would necessitate her dislocation and those of her staff and worst, would send everyone in her organization scouring for employment.  Nonetheless, she accepted the inevitable development and would prepare for the succeeding event.  She encouraged her staff to take higher education, to complete graduate studies so that they all could have a second wind in another educational institution.  My sister enrolled in a doctorate class and was too serious to get across and complete it in due time.  Even at the height of her medication after undergoing a series of radiation exposure due to a debilitating ailment, she would listlessly burn the midnight oil so to speak.

 

She was about to publish all her notes, that which she used as transcript of her lectureships around the world.  She was about to wind up her rendezvous with technician education and commence a new field in criminal justice administration when her time was up.

 

My sister, an extraordinary lady, capped an outstanding career in technology education, a brilliant student, a loving mother, a true friend and a great sibling.  Her departure to another dimension had conferred on us a certain degree of prestige in Heaven and in History.

DREAMING TO BE A POLITICIAN

A politician is one who aims to occupy an elective position.  And the requirement is that, he should be a leader.   (Now a days, it counts to be popular, hence, even those in show business while before were crowd drawers and endorsers, have decided to throw their hats into the fray.)  It is not a problem though if they have the temperament and the courage to mix it up as a true leader.   Now, a leader may take several projections.  He may be a scholar and therefore may be an effective leader in the academe.  He may be firebrand and may lead a group towards a cause.  He may be a proficient and a skilled practitioner of a specific calling and may lead a group of professionals towards a mission.  In other words, he must be some kind of a beacon, a flash of guiding light whence everyone benefits from its illumination.

Once I tried to imagine myself to be a politician also.  I thought I could make a difference.  I could represent what has been the prevailing sentiment of the collective.  I could lead and pave the way towards a happy solution to whatever problems, social ones, and like any activist placard could proclaim, make our society great.

For quite a time I thought that politicians, which I intend to mold myself, could champion those who never made it in the bar and board exams.  And why not.  In India, those who graduate from the law school are immediately eligible to defend their clientele as lawyers without undergoing what we have here as a requirement like passing another layer like the Bar exams.  The same can be said about the board exams for other professions like the medical, architectural, engineering, etc.  I could just imagine how fulfilling to have a number of lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers, etc. we could expect from thousands of those who graduated from our colleges and universities applying and practicing what they have learned in school.

Let us cut the crap as far as these qualifying exams are concerned.  Some sectors are making money out of the frustration of the majority.  We encourage failure more than sustain a profession.  We even rejoice at the victory of some and elevate them on the pantheon of elitism to the disadvantage of the greater majority. We abhor discrimination but all our system seems to be geared towards it.  We despise alienation but we have enough rules amplifying it to a large extent.  We pray for unity but all that we try to promote, well those formal situation we oftentimes find ourselves, are pure divisive in essence.

Well, that is just for starters.  Leadership is everything about concern.  If I find a beggar in the street, I would immediately presume that the politician of that place is incompetent.  If there are squatters or informal settlers in a specific area, there is no progressive leader operating therein.  If there are more unemployed people restlessly plying here and there, the leader is never trained in economics.  If the area has no business climate, I would organize one and compel the public sector to pursue several commercial projects.  The political leader must have the sensitivity and wisdom that matters in his sworn duty.  He must be everywhere and must have the competence to be knowledgeable on that which affects his turf.

I am not arguing from the point of view that a leader should be a polymath like Leonardo da Vinci or anyone approaching the status of a genius but there are a number of specialists, concerned ones at that, who can be tapped.  If only leaders would act like one and not as someone with a limited persuasion like accumulating powers, influence and name all for the sake of selfish interests.  Politics will regain its pristine principle in guiding his entire constituency in developing his area to be self-sufficient and disciplined to the core.

However, I can only dream to be one.

2012: Armageddon Revisited

“Armageddon (from Ancient Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn,[1][2] Late LatinArmagedōn[3]) is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location. The term is also used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world scenario.”  (Reference:  Wikipedia)

2012 in the Mayan (The Mayan civilization, it has been said is older than the Egyptian culture and was distinguished further as one civilization which has achieved a higher level of consciousness, much higher than the succeeding generation.  It persihed and was wiped out however under conditions which still remained mysterious and unknown under present time)   calendar spelled out the end of the world in no uncertain term.  Clearly, Mayan astrologers, those priestly leaders and scientists, were convinced in their astrological equation that a year in the future will witness the convergence of different planetary allignment and climate changes that would wreck havoc on earth which would cause cataclismic violence destroying all forms of life and even the destruction of the planet itself.  Eons ago, the Mayan projected with their calculations that the year 2012 will be “it.”  (A movie was made inspired by this Mayan belief and it became a blockbuster for a time).

