ONE MONTH AT THE HELM OF THE NATIONAL PENITENTIARY (JULY 15 TO AUGUST 15, 2013)
New Bilibid Prison is also referred to as the National Penitentiary. It houses 22,000 national (read: convicted) prisoners out of the total prison population of 34,000 prisoners. That means NBP is host to almost 64% of the entire prison population in the whole archipelago. NBP is the biggest facility among 7 prisons and penal farms supervised and administratively controlled by the Bureau of Corrections.
Sometime ago, the state of Philippine corrections was in a limbo. DOJ leadership could not understand its situation. Public perception of prison administration was negative and adverse. A new prison leadership had assumed the mantle of management and he was clueless on where to start.
The prison leadership was therefore in a quandary. For the last two years, there were almost serial changes at the helm of the agency (two Directors and three Officers in charge were replaced one on top of another). For the last few months, heads of several prison superintendents likewise rolled one after another, four of them actually and another awaiting administrative charges. Heads of various divisions were also indicted and literally must have to give their explanation before investigative bodies on their participation in some alleged questionable deals. That made the management layer of the Bureau of Corrections virtually a ghost town.
That was a time when the prison leadership would compel me to move over from my former active post (at Davao Penal Colony) to NBP where for a time, I was also its off and on Chief Superintendent. But unlike in the past where I was merely designated as nominal head, I pleaded for a clarity on what I intend to do given a repeat performance. I intend to act as Superintendent and not as repository of blame like what happened to previous officers who occupied the post.
Then the orders came one after another. I would be Chief Superintendent of New Bilibid Prison, and at the same time Head of the Bucor Internal Affairs Service, acting Assistant Director for Security and Operations, Chairman of Bucor Transfer/ Movement Board, Chairman of Hospital Board, Chairman of the Uniform Board and on selection basis, Chair of the Joint Venture Monitoring Committee. This on top of my institutional function as Presiding officer of the NBP Hearing Committee and Chairman of the NBP Reclassification Board. Reading the list of my principal assignments was already a tall order.
July 15, 2013 I officially assumed as Superintendent of New Bilibid Prison. That was also the time when a fugitive (Cadavero case) who was supposed to be received by my office but was not properly turned over. There was national uproar in what could have been an alleged murderous act perpetuated by no less than the protector of the people, the police officers themselves. And my agency was suspected to have played a role in the rigmarole. One press conference after another, until we have properly explained our role and eventually pushed the issue away where eventually the limelight was focused on the police agency. Prisons has nothing to do with the crime. We were merely used as props to confuse the public from the dastardly prepared plan to take down an incorrigible character. It would grab national consciousness for a week.
That was my baptism of fire. Thereafter, I would sit down to check all the communications passing through my office and woe! I have to virtually edit and amend almost everything. The NBP administrative flow has gone awry and the NBP staff has to content with whatever would pass through them without guidance from anyone at the top. There was absence of leadership and the Director and his assistants have occupied the vacuum. This is fatal to the Director since every flaw would directly go up to his level. Under my stint, the buck stops in my office.
And it would be a very difficult orientation. While I have slowly introduced order and discipline, there were occasions when the usual disorganized system would creep into the organization. People who were inured at conducting on their own whatever that pleases them would disrupt the flow of command by getting through without passing through my office; the organization seems acquainted slowly with protocol already.
Nonetheless, after 30 days I could express the following endeavors: Medical referrals of inmates have been controlled and rationalized. Court appearances of maximum security (including high profile and high risk) inmates have been reformulated. Entrance of visitors reviewed and evaluated. There was caution in every security camp and security becomes the principal force in every corner. The Internal Affairs Service has been convened resulting in the immediate resolution of two out of three cases submitted thus far. Ordinances were imposed regulating movements of prisoners, restricting further entrances in the prison camp of personal items and related commodities, determination of a quarantine area in every camp and controlling entrance of unauthorized persons in all prison camps.
Furthermore, terms like “sleep out,” “living out.,” “stay in” were removed in the lexicon of prison administration and redefined according to what the rules dictate.
From there, I rest my case.