Monthly Archives: April 2014

PHILIPPINE VISIT

obama visit

No US President would even dare ignore or bypass a significant region in the global community like Asia.  It has developed into a competitive entity that challenged the hegemony of western power after World War II.  It has stood the test of time and has sustained its culture and civilization as against the usual influence of ancient culture and civilization.  As a matter of fact, science has uncovered evidences that point out the influence of East on Western norms and tradition.

That realization exacted much consideration as shown with the visit of US Presidents on the shore of Asian countries.  US President Barack Obama actually continued the routine as 7th US President to have done so.  For Obama, the trip to the Philippines was more of curiosity more than a package of braggadocio in the face of challenges from neighbouring countries like Japan, Malaysia, China…

Principally, Obama is more Asian than African since his childhood is locked in Indonesia and Hawaii where Asians predominate.  Even his taste buds are Asian.  His choice for chef is a Filipino and even his favourite meal is adobo and lumpia.  His sports is almost a chip off Filipino national past time:  basketball.  He, like any Filipino, would spend time in the gym playing half court.  Obama’s 6’2” frame although not ideal in NBA where giants rule but his interest in the sports make him more Asian, yes, more Filipino than any other US President.

And then, there was the just concluded high paying boxing match between an 8 division champ Manny Pacquaio and undefeated US boxer Bradley.  The Filipino’s predominant presence in American sports could have caught the attention of a sportsman like the US President.  It is, one again, the Philippines on the map.

Previously, before the 911 debacle on the myth of American power, a intelligence report was submitted to US Military Command regarding the suspected presence of terror cells contemplating on bombing specific areas in US Mainland.  These terror groups had encamped in the southern territory of the Philippines.  There were signs of terror training and planning; and these were noted and reported accordingly.  But since Philippine law enforcement and military establishment had a low regard and poor impression on their capability, it was passed on as raw and therefore unverifiable.  In less than a year, the plan was pursued and the worst bombing in the history of US came into the light.  It was then when red faced American intelligence operatives began to treat with seriousness Philippine reports on intelligence matters.

The Philippines was placed at the center of concern not only in terms of how American forces can virtually use its former military bases in the country but also in sustaining its political relationship with government.  The realization of having a joint venture, a partnership in exchanging notes on closing ranks in the face of challenges to global peace and order that the Philippines finally has been conscripted in the military and economic perspective of USA.

This is the significance of the recent US President visit.   While it is seen as a move out of curiosity and to a large extent less political but more social; less formal, but more personal; less global, and more parochial.  It is in projecting US friendship with Philippine government that makes Asian forces stronger in the face of terror and related display of power by countries in the region out to promote its political agenda through display of arrogance and military might.  The presence of the US leadership in Asia is a statement of concern against the ambitions of China and Korea who are virtually rearranging the forces that govern stability in the world.

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HISTORIC VISIT

vjt and bdu troops

US President Barack Obama is the 7th US Chief Executive to have visited the country.  Current Philippine President Noynoy Aquino, as host, was a picture of triumph.  While it is politically an expedient advantage for both leaders, momentous to a certain extent and stabilizing considering the fact that there is conflict in the region, the visit cannot be gainsaid as extraordinary.

A few days before the Obama visit, there is something historic.  This is the official visit of the sitting Secretary of Justice, Atty. Leila M. Delima to Davao Prison and Penal Farm.  The penal establishment was founded in 1931 through Presidential Proclamation 414 but since then, no top government functionary on the level of a Department Head has ever set foot in the area.

Davao Prison and Penal Farm or Davao Penal Colony has been on front page before, featured as one of the most violent prison facility, a former garrison state of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, and recently as site of the biggest banana plantation in the world.  Yet despite the earth shaking incidents that has transpired, give and take, a previous administrative trauma as the only facility which an insurgent- led raiding team succeeded in disarming the institution, carting away, emptying as a matter of fact, its armory and relegating prison personnel guarding 6 thousand prisoners using knives as defensive weapon, a classic Guinness World Record to speak of, it has never achieved any media mileage that would have merited Congressional inquiry or plain investigative call from the Department of Justice.

