Monthly Archives: July 2013
It is not everyday that one meets a real gangster. But for me it is almost a daily fare. They live and die in front of me. They are there seeking audience, asking for a few moments to express their joys and fears, beliefs and disbeliefs, concerns and wishes. In front of them, I feel like Marlon Brando on one hand, and Tia Dely (or Oprah Winfrey, if you may) on the other hand.
Listening to them is surreal. Like watching a fiction film or reading a Tom Clancy novel. And one cannot even discount their characterization of events because the courts used those incidents in promulgating conviction. That is right, the gangster I am always confronted with as certain as day break are the prisoners at the top of the totem pole of gangs in the prison community. And they are not the common felon one ordinarily would navigate the prison camp.
Ordinary inmates are quick to deny and express lamentation on the offense imputed to them. They still subscribe to their plea of not guilty. Even in prison, they still believe on their innocence and would insist on the world on such stand notwithstanding evidences, testimonies and facts. They believe their lawyers even if they failed them.
Gangsters are a class of its own. They never lament on anything even on the fate that befell them. While they never rejoiced the state on which they find themselves, it is for them not an occasion for brooding. As a matter of fact, they never even are ashamed of their cases. Their confidence level is so high that one can only appreciate raw intelligence these beings must have been gifted.
The more respected a gangster in prison is, the more mysterious one finds his background. One wonders where he gets the advantage. He is never even educated at all! The height of his position in the gang hierarchy could not even be attributed to his credentials. The higher his post, the lower his educational attainment. Those at the top do not even know how to read! Education is never a factor if one intends to be a Godfather.
Robert Kiyosaki author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad was correct all along. It is not education that makes a man rich or successful. It is attitude that makes him so. BIR Commissioner Kim Henares even expressed sadness when she declared that 90% of professionals, the educated class, have cheated in the payment of their taxes. Education for some is even a barnacle for creativity and in the attainment of success, although generally speaking education as a whole makes a nation matured and stable.
Education however is never a requirement for genius. But for the rest of us ordinary mortals it is a must.
The gangster is a complete person. Hardships and difficulties are never a part of his armaments. He can start at the bottom, feel at home in hell even and could easily blend with those at the top and can even rule easily from there. They are persuasive not in the pastoral sense. Although he can convince those around him without difficulty, he would never insist, would never even force his thoughts, but would find his environment turning green in his favor. Ordinary wise guys gravitate to him like black sand to a magnet, like flies to a shit.
My day is complete warming up on stories made up by gangsters. And this experience is a daily fare for me.
It has been said that crime resides underneath our society, in its bottom side, within the so-called underworld. In that place, only the wise guys predominate and rule the environment. When they appear above ground, what they want, they get—no rules, no laws, no norms could control and govern them; nothing in between. They simply acquire what they intend to own. They are even familiar if not practitioners of offering something which no one can refuse.
But the underworld can be appreciated from afar, from a distant appreciation of something like a netherworld; through books, movies, film reviews, even scholarly dissertation on gangs. Unless one becomes a bona fide member, this world never exists at all. But there is one place in the planet , of all places and quite ironical at that, where this can be studied in isolation—inside the grounds of the penitentiary.
The hallowed grounds of the penitentiary, well the national one, New Bilibid Prison, has in my impression almost transformed into a limited space (due largely to congestion) where eventually the underworld sprouted, grew its tentacles, renewed its influential links and has claimed the prison environment not only as turf but a sanctuary where wise men truly belong.
Gone were those moments when the penal siren can declare a disciplinary call for taps at night and revelry at dawn. Gone were those instances when those roving security personnel were seen as authorities bearing the emblem of discipline. Gone were those symbols of restraint and limitations.
It is a sad commentary that the dormitory keys are kept by inmates themselves. Order is reposed on gangs. Discipline is a matter of choice, as a matter of fact, it is even a leverage coming from gang leaders already. Those at the helm could only express disbelief but would rather compromise in the name of peace.
Peace in the underworld means a complete control of the entire system, not by those entrusted by law to govern but by those declared by law through a prescribed penalty. The prison community has successfully yielded onto itself the way it should be administered, leaving behind prison authorities at the receiving end of reaction, usually a staid one.