Months before 2012 augured, the world in the estimation of some people were miserably anticipating, nervously awaiting, praying, hoping, predicting for this unfortunate projection to fizzle out.  2012 came and it unfolded quite a sad storyline for some.

On a personal note and in my own timeline, 2012 indeed was an end in itself.  For a close friend and ally, Romy Chavez, it was the termination of a long career in holding on as my loyal follower.  He perished in a vehicular accident which he could have avoided.  Then a few weeks later, I was informed that a school mate Atty. Ed Garcia, one who frequents my place, who would always consult me on some conflicts would succumbed to an ailment.  Thereafter, I would hear that a childhood playmate,Sonny Miranda, one who would accompany me for years in street gallivanting, who would excite my dreary days with our regular exchanges of amusing antics, would also be claimed quite treacherously by a debilitating heart disease.  All of them very important personalities in my lifetime adventure.  They lent color, excitement, drama in all the significant episodes in my career, not to mention their influence on the greater environment where they choose to immerse.  They were all good characters that do not deserve yet an exit in the drama of life.  They chose the simple path of living along the fringes without excess or abuse.

The year 2012 however  was no different from previous years as a matter of fact.  Just like the periodic stretch that passed, it was also greeted by accidents and deaths.  Calamities and mayhem.  War and conflicts.  Pain and suffering.  Successes and failures.  There would be no difference if one would use the standard yardstick of determining the rate of incidents in the trial balance of the universe.  It was still a regular intrepid period for being born and passing away.  Everything pulsated according to the usual paradigm of nature in the entire the galaxy of existence.  Until something happens outside of providence.

It did not take long when the year would finally fold up when out of the blue I would receive a message that my only sister crossed over.  It was never an accident.  She was sick but all those who knew her believed that she would recover.  She was a woman of substance, a lady with distinction, careful about everything she would offer to the world.  She cared about humanity, she loved her family, she prayed fervently.  More so, she was young and at the prime of her life.  She was still expected to contribute more to the fullness of humanity.  She had more grand plans and she loved every minute sharing what she had accumulated.  She was a woman of her times.  She will never fade, at least for a time, and she will not perish in an unlikely manner.  She should and ought to be around.  But for her (and those who love her), the Mayan prediction proved true. 

REMEMBERING OUR DEARLY DEPARTED

It’s weird that we have to observe annually a day specific for the remembrance of our dearly departed—that is, every November 1.  Some with entrepreneurial orientation would even cash in on said day by introducing masks of zombies, rubberized skeletal remains, plastic voodoo instruments and “fearful” props not in honor of the dead though but more on mocking their influence as they are recalled in their imagined state of deterioration.

The day is a mixture of deference and ridicule, on respect and travesty, on reverence and disregard.  It is a day for reunion of those left behind, at times made as an occasion for some celebratory gathering.  The atmosphere is festive to a certain extent.  The point is to recall the presence of a loved one, recollect those deeds and significant influence, a reminiscence of accomplishment, an attempt to establish a kind of legacy which could never be forgotten.

Children were made up to look funny and amusing.  The day has been commercialized.  It has evolved into a circus where admiration of the person who crossed over has been relegated if not totally ignored in favor of mindless merriment.  If at all there remains a memorial for their worthy presence sometime in the past to be recalled at present, it has virtually been erased and commemoration blithely discounted.  As the saying goes, “let the dead bury the dead.”  For the living, it is business as usual whatever is the date.

I have no argument for this development; neither would I express rancor nor sadness.  I would rather throw myself in one corner, in an area where reclusiveness may be expressed, to remember my loved ones—they who made life an exciting journey not only for me but also for those whom they have offered much concern and attention.  And it is not on a particular day but on any day their image may be recalled.  A song may be played on the radio and I would be reminded on a particular person.  My mother when she was still around would always sing a Timi Yuro hit.  My father would rejoice whenever he played on our stereo some marching hymns.  For every melody, I am reminded of a loved one, a number of close friends, relatives, even acquaintances.

When the Beatles’ songs are played, an array of memories would flow in continuous stream, evoking memoirs of those who have gone to life hereafter.  There are also tunes coming from BeeGees, Elvis Presley, Motown hits and even those sang by the Big three Sullivan and Eddie Peregrina.  Not to mention those wonderful music rendered by the Hotdogs, VST, Rico Puno, Freddie Aguilar, Ogie Alcasid to name a few.  I am still checking whether there are memories hidden whenever the airwaves would play the song of Lady Gaga or the Oppa Gangnam Style!

For me it is not the day but the music that revives, that resurrects my dearly departed back to life.  I dare say that it is also everyone’s silent repertoire whenever we wish to be with our loved ones—not missing nor gone to some places unknown but rather are actually residing in our hearts and minds.

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