Yet on one fine Saturday, April 26, 2014, the Head of the Department of Justice, Secretary Delima, prodded by Director of Corrections Franklin Jesus B. Bucayu, in an instance proceeded to check up close what Davao Prison and Penal Colony was.  And indeed, the Secretary of Justice was upbeat, in high spirits to have noted that said penal establishment could pass off as a model in terms of how it is administered, how prisoners are treated and how programs are managed.  She was smitten with good impressions.  She was so amazed that a facility, the farthest from central office, could have maintained and achieved administrative maturity outside the prying eyes of the prison leadership.  She promised to be back and relish the climate of good governance in a Bureau which for a time has been denigrated and maligned by media and public perception.

The visit of the Secretary of Justice while historic was also laden with security challenges.  As it were, Secretary Delima is not only a high value government official but also at the cross hair of controversial cases where she was literally designated to handle.  Every case which government wanted to prosecute is a matter for her concerns.  And these are cases where the most influential, the most powerful, the most dangerous are virtually on her list to indict.  That made her a principal target to take down.  Anyone around her is automatic in any event that would claim collateral damage.  And during her visit, I, along with my trained officers, are on the plate of peril.

For three days, we have to sustain vigilance.  Since she was a media darling and every news coverage would feature a regular interview on how she would act on certain legal matter, those we would meet in her rounds would readily recognize her.  And they would immediate converge and beg for her to be photographed with.  She would oblige and that would start our security nightmare.  On her departure from Davao to Manila, we would all sigh and even attribute the safe passage of our client as miracle.

Indeed, the mission to secure a historic visit includes luck with a handful of preparation also.  Without that, it would not be historic anymore.  Worst, in the event something happen, we all would be a part of history.

 

PRISON SUPERINTENDENTS ALL

superintendent all D

Sometime in 2012 at Cebu City, I was tasked by then Director of Corrections Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan to convene a meeting of all penal superintendents in the Bureau of Corrections.  Except those assigned at New Bilibid Prison and Correctional Institution for Women, all superintendents/ officers in charge reported.  Above was our picture.

 

Two years later, the picture became for me a source for intellectual inquiry.  These are no ordinary guys in the correctional system, they were, I mean those around me, were no nonsense officers.  But at the moment, they are somewhere else.

 

In retrospect, I was way ahead of them in the career department.  I was appointed the highest rank of Penal Superintendent  IV in 1991 while these officers were just struggling near the bottom of the organization.  They were still trying to prove their mettle.  Mario Trasmonte (second from the left) was still a budding security officer trying to haggle for a scholarship post at that time.  Guillermo Ayala (fourth from the left) was still a State Auditor in the Commission on Audit and about to be assigned in the Bureau of Corrections.  Robert Rabo (fifth from the left)  was then a supervising prison officer assigned in patrol duties.  And, Francisco Abunales (first from the right) was an agricultural officer assigned in the agro farms of NBP and newly hired after a stint in another government outfit on agriculture.

 

In the early 90s, while I was already at the helm of New Bilibid Prison, I knew that these officers would rose from the ranks eventually.  Trasmonte’s scholarship abroad on security administration became his passport to be promoted to higher ranks until finally in the early 2000s, he was given a command at Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm. Ayala on the other hand after a semester as State Auditor of COA based in the Bureau of Corrections opted to transfer and became Chief, Accountant.  After a year of scholarship at National Defense College of the Philippines, he was allowed to handle a command post at San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm.  Abunales’ star rose from the ranks in the early 2000s having impressed prison leadership that agriculture was the saving grace of rehabilitation in penal establishments in the country side.  He was subsequently assigned to head Leyte Regional Prison.  Rabo was the youngest in our group picture.  He was recently promoted to the Superintendent post in the late 2000s and was directed to head a satellite minimum camp of NBP.