Prison rules are merely decorative edicts to promote ideals. It does not constitute the proper way of executing mandates and implementing writs anymore. It is there to fill a vacuum but never to be observed in the general sense. A compliance to sustain the belief that government is in charge. But prison rules should be sustained and expressed through the strength of an organization or else it merely is a compilation of cluttered and useless files on every prison officer’s table.
It is not a matter of getting back from the prison community the control, which authorities should have exercised in the first place. It is a matter of exercising control, of expressing leadership that is at the heart of the situation.
Prisoners never even wanted to lead because it is impossible for them to harness and access the criminal justice system. They are merely subjects and could not pull any lever to articulate their concern for freedom. They are expecting prison authorities to lead them.
Failure to lead is tantamount to relinquishing control. By dint of this equation, the prison community turns to gangs, or organized syndicate to do their bidding.
Unless understood in perspective, the underworld, in its glaring and magnificent manifestation however deep and almost unfathomable its description, is , fortunately or unfortunately , here to stay.
The 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Noynoy Aquino summed up the accomplishments of his third year. It was delivered in bold vernacular, all of 45 minutes, and in concluding his valedictory, he asked his minions in government the question “Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha ang mga kawani sa ahensiyang ito?” He was of course referring to the Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs and the National Irrigation Administration.
The President was very displeased with the way services were expressed by these government agencies. Accordingly, they performed below par. The performance in his estimation constitutes an embarrassment to his administration, a failing mark from the very constituency, his boss, the entire citizenry of the country. Services should have been delivered properly, promptly and expeditiously.
There should be honesty and transparency. If services cannot be given boldly, at least, it should be rendered judiciously and thoughtfully.
Being appointed at the helm of an agency is a sacrifice. It is not a reward. It is never even rewarding in the first place. It is foregoing privacy. It is selflessness. It is akin to martyrdom.
Appointing people to run the business of government is a delicate affair. It is like choosing the best physician to treat your loved one. And more than that. It is like selecting the best surgeon to perform surgery on one’s innards. But are those in the authority to appoint those who will run government have seriously considered the track record of those to be appointed? Or are they merely selected because they happen to be around at a time when there is a need for people to fill up vacancy? In this case, I would presume that in the event these authorities would need medical care, they would just pick anyone looking like a medicinal man to do the treatment for them. I will not even be surprised if they would merely get a friend or neighbor to heal their kids. But in reality, or in normal times, this is not most likely.
But how come some mediocre are appointed in the delicate operation of public service? Where did these personalities come from? How did they ended up handling the refinements of government service? What made them significant in the face of numerous qualified, competent, apolitical career officers? And after a stretch in their chosen assignment the pale performance unfolds before our eyes and here we are, like the President, asking the question: “Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha itong mga taong ito?”
Definitely, serving the people is not a matter of pakapalan ng mukha. Or the choice of appointee should merit the standard of “makapal lang ang mukha.” Working in government is like a surgeon in the operating room performing a delicate procedure. The thickness of face is never a factor as a matter of fact. After all, governance requires a more gentle application on the art of servitude. But these people will not be there in the first place had they not been conscripted. They probably came from the ranks of the “makakapal ang mukha”, where else.
That is why when the country is fledging in the face of neighboring countries advancing from where they were, we cannot but sigh and recite in our prayers “deliver us from evil. Amen.” Of course, we do not deserve this kind of situation. We never even wish it would visit us. But we are just children of fate. It is our destiny to have responsible men we call our groundbreakers who happen to have, not only the stomach for ineptitude but the gait for ineffectiveness. We merely call them indifferent as a kind of salutation. But of course, in the final analysis, it is “pakapalan na lang ng mukha.”
Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima lamented the state of affairs of law enforcement in the country during a press conference a few days past. He said, “With so many stories coming out, even members of the media are unwittingly being used because they are fed with false information. A criminal is becoming the hero. It’s now the reverse.”
In a recent incident, which literally brought down the career of bemedalled police officers, the pillar of law enforcement as typified by PNP was pictured as a bungling and negligent group. They are supposed to escort a fugitive to be brought back to the national penitentiary after an inquest proceeding but along the way, the police convoy was ambushed, the fugitive, accordingly, made a violent commotion, grabbing the neck of his escort, pulling out the escort’s firearm, shooting aimlessly until he was gunned down.
