ON ORGANIZING A PRISON OFFICER CORPS
I was tasked to organize a Prison Officer Corps as a positive response by prison leadership on the proposal of a senior prison official on the matter of organizing a prison officer corps much like what is done in the military service. This time around however when I am about to retire.
Sometime in 1977 when I was still a struggling rookie in the prison service, a circular from Civil Service Commission was issued and accordingly, all government agencies must organize a union for young employees, those who are less than 30 years old. It was referred to as “Buklod ng Kabataang Kawani.”
A general meeting by prison administration was held, the circular discussed and in a month’s time, there I was at the forefront of the organization. I was elected President of Bucor-BKK. I was a 23 year old seedling at that time. I could only recall a few names of prison employees who were elected officers but I forgot the rest. All of the officers elected then have transferred eventually and some have retired already. Hence, I am the only last man standing as far as the pioneer officers of BKK is concerned.
BKK was Marcos regime’s idea of China’s Red Guards and Hitler’s youth Nazi. And there I was, actively participating in organizing and facilitating BKK organization in all commissions and bureau’s of DOJ. At DOJ, during a plenary of session of all agency BKK officers, I was elected vice president with the son of then Minister of Justice, Atty. Reggie Puno, then as special assistant to DOJ Minister, as President. In a national conference, all BKK officers were sent to boot camp at National Defense College of the Philippines to be trained in a Future Leaders Program. All of those who graduate from the training, are now Directors and Heads of various government offices around the country. Most of them have retired already. Yet they left behind the ideals not as what then President Marcos wanted as a matter of parochial nationalism but the ideals of good governance. BKK organizations faded as soon as Marcos left the scene.
Sometime in 1986, a few years after BKK shone, another organization was founded in the heat of activism borne out of frustration from the chosen leadership of Cory government. The appointment of Col. Emil Cea to Bucor leadership was unexpected and abusive. It was never a reflection of what Cory government ought to banner. The Bureau of Corrections Employees Association (BUCOREA) came into being. Those elected in the hierarchy were civilian employees and the org tried to represent also the sentiment and interests not only of the civilians in the prison service but those in the uniformed ranks as well.
Bucorea unfortunately was misunderstood as an activist group by succeeding prison leadership and worst, was even suspected as a left leaning representation led by former BKK organizers. For a time, Bucorea never made it as a recognized group until it fractured and some officers went separate ways. Factions could be seen everywhere. A few years later, there were other groups that sprung from Bucorea like Cooperatives, Multiloans coops, and an organization by uniformed personnel, the Bucoroa.
Further on, sub organizations were also encouraged until uniformed personnel were identified according to batches which carried PMA inspired inscriptions like Batch Magilas, Batch Matikas, etc.
The advent of a new law, the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, requires a different organizational perspective. Bucor under said law will be a uniformed bureau already and its retirement scheme follows the template of all uniformed agencies in government. There is now a need for an organized Officer Corps that would banner professionalism, ethical standards and a higher degree of competence in the prison service. How to formulate one is a challenge the prison leadership has posed.
An effective organization is founded on a ground swell more than a dictate from the top. It must be an initiative of a matured rank and file. It is the closing of the ranks that spells a good and lasting association.
I hope I still could join even if I am on my way out.