 

In mid 2000s, we would find ourselves huddled during the regular command conference and would exchange notes and pleasantries, exchanging impressions and lessons learned from our field exposures.  There were several challenges, problems and difficulties mostly along the line of reckoning changing policies enunciated by successive changes in the prison leadership.  There were times when we would project as a highly disciplined officer along military ways, at times as snooping kind along law enforcement or police manner.  To a certain extent, we would exude a tolerant façade since the prison leadership was more a politician than a bureaucrat.  We have to be relevant according to what prison leadership wanted to express.  And sometimes, it makes our personality less malleable but rather prone to institutional and administrative bruises.

 

It is not surprising to note that in the hierarchy of the prison agency, it is the Superintendent that bears the brunt of charges and cases both administrative and criminal.  In my case, I have to struggle to defend myself in 15 administrative cases and 2 criminal cases filed in the court of law (all of which were dropped eventually).  Each case, should I fail, would mean early expulsion from the government service.  I would also note a similar pattern which my fellow Superintendents would likewise experience.

 

In 2013, I would embrace all these officers as my command colleague and bearing the same struggle and scars from fulfilling the mandate of prison administration, we were all fair game in the rough and tumble of criminal justice administration.  We intend to win and be on top but on certain occasions there would be defeats and losses.

 

The current year, a period when majority of us are contemplating to file our retirement and fade away, my peers would be subjected to a host of unfavorable rulings.  Transmonte and Ayala would receive an order of suspension.  Rabo would receive an order of dismissal from DOJ.  Worst, Abunales would receive a hail of bullets that caused his instant demise.  They all represented the second generation officers, the first, my original batch mates were retired already and most have already gotten their post in life hereafter.

 

The post of Superintendent is a worthy station but at times, it is also a place when unfortunate events would conspire to clip it.  Metaphysically, it is sometimes unfair.

 

ON LEADERSHIP

leadership

 I have a friend who requested me to give a talk about leadership.  I have presumed that because I happen to be a senior prison official and as such, could share some thoughts, principles and approaches for those who one day would become leaders in their own respective turf.  Of course, I obliged although hesitantly.  It is never a walk in the park.  I must be candid or else I would just be an ordinary speaker given to glib talking.  I am never predisposed to waste precious time on bantering.

How I wish I could just give the audience, participants in the leadership session, a piece of paper with a working outline to follow.  Where a list of enumerated number of skills and considerations are printed that would produce in them an instant model on which to base their leadership requirement.  This however is easily said than done.  There are as many leadership models as there are cultures and persuasions.  And their qualities conflict with one another.  One leadership quality may be successful in one class but would be failure in another.  Attila the Hun may have been one great leader with exceptional leadership skill but if his style is used on the followers of Napoleon, he might carry the name of Attila the Hunted!

Alexander the Great was a spoiled kid.  He was even tarnished as homosexual.  But when he was compelled to lead a ragtag army that his father left, youthful as he was, he led them to a conquest no other great men ever achieved.  Similarly, Napoleon was rejected when he applied in a European military academy for his physical size.  He was too short to carry a rifle, too slim to carry supplies and ammo.   But when he got conscripted in a local constabulary, he shone.  He even bested those from the military academy and during the course of his leadership; he nearly conquered the whole civilized world!

Leadership depends on the time.  It is something generational.  He must be relevant.  He should be knowledgeable of his environment.  He must be sensitive to what is going on around him.  Whether he chose to lead a bandit group or be at the top of an evangelist formation, he must have a ring of understanding on that which is happening from within and without.

Leadership in government service is a world different from leadership in the private sector.  Even in government, there is such a thing as appointed leadership and elective one.  The same can be said in the private sector where the owner is the leading capitalist but it is the technical expert that virtually leads in a de facto manner.

There are of course leaders in various fields of endeavour, in literature, science, religion, academics, ect.  Leaders must exude a different persona and must exhibit a different mindset depending on their specific discipline.  Miguel de Cervantes was serving time as prisoner, almost buried in a dungeon when he wrote Don Quixote de la Mancha on the wall using charcoal, but his single composition led to a classic which changed the world of literature.   Steve Jobs, it has been said, was an arrogant leader but he literally carried and led an entire civilization on the road to advanced technology.