In an action filled world of make believe, in movies particularly, any one given that role, one who is subdued, manacled to the neck, his hands braced with metals, clamped in between two bulky fully armed personnel, and still despite restrictions, the fellow was able to create a commotion, to the extent that he was able to overpower his guards, successfully grabbing the neck of one and while cuffed, was able to snatch a firearm and while shackled ably fired a number of shots, then that man must be Houdini par excellence! He may have been gunned down but what a fight he gave.
A Fernando Poe Jr starrer would have made the film a blockbuster. Now, how would this be featured? This must be a plot where the gunner, even if he perished, may be seen as one projecting an act with heroic proportion.
That was how the police reported; it was the investigative version of the incident in the eyes of the escorting team. They, around 14 of them, were forced to use lethal force because of the threat. While their combined armed convoy was attacked and their vehicle peppered with bullets by motorcycle riding gunmen (although witnesses saw nothing except for two stationary vans), all the escorts were able to competently dodge the assault leaving the two escorted suspects splayed. None of the attackers numerous bullets however found its mark though. The suspects died from a hail bullets coming from the nozzle of his guards instead.
It stretches therefore credulity if an ordinary mind would accord heroism on the escort team. There is no denying the fact that the suspect, an incorrigible bank robber and a notorious criminal should perish in the most violent way. He should have been gunned down while being arrested, even if it is stage-managed along time ago.
The world would have accepted his fate and the version would have been acknowledged properly by a grateful nation. But he died fighting while in the custody of his captors. And what a fight he made. He would have shamed Tom Cruize, Sylvester Stallon, Lito Lapid, Ramon Revilla, Emilio Aguinaldo with such a feat!
And how do we make the scene and picture it for the world to appreciate? Heroes are conferred the honor and never endorsed. It is based on how a person deals with the demons of his environment. It is how he responds with dangers, how he confronts threats, how he tackles hazards.
A hero acts alone, left to the mercy of the elements and abandoned by his gods. It is how he acts and thinks beyond the pale of risks. It is how he is pictured that matters. Heroes are just made and never a concoction out of thin air. And to bungle in handling any person is a qualifying incident, which may transform him into a bigger person than he really was.
Fugitive Cadavero’s end was almost written. He disenfranchised himself in the eyes of the world. He lost his right to live. He abused himself to a large extent, wasted any opportunity to repent and he forsook any hope for redemption.
Justice would make such judgment a reality. But along the way something happened. Justice was called sooner in the guise of a violent intervention. And worst, the protagonists, the police, on whose custody the heel, the villain is entrusted, bungled. They were riding in a private vehicle; the fugitive manacled improperly, the route taken was out of the way along a pitched dark alley.
Suddenly the twist. After a hail of gunfire, the villain had been transformed into a hero.
They have a name besmirched by law. Their reputation in the free community damaged beyond recognition. They have been featured as villain, projected as felon, an anti hero and a scoundrel. As such, they are considered a menace in their environment much more so a prowling, dangerous character, hence they are imprisoned.
Having violated the laws, they lost the right to remain in the free society anymore. They ought to be segregated for a period to lament and repent for what they have done. They are expected to expiate for whatever transgressions they have committed.
In the prison community however such expectations may be realized to a certain degree. But most likely, the feeling could be fleeting and cumbersome. The environment is too gross, too fearsome, too threatening that a day of incarceration means a period of hopelessness, a moment of desperation.
And why not? One rubs elbow with eccentrics decreed by norms as the basest, vilest, and foulest. It is a community of superlatives in the negative sense. Either one becomes absorb and would eventually act as one, or would regret and start life anew from the time of admission up to the time of release.
Imprisonment is a medium for repair; a silent occasion for atonement. It is full of remorse and shame. It is intended to break the shell of the person to squeeze the better quality in him. For someone who literally was immersed in privileges, living a high-end life full of perks, prison is hell that must be tamed.
