RACHEL D. RUELO: A Salute to a Fellow Officer
(RACHEL DURAN RUELO reached her retirement age this day, January 19, 2015, capping the highest post in the career ladder of the Bureau of Corrections. Considered one of the founding officers of Correctional Institute for Women in Mindanao, she also sustained the hall of fame category of the main CIW in Mandaluyong, carrying its prestige as the most well managed facility among all corrective facilities in the country.)
Rachel is a full fledged lawyer before she joined government service. Her academic record speaks high of her audacity for legal education and immediately after the Bar, she was, as expected, one of those in the top 20. She must have reached the pinnacle of law practice had she pursued it through private legal counseling but she would rather spend her best years in government, in the service of the people.
For this lady lawyer, returning the family favor was almost a devotion. Her father was a prison officer and a serious practitioner of corrections. After he retired, Rachel made it her personal pledge to follow the footsteps of her father—-in the prison service. She was easily employed and became the legal officer of New Bilibid Prison. She was that early a standout. I know, I was her first supervisor.
I was then NBP Superintendent when she appeared before my office requesting for a big desk from where she can review the entire complex of the facility. She knew that as a lawyer, every administrative facet of prison administration is anchored on case review and resolution.
She got her desk but not the room which was intended for the deputy Superintendent, my assistant. She took the arrangement as an invitation for argument and in no time, she was eventually assigned at the agency’s legal office. A few months after, she was the head of the Legal Office. Had she stayed longer in my office, she would have replaced me that instance!
She was the model and iconic officer as Chief of the Legal Office. She prosecuted less those who were administratively charged and offered a just and fair resolution to all cases brought before her office. Her fairness achieved heroic proportion. Easily, she was a celebrated officer, the pride of her co-workers and the toast of her clan in Bicol.
A few significant years later, the bureau’s selection board met. The post of Penal Superintendent IV was to be deliberated on. There were several qualified officers and one of them was Rachel. Every staff officer had their respective recommendees. Mine was Rachel. The chairman of the committee wanted to strike out Rachel because she was a woman. I submitted a justification which carried the day for Rachel. At that time, one of the recipients of the prestigious Ramon Magsasay Award was a woman, a woman prison officer from Pakistan. I intoned that she might be our answer to the Pakistani honoree. The board decided to confer to her the promotion and she was elevated to the post of Superintendent.
It was not a rosy picture for her career though. While she was instantly designated to head the Correctional Institution for Women (in Mandaluyong), her stint attracted numerous criticisms and grumbles. That has always been the fate of command officers. There were too many envious personalities who also wanted a piece of the cake as if the position was teeming with perks and privileges. In Rachel’s case, it was all sacrifices and conciliation, at times confrontation and collaboration. Her term at the helm of CIW would witness several challenges. One day, she was a recognized administrator, in another day, she was to be relieved. It would be a ding-dong career movement for her. But she held on.
During her watch, CIW became a hall of famer as far as the best and cleanest institution of the Bureau of Corrections for several years on end, until she was required to stay at the background to enjoy the laurels and allow other facilities to shine on its merits.
Rachel took the cudgels of representing the cause and welfare of the female prison community. It was a crusade that most of the prison directors were threatened by her serious initiatives. She was already eclipsing the profile of all prison administrators and in effect, she had violated a cardinal rule: “never outshine your master.” Well, it was for her, worth violating because of her devotion to work. As a consequence, she would suffer one career set back after another.
She has not rested on her accomplishments; she initiated a step to hasten the policy of organizing a satellite prison for women in Mindanao. While it was a concept I pursued during my incumbency at Davao prison in 2004, it never took off because of changes in the prison leadership. From there, Rachel took the ball from my court and went straight to the Department of Justice to dunk it. In 2007, with her effort and close association with then Director Vicente G. Vinarao and eventually with then Secretary of Justice Agnes Devanadera, the Correctional Institution for Women in Mindanao became operational.
The lady lawyer has never mellowed despite years of confronting one challenge after another. She still retains her feisty disposition, has maintained a spirited outlook and has constantly kept her professional bearing amidst the strain and demands of government service.
Superintendent Rachel Ruelo is somehow an enigma, a rare comet that has visited contemporary prison administration, yet a constant illumination, a symbol of steadfastness, an image of dependability.
With her feat in the prison service, those following her will have a ready role to emulate and eventually, correctional administration will be able to achieve a progressive status in the entire criminal justice system of the country.