In my readings and personal estimation based on years of exposure with various leaders and their styles, I have made conclusive findings that on top of their flock,  the most effective leaders are those who can manage their domestic and personal (that is, family) life on the path of stability—both in terms of emotional as well as material level.  And While it is true that some outstanding historical figures have left their families to lead a contingent that would change history , most of them philosophers, religious and military, the greatest among them however are those whose families they led first towards glory.  We have  Abraham, Jesus, Mohamad, Gandhi, the list is almost endless.

Essentially, great leaders maintain a consistent thread of quality, whether they belong to a different class in history, whether they were seen as heroes or heels.

The leader understands everyone within his circle, even those who are against or critical of his qualities.  He is accommodating to the extent of being perceived as generous.  He knows how to sacrifice even to such a degree where his life would put on the line.  He is therefore, in the real sense, at the head, or at the lead.

As such, he usually analyzes a given situation and always at the forefront of simplification.  He never run out of options.  Problems for him are challenges and hardship another word for opportunity.  While he negotiates and settles, he is always exploring the better deal.  He is not doing this to favour or gain advantage for himself; he is doing this for his family, friends, neighbours, community.  He should live for others.  His cause is never about anything personal for him.

In other words, true and genuine leadership is never a course at all. Contemporary times are never kind to him .  Life is even heartless and unforgiving for him.  His life is, at best, devoted principally to his loved ones.  Yet it is through his sacrifices, that which he rejoices, that makes the day.   In the final round, he swallows all the evil that would befall his family and environment; and for an ordinary man, it is even a seen as a curse!

THE BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS IN MY MIND

bucor pic b4  bucor pic

Once upon a period in the country’s penal history, the agency involved in the safekeeping of offenders, the Bureau of Prisons then (now Bureau of Corrections) belonged to the Department of Instructions and Commerce.  Prisoners were seen as students and workers tasked to perform largely labor concerns.  As a matter of fact, they were even treated as pioneering farm contingents as when they were literally assigned to explore jungles which later would evolve into penal colonies.   Iwahig Penal Colony, Davao Penal Colony, San Ramon Penal Colony were starting points.  Prisoners were sent to these areas as farm hands to tame the wild so to speak.  And from whatever produce they may be able to explore and exploit, it became part of the budding prison industrial commerce.  That was in the early stages of penal colony administration.

 

Years later, following the development of American judicial system, the Bureau of Prisons was realigned under the supervisory realm of the Department of Justice.  From then up to the present, the organizational membership would remain as it was.  For quite a time, it was American jurisprudence that dictated a number of institutional practices, which up to the present the prison system is adhering to.  Little legislative concerns were submitted except during times when disturbances and riots would emanate from the throes of complaints by the incarcerated humanity.  The Laurel Report on prison report became a significant document that forced government to review the conditions obtaining in all prison establishments.  And while it virtually pushed correctional concerns at the forefront of legislative awareness, the enthusiasm faded as soon as the last victim of riots was buried.

 

Then came a series of advocacies focusing on human rights and religious formation activities in prison.  These encouragements influenced the climate obtaining in penal facilities and reduced the tension.  It also reinforced the introduction of programs that later would become the centerpiece of rehabilitation.  It would likewise be the central consideration in every program intended to promote the welfare of the prison community.

 

While riots virtually waned in NBP, trouble erupted almost simultaneously on most penal colonies.  Prison officers in Iwahig, Davao and Zamboanga were assaulted.  Gangs in these facilities were likewise viciously attacking each other.  Violence and mayhem cascaded from Muntinlupa to various penal establishments in the country.  This would be the temper of penal colonies until it would subdue as time goes by.

 

In the late 70s when death penalty was virtually bannered by the military establishment, the penal system was silenced into a level of contemplation.  The prison agency at that time has been acknowledged as a complete package.  It has almost everything in its arsenal except for air power.  It has a shipping line (MV Bupri), it has vast tracts of lands in Palawan, Mindoro, Mindanao, etc, it has a vast supply of manpower, it has armed personnel, its establishments posted in all critical regions of the country in strategic locations.  It is almost a total force to reckon with.  During this period, government recognized its organized potential; hence it reorganized prisons but neglected updating its rules.  It remained stagnant and bereft of significance in the scale of criminal justice administration.   It would remain the same for years to come.