To an ordinary mortal who is clamped may merely stop by and acclimatize to the bare condition of a restricted area but to a person used to extras and perquisites, prison is a place that must be re-formed. For the celebrity prisoner, reformation pertains his environment and not his persona. He would rather reorder his surroundings than change himself.
In prison one must waste a stretch. Prisoners are there to serve time, to ignore days, to disregard the passing of a spell. Time is of no consequence at all. What a matter is the daily monotonous grind, which everyone must capture and overlook.
One may even sleep his time away, or do some crafts, perform something stressful or pray in a manner how monks execute their routine. Life is drab and repetitive. The climate is dull and boring. One must create an atmosphere for adventure. And the celebrity prisoners have the resources, mental and economic to pull such feat.
Aside from engaging prison authorities, haggling actually for some benefits like a trip to a first class Hospital, and if lucky, to be allowed to have confinement also, or be consented to build a bachelor’s pad, or permitted to install an air conditioning unit in his cell, the negotiation in itself is a form of excitement already.
Bargaining, brokering for advantage is a process, which makes their day. They find delight by using prison authorities, be they prison guards, their supervisors or superiors, as pawns they can easily move into position to get favor. They knew all along that it could be done at the right price or persuasion.
Everything for them can be bought or exchanged. They failed to get it however in some judicial respects but they knew they can achieve it in the course of their incarceration. And so, the fourth pillar of the criminal justice system, corrections, would bore the brunt of pressure and temptation.
The celebrity prisoners represent one sector in the prison community that defies convention. They are there to control. They are there to influence. They are there to fulfill a destiny which no other categories or organized system can dissuade. They make prison a challenge and for the greater number of officers, a career-ending confrontation.
New Bilibid Prison is entering a new phase of sociological evolution. It is no longer the same as it was years ago. The prison population has ballooned. The prison officers, the supervisors, have aged considerably and those at the periphery were almost in their sophomore years. The great divide could be seen organisationally and sociologically.
That’s right folks. NBP’s complexion has changed. While there were make overs on one side and some flickering changes on the other, the prison population under its sphere is evolving. As a matter of fact, it has changed already. The change is more on the profile of the prison community.
Prison administration are concerned no longer on how secure the facility but more on how to dodge the perennial effects on handling the evolving crops of gangs and influential persons from the vantage point of control. The issue on “who controls who” and what constitutes control as in “what controls what” predominates every single issue of the day.
Gone were the days when the most brutal, with strings of violent crimes tucked in one’s record before he becomes a gang leader. The bigger the sentence to be served the more qualified and awe inspiring he gets to receive the plum of gang leadership.
Then came the intellectual, the ideologue, chosen to lead the prison community for his intelligence and astuteness. They comprise the more intelligent crop would emerge coming the ranks of the so-called political prisoners. These are the intellectuals, the ideologues, and the firebrand. They easily qualify as leaders who have the capacity to deal with intelligent issues and negotiate/ bargain for privileges to prison authorities in favor of the gang they were representing.
After a brief period, the celebrity came to the fore. It did not take long when the gangs would elect one who is not only intellectually superior but also celebrated and wealthy.
Then came the rich, wealthy convicts. Gangs deferred to them not because they are to be recruited to the gang hierarchy. They are gang-less in the first place and would never kowtow to any grouping in the prison compound. But they have to live with the situation that gangs are not only a part but a fact of life in prison. They could not escape the influence of gangs. These wealthy convicts, the so called celebrity inmates would instead scout and buy out gangs. The more gang franchises, the better.
Then came the so-called super rich, those who were once a denizen in the world of the rich and famous. They were not haggled by gangs to be recruited. They came not to be conscripted. They came to buy gangs by the dozen so to speak! For a while, they lorded over the prison community, until a new batch came into view.
This sector was oftentimes ignored and would play secondary role in the spectrum of prison society. They were even made as puppets and incidental characters. They were few and rare. They were mostly foreigners. Then their numbers grew and since their penalty was longer, their quantity accumulated until they virtually become a force, a social force, to reckon with in the prison community. And this group does not appear empty handed. They are worth billions because of the trade for which they were convicted. They are the drug lords.