 

Prison leaders would be appointed one after another on the basis of political discretion.  Every individual administration would attempt to start policy as if the agency had a dark past.  Every appointed leader would presume that changes were made and their presence incumbent on the basis that their predecessors were failures from the start.  Every administrative expression of those given the chance to score correctional victory would only do so on a personal level and would never create any historical consideration.  There was no sense of administrative continuity from one appointed leader to another.  Every representation was a virtual double of its political patron.  Every change in prison administration would be marked with a seal of innocence and blind commitment.

 

For the last several decades, the correctional administration would partake of measures upon measures even if there were no laws that would govern all attempts at updating practices until the time came when Legislature finally broke its silence.  It drafted and finally sent a law for approval the prepositioning of the agency—Bureau of Corrections—on the back burner of criminal justice administration.  Republic Act 10575 (The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013) was eventually approved by the President and another correctional milestone, Republic Act 10592 (The Law on Good Conduct Time Allowance and other Grants for the reduction of Penalty) was subsequently passed.

 

These two recent legislative measures literally brought the Bureau of Corrections back on the plane of relevance in the entire criminal justice system.  It virtually conferred awareness on the plight and condition of the incarcerated humanity.  If only because of this concern, the country’s penal administration finally achieved a significant and effective role in the proper treatment of those under custody of law.

 

I am due to retire after almost 38 years in the prison service.  I have seen and experienced what corrections meant to the criminal justice administration during those times.  I have struggled to find my role in the complex and confusing dynamics of correctional directions.  And finally, on my way out, two laws would stand out to reform the entire corrective system.  It was indeed a fitting occasion to witness the dawn of changes.  I may not be an active part of the transformation this time but I know fairly well that there will be positive shift of corrections with emphasis on the welfare of those serving time in the regime of incarceration, an advocacy which I devoted my professional calling for years.

 

COLONIST STATUS OF PRISONERS: A DISCUSSION

colonist status

VJT Blog on Philippineprisons.com re The New Good Conduct Time Allowance for Prisoners and related DOJ Circular on Penal Colonist status.

 

Last March 18, 2014, Secretary of Justice Leila M. De Lima issued Memorandum (LML-M-18C14-366) clarifying the grant of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and Penal Colonist status to prisoners.  There were six issues resolved accordingly.  First, a colonist status can only be granted if the sentence of life imprisonment or reclusion perpetual was commuted by the President of the Philippines.”  Second, “the duration of reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment is forty (40) years and remains to be a single and indivisible penalty.” Third, “the 30 year period in RA 7659 has no effect on the grant of a colonist status considering that reclusion perpetua is a single and indivisible penalty and its maximum duration is forty (40) years.”  Fourth, “  there should be commutation of sentence on life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua before additional GCTA is applied.”  Fifth, “subject to the requirement of commutation of sentence by the President, the grant of GCTA will be governed by the original provisions in the Bucor Manual.”  And sixth, the Technical Working Group created to draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10595 (Bucor Act of 2013) will address the question on the determination of granting and withdrawing the privilege of GCTA and colonist status.

 

Mel Faustino’s reaction on the blog:

 

On issue No.1
It can be deduced that colonist status is given only to convicts sentenced to RP or LI; and their sentence was commutted by the president. That is not the case in the Bureau.
Vauge on the memorandum is who has the authority to grant colony status, which actually grants additional time credit akin to GCTA. In effect, CS reduced the sentenced to be served. The problem, CS has no legal basis not like GCTA. The sole basis of CS is the unsigned BuCor Manual.
BuCor should clarify the matter to DOJ, CS is in the nature of commutation.., a power rested on the President.
To date, there are several convicts who have granted CS by DC. It should be addressed and corrected at once.

 

 

Discussion:

 

 

First IssueHow a colonist status will be applied and granted to an inmate sentenced to life imprisonment and to an inmate sentenced to Reclusion Perpetua. (Ref:  DOJ Memorandum from the Secretary dated March 18, 2014)

 

                A colonist status can only be granted if the sentence of life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua was commuted by the President of the Philippines.

 

                The requirement of executive approval can be traced back from the provisions of Act. No. 24895, a 1915 law granting special compensation, credits and modification of prison sentence as a reward for exceptional conduct and workmanship.  The term “executive approval” refers to the executive clemency which can only be exercised by the President of the Philippines.

 

                Section 19, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution provides that:

 

                Sec. 19.  Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in the Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.

                                                                                Xxx         xxx         xxx”

 

                The power of executive clemency is a non-delegable power and must be exercised by the President personally.  (Villena v. Secretary of Interior, 67 Phils. 451, 463 (1939).  The above-quoted provision gives the President said power for correcting infirmities in the administration of justice and for mitigating harshness by a too strict application of the law.  (The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, A commentary, Bernas, 2009 ed. Pg. 924).

 

–          – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – x

 

A cursory reading of the DOJ Memorandum on the first issue regarding the grant of colonist status (CS) on prisoners distinguishes those with indeterminate sentence and those sentenced to Reclusion Perpetua and Life Imprisonment.  There is no contentious angle on the matter of the grant of CS on qualified prisoners with indeterminate sentence.  There is however a certain degree of confusion when CS is conferred on prisoners under Reclusion Perpetua or Life Imprisonment.

 

There were numerous instances in the past when the Director of Corrections , on the basis of Bucor Manual, signed by then Justice Secretary Artemio G. Tuquero in March 30, 2000, applied the provision of granting colonist status on inmates recommended for its grant.

 

Sec. 6.  Colonist.—The Director (of Corrections) may, upon recommendation of the Classification Board, classify an inmate who has the following qualifications as a colonist:

 

  1. Be at least a first class inmate and has served one (1) year immediately preceding the completion of the period specified in the following qualifications;
  2. Has served imprisonment with good conduct for a period equivalent to one fifth (1/5) of the maximum term of his prison sentence, or seven (7) years in the case of a life sentence.

 

Sec. 7.  Privileges of a colonist.—A colonist shall have the following privileges:

  1.  Credit of an additional GCTA of five (5) days for each calendar month while he retains said classification aside from the regular GCTA authorized under Article 97 of the Revised Penal Code;
  2. Automatic reduction of life sentence imposed on the colonist to a sentence of thirty years;

 

xxx         xxx         xxx”

 

Paragraph b of Section 7, Chapter 3, Bucor Manual has no basis in law.  As a matter of fact, it has forgotten a law (Act No. 24895) on the “Executive approval”, meaning the exercise of Executive Clemency which the President of the Philippines has the sole authority to grant; and,  that there is no such provision as “automatic reduction of life sentence” unless it passes through the Chief Executive in the manner of exercising Executive Clemency where commutation of sentence through Executive Clemency is issued and granted.

 

While the Bucor Manual is a “reference guide for the men and women who safely keep prisoners confined in national prisons” according to then Secretary of Justice Artemio G. Tuquero in his Message reflected on the Bucor Manual, it was never meant as an occasion to skip certain important provisions of law, much more so, in the manner of clipping executive powers unless expressly allowed by the Chief Executive through a proclamation or through legislative intent.

 

The previous acts of Directors virtually by passed if not presumed executive grant and without waiting for any executive commutation before granting CS on inmates under Life Imprisonment or Reclusion Perpetua.  While the Director of Corrections has the power to recommend the grant and even on a delegated power (from DOJ) to grant CS to an inmate who was properly screened and recommended for the grant, he cannot by any stretch of administrative act liberally presume executive prerogative by skipping the commutation process for prisoners under Life Imprisonment or Reclusion Perpetua before any grant is to be conferred on an inmate.