The drug lords may be rendered incapacitated through incarceration but the narcotic business in the free community is alive and kicking. There is even a suspicion that illegal drug business has permeated government through narco-politics. Politicians, it has been said, are sponsored and underwritten by the lucrative revenues of illegal drug trade. And these imprisoned drug lords, despite their physical absence in the free community, are still running the show through linkages.
This is the present situation of New Bilibid Prison, once a symbol of hopelessness, agony and desperation. Now it is more of a sanctuary of persons known for stealth, craftiness and ingenuity.
I was directed to perform a task I have already done before. I was in charge of NBP twice in the past, in the early and mid 90s and lately would assume the same post all over again. It does not inspire excitement anymore. Truly, New Bilibid Prison (NBP) today is no longer the same years back.
As if the gods of controversy would tickle my senses to check my alertness, a simple routine in my first day (July 15, 2013) would be rocked with controversy that would even achieve a scale of national proportion! I was tasked to receive a recaptured fugitive. It would just be a basic Corrections 101 thing but one instance leads to another until finally, there was nothing to receive and worst, the fugitive I am suppose to collect was ambushed along the way to my institution.
The incident never stopped there. While public sympathy was nil on learning that a bona fide criminal perished in a gun fight, the way it was conducted was in a way too rough and too suspicious for comfort. And so a series and numerous investigations were carried out. National awareness of the incident was pushed as promoted by a vigilant media. Every Tom, Dick and Harry, I mean, every Juan, Pedro and Talpulano in the law enforcement pillar has to explain the puzzling incident which claimed the violent end of an incorrigible bank robber.
My office was not exempted from the brewing controversy. That is right. Had I obtained the fugitive from police jurisdiction since the person is an escapee and has to be returned back to prison to serve the remaining years of his sentence, there would have been no storm. I was made to explain how come my team did not receive a recaptured fugitive. The public was made to believe that my team was sleeping in the pancitan when things were moving. Worst, the world was even made to believe that my team has acquired the subject, the fugitive, and we bungled until the fugitive ended up in police custody ‘til kingdom come.
The real score is this. Recaptured fugitive (and now deceased) Ricky Cadavero still has a pending case as yet for inquest proceedings. This is for Illegal Possession of Firearms and Explosives filed by arresting police in Calabarzon. It is therefore incumbent for them to file the case against the suspect before he can be moved to another criminal justice processing. This is the theme, which the police authorities applied why they did not submit the fugitive to be turned over yet to the NBP team that I headed during the Camp Crame PNP Press Conference.
And it is a correct position although there are other options available. Inquest proceedings may be held within NBP premises like court hearings conducted similarly within the prison facility. But police authorities have procedures, which they can invoke in the course of its law enforcement responsibilities.
If an escapee has been re-arrested by police authorities while at large, the rule is to turn the fugitive over to the national penitentiary. Or, the police may inform the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) on the recovery of an escapee in cases where the police station is in a remote province. Once the identity of the fugitive has been determined, Bucor sends over a team to receive the fugitive, to be escorted back for re-admission into prison to serve the remaining part of his penalty including additional sentence for Evasion of Sentence. In the case of Cadavero, aside from the fact that he is a fugitive, he committed another offense for which he must be subjected for inquest proceedings first.
While there was a ruckus on the issue of receiving, or turning over of the fugitive, whether before or after the inquest is no longer the principal issue. The problem cropped out after the inquest while the police was about to turn over the fugitive to NBP. The succeeding procedure has been rendered incomplete because of the alleged ambush, which claimed the life of the fugitive. (Wags put it thus: In the morning, there was Cadavero; in the evening, he was a cadaver!)
The questionable incident brought forth more questions. It pushed law enforcement into an incredulous precipice. The integrity of the Philippine National Police once again was under the klieg lights of public scrutiny. As it tried to veer away from its unfortunate rank, per social survey, as the agency leading the most corrupt institutions a few weeks past, by recapturing a dreaded escapee, the law enforcement heroic deed overturned a few hours later with a perceived villainous act.
It was almost a national scandal. A sensational incident if you may. And I had my share of explanation to do. Despite my low key entrance in the controversial ridden post of the Bureau of Corrections, I was obliged to clarify our role in the whole spectrum of criminal justice administration in all media fronts.