 

This concern is predicated on the observation made by the Secretary of Justice as the DOJ Memorandum  dated March 19, 2014 as it qualified the situation accordingly.  The memorandum provides guidance to Bucor leadership .   Thus:

 

The foregoing were made in order to finally address the pending issues relating to the release of the herein prisoners as well as those whose application for release are being processed by your office.  We are aware that the with the foregoing pronouncement, particularly the requirement of executive clemency, the same will greatly affect the rights of prisoners and former prisoners who already availed or are in the process of availing of the privileges of a colonist.  Nevertheless, we cannot deny that there had been error in the interpretation of the Bucor manual, and the same needs to be addressed immediately in order to avoid further confusion or error in the implementation of the Bucor Manual.”

 

The controversy and awareness over this situation where some prisoners and former prisoners were favoured as a result of having availed of the privilege do not in a way cure the past errors.  It should be rectified pursuant to what is just and fair.

 

While it can be argued that the grant of Colonist Status is manifestly defined in the Bucor Manual, it cannot escape scrutiny when it comes to the presumption of executive power on commuting a prisoner under Life Imprisonment or Reclusion Perpetua to qualify for the grant.  The Director of Corrections is presumed to know all laws relating to his administrative and operative powers and prerogatives.  He must likewise know if his power eclipses that of higher authorities.  He is however given the necessary leeway to inquire and clarify any contentious or ambiguous provision within the territory of his administrative concerns.  More so, such considerations border on a sensitive matter related to the principal mandate of admitting, securing, maintaining and eventually releasing prisoners in accordance with or by operation of law.

 

From the legal standpoint, there was an improvident abuse of discretion or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction committed in the process where such act carried the application of CS leading to the release of some favoured prisoners over and above others similarly situated.  This situation has created an iniquitous condition and class distinction in the course of its application.

 

This is a situation where “justiciable controvery”may arise as basis to review, resolve and correct cases to serve the ends of justice.

 

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS AND HIS FRIENDS

life and times of jc

Recent controversial statements were made by some unknown historians attributing a statement made by Jesus of Nazareth introducing a woman among his disciples as “my wife.”  Although there were no ancient texts nor evangelical truism that would point at the marital status of Jesus, the claim met a considerable number of raised eyebrows among the conservatives.  As we all know, the conservatives would instantly believe anything from life in the moon and celestial living things in Mars even if science would disclose that there is nothing in the moon and Mars resembling that of life similar to earth.

What is clear and even realistic is the fact that Jesus, in his shortened life of 33, devoted himself within the embrace of a few disciples he called friends.  He even proclaimed that “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

His public ministry consisting of three years were a period he chose to live with his handful of friends.  He espoused peace.  He taught love.  He preached humility.  Along with his friends, they moved from one community to the other bearing acts of kindness and compassion.  Worst, he was doing this at a time when hundreds of preachers and street magicians were also doing the same things on the roads of Galilee right at the very nose of Roman authorities who were at that moment in charge of Jerusalem.

Rebellion then was punishable by death.  Romans could not contain anyone espousing rebellious deeds at a time when they want the people their subservience and absolute obedience.  Most firebrands and rebels during that period time tried to hide their revolutionary streaks and plans through the language of religion.  They wanted separation from the brutal and highly disciplined Roman regime.

The only space available for Jewish leaders under Roman tutelage was through lines conducted along spiritual formation and advocacies.  However, in another dimension of Jewish governance, anything that would contradict religious doctrines its High Priests was reported to Roman authorities, charges filed and instantly, penalty was imposed.

This was also the period of Jesus’ active community based ministry.  Unlike the multitude of preachers with their respective fanatical followers, Jesus was conducting his discourse in a subdued manner along with his chosen friends.  While most of his friends would disagree on his pacific insinuations, like “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.”  (Luke 6:29), they would also subscribe and clinch on the same doctrine.

He would even dictate how his friends should bear the brunt of his ministry with the statement, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

Their ministry collided with other preachers and the competition was stiff.  The field offered rivalries in terms of recruiting people to their side.  Jesus and his friends would find themselves nearly at crossroads with other insurgents and dissenters.  Jesus would be quick to dismiss these people and would implore his friends to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”  (Luke 6:27)

Jesus and his friends would easily attract crowds but his words could only reverberate with trepidation among his circle.  He would proclaim, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

As expected and with such doctrine of peace and amity, his friends expected that the ruling priests in their country would one day be slighted and would charge them for misleading the flock.  As the hour of reckoning came, Roman authorities cracked down on their mission.  Jesus’ friends, self proclaimed disciplines of his teachings, scampered away as soon as they saw a Roman contingent about to arrest them.  Friendship instantly evaporated that instance.

It was only when their ministry found no fountainhead that they missed the routine of teaching that Jesus’ friends finally realized their defeat.  It was the loss of their anchor that Jesus’ friends began to revive the principles of love and concern that built their friendship.

It was friendship that founded and cemented what Christianity is today.

 

 

HOLY WEEK APPRECIATIONS

holy week

When the civilized world observes Holy Week, then it naturally means that majority of people believe in the Almighty, in God.  The word ‘Holy” says it all.  There is nothing “holy” in the vocabulary of atheists or some scientists hence the reference of the many is on belief and faith in God.

There is nothing wrong and everything is moral when talks border on holiness.  It is however skewed if used as banner in warfare, cause for exploitation, reference for fraud or basis for discrimination.

The problem when religion enters the realm of faith is the segregation aspect.  When one believes in something holy, the rest of those outside the loop are perceived to be unholy.  For Christians, those who are not baptized to their beliefs are called pagans.  For Muslims, those who do not subscribe to their faith are referred to as infidels.  Generally speaking, when a religion adheres to a Supreme Being, those with contrary views are already ascribed as demonic.

As Christendom observes Holy Week, the faithful are reminded on the life and times of its symbol, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.  While it is true that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure, none of his humanly attributes has been highlighted.  Jesus is depicted as God and therefore the qualities of an Almighty are immediately inferred.  Hence, Jesus can walk on the waters.  He can multiply bread from nowhere to feed the multitude.  He can heal the sick, restore the sight of a blind man, and bring back to life the dead.  And as he lay prostrate on the cross badly beaten and injured, he would die but would eventually resurrect back to life on the third day.  For Christians, Jesus is God.

Rome, which was the seat of ancient paganism, became the citadel of Christian faith, the capital of Christianity after a period of tumultuous struggle.  While it the Romans who sentenced Jesus to death, after a period devoted to torture, it subsequently embraced the teachings of its judicial victim and ironically, even elevated the person it tortured to death up on the pedestal of Celestine supremacy.  Right at the heart of Rome, what is known today as the Vatican, resides the representative of the Christ.  As if torture and sending Jesus of Nazareth to death is not enough, the symbol of the tortured and maimed Christ is even used as symbol of the Roman Church!

From there various literary gems were devoted.  The Bible was published.  Classic literature was fashioned right from the inspired verses of the Good News.  The life of Jesus was immortalized several folds even if in the process, the lives and myth of Greek gods and heroes were even lifted for purposes of impression.  Everything pagan was reformatted and synchronized so that pagans would eventually be evangelized into the fold.  Rome may not have succeeded to conquer the world through force; it might as well invade it through faith.  And three fourths of the civilized world indeed was proselytized in the process.

Today, Jesus lives in the hearts of men outside the structure that used Him for their glory and purpose.

 

THE NEW GOOD CONDUCT TIME ALLOWANCE FOR PRISONERS and related DOJ Opinion on the Penal Colonist Status

prisoners dilemma

Last March 18, 2014, Secretary of Justice Leila M. De Lima issued Memorandum (LML-M-18C14-366) clarifying the grant of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and Penal Colonist status to prisoners.  There were six issues resolved accordingly.  First, “a colonist status can only be granted if the sentence of life imprisonment or reclusion perpetual was commuted by the President of the Philippines.”  Second, “the duration of reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment is forty (40) years and remains to be a single and indivisible penalty.” Third, “the 30 year period in RA 7659 has no effect on the grant of a colonist status considering that reclusion perpetua is a single and indivisible penalty and its maximum duration is forty (40) years.”  