What intrigued me however when my friends saw me on Television in prime news was not what I said, but on how I looked!
If you love books and research, you must probably have encountered the name, F. Landa Jocano (author of bestselling non fiction Slum as a Way of Life). Or, if you an old timer and an avid sports fan, especially basketball, you should know Freddie Hubalde. Or, you are some one receiving intelligent notes on current events through opinion writer and Philippine Star columnist, Art Borjal
There was also former Senator Francisco Tatad and former Postal Chief Roilo Golez who once were residents including movie heart throb Jay Ilagan.
Again, if you are a chess aficionado, the name Ruben Rodriguez, Chess International Master and the one who taught the young GM Eugene Torre to achieve global chess recognition, a perennial face to watch. Or, perhaps rocker Mike Hanopol with his melodious song in the 70’s, “Laki sa layaw, Jeproks” would hit the airwaves. If you know all of them then, you must be a resident of Quirino District, Quezon City, otherwise known as Project 2, a Homesite Housing Subdivision a few paces away from Cubao.
It is in Project 2, where a listless orphan, a tisay would be recruited to tinsel town as comedienne—Nova Villa. Over in some streets in this area too, another sexy star of the 60s would also be known, Stella Suarez, the mother of actor Richard Gomez.
It is in Project 2 where my parents brought us up. It was a sleepy town, leafy and full of trees; the street corridors demarcated with ornamental plants. Most of the residents were government workers, majority of the youth, studious on the one side and rebels on the other. All of the youth though, the juvenile sector, which ever persuasion they found themselves in had one commonality: they were all spoiled with parental attention, hence the term “laki sa layaw” or “Jeproks”, the inverted term Project, from the phrase Project 2 (from where a musical band scored its term). My father would never allow me to undergo the same harrowing experience he had. And that was also true with most of my peers in the area. We were all shielded from the pain and agony of struggle. Hence, we invented ways by which we could experience it anyway.
We may never had a taste of War, like what our elders had, but we were fierce in every competition that we find ourselves in. Our generation is very competitive and combative when it comes to rivalry.
Presently, the old row houses, roofing made of asbestos, had already been replaced with GI sheets or modern Spanish tiles with improvements. Most of the residents had moved out and had transferred to better-gated areas. Some would leave for abroad. Those who remained are but a fraction of the original denizens. Those days of exclusivity, those parochial concerns, those puerile fixations have been replaced with matured and impersonal associations. Gone were those days of partisanship and almost chauvinistic relationships. Gone too were those youthful adventures where I was once a part of. It was replaced by gross anonymity. Only a fragment remained along personal lines.
A generation has gone by and it is not Project 2 that underwent changes. It has happened on several areas too. The rustic nostalgia of a place is overtaken by crass transformations brought about by permutations on social challenges and the shifting of principles, which the people have ingrained in the course of time. There was politics everywhere and a lot of compromises in between.
Despite the variations on social life, the more it should be different in the final count in fact, the more it becomes the same. The cycle never ends, as a matter of fact, it is as if it has never moved at all. The environment has grown stoically but the air remained pallid as it was.
Time flies fast. Life is just a moment. Memories linger longer but after a few headlines, it flicker into oblivion. In the end, names, accomplishments, records, affairs are completely forgotten.
A bubbly healthy and cute person hugging life would one day transform into a crawling, ageing specie courting death. That’s the cycle. That is inevitable. There are no side streets; the path is straight, narrow as it were, and without traffic. The end is always there.
But there are two places where time is frozen but these are more artificial than real. It may be a bit surreal but it is better than nothing at all. One is prison. A person locked down to serve time, say for 20 years, may have carried the flaws of his behavior that pushed him to commit infraction, the very passport to imprisonment, yet his time remains the same.
During the period, time would be ignored. It must be wasted literally. Freedom should be achieved by disregarding reality. Until finally, liberty is handed over. It looks more of a rebirth than reinvention.
In a digital world, there is another space where time can be frozen aside from a penal facility. There is Facebook. One’s timeline within this page captures the essence of existence.
There is more functional movement in FB. One can post as many comments he can express—emotional or hilarious, philosophical or pedestrian, quotable or foolish. He can even copy and paste on his wall every angle of his face, adventures and misadventures for all he cares.
Unlike in prison where most of the time a person buries himself out of pain and humiliation, in FB he is there open, enjoining even the world, inviting everyone, to share positive and negative images directly from his mind. Both suspends an instance and at the same time measures a person’s condition. In both situations, the person can express everything he intends to impress to his universe. Meanwhile, he remains in command of his time, in command further of how he wanted to be viewed in time.
But there is a difference in terms of understanding. When I saw a client in prison after three decades, I was surprised to find the fellow hale, sharp and upbeat. He must have adjusted well in a very restrictive environment. Except for a few age related wrinkles, the fellow is physically fit and about to enter the mainstream of free society.
In my FB account, I was also surprised to receive an unexpected link. It came from a classmate from way back the Jurassic period! I could no longer reconcile how my friend looked like. In my mind, while I know he was my classroom buddy, his recent photo, assuming it was his real picture, there was a marked difference. He has changed except that his language, his nostalgic reminders remain static and frozen in time.
Three decades or thirty years may have been a generation already. It could have been an ordinary period used and wasted, spent and used, consumed and recycled, but it remains the same even by stretching another sequence.
Serving time in prison may have stopped a spell after a while, but in FB the spell continues—even when the person is in life hereafter.
Dr. Raymund Narag was just fortunate. This according to his testimony. He was charged with a murder case in 1992, an incident that brought to the fore issues on fraternity violence and he was one among several young men —all members of the UP Scintilla Juris Fraternity—who were immediately clamped in jail for the alleged felony.
Seven years later, (that is right, 7 years) the court handed down a decision clearing Narag of the offense while his co-accused bore the burden of serving time for the crime committed. After the decision was promulgated, all his accused were subsequently transferred from Quezon City jail to the National Penitentiary to serve time.
Raymund came back to his Alma Mater (UP Diliman) to receive honors and diploma as scholar and cum laude at the UP NCPAG where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration.
Thereafter, he continued his quest for more academic degrees and went to US to further pursue graduate studies. He was admitted as a instructor in Michigan University where he also earned his Masteral and Doctorate in the School of Criminal Justice and lately, moved and became a member of the faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He kept his linkage with Philippine learning institutions and occasionally would return to the country to pursue consultancy work.
Last July 11, 2013 on invitation of the Bureau of Corrections, as sponsored by the Asian Development Bank, he was tapped as resource speaker on the formulation of an ideal prison facility. For him, it was an ironic exposure.
Sometime ago, he was a detainee in congested Quezon city jail for seven years. He would have been inside the Penitentiary with his fellow frat brothers had he not been acquitted. In front of prison officers, he laid down one principle after another on how to design and administer a penal institution. He knows whereof he speaks. He was for sometime a denizen and now as expert after continuing with postgraduate research on life behind bars.
During his lecture, he remarked that those of his co-accused who were sentenced to serve time in the Penitentiary are, like him, also innocent of the charges. He said in all those times he visited them, he advised that “you came in clean, you must go out clean also.” That, according to him, is the mark of innocence.
For him, criminal justice in the country, without even mentioning it though, is paradoxical. And they are not alone. For quite sometime, regular releases in penal establishments include cases of acquittal too after a lengthy period of incarceration. Thespian Berting Labra, after 16 years in Death Row was released after the Supreme Court decided on his innocence. Hubert Webb is another. After 19 years, he was released after the High Court was not convinced on his guilt. And more. Countless inmates who have not appealed also are serving time for no reason at all!
There are administrative remedies. Those incarcerated and were acquitted are qualified to seek redress and compensation from the Department of Justice under the victimology (victim assistance) program. The Commission on Human Rights also is championing through the courts compensatory reliefs by way of damages. But is it worth? A day in prison is a lifetime scar. It is an unthinkable and humiliating experience. It directly assaults the soul. However, one can only understand this within the purview of fate.
Innocents in prison? It is like a healthy person confined in the hospital, bombarded with prescription drugs, tested with numerous injectables, fed with salt less meals, checked and monitored almost every hour, garbed in dextrose and due for surgical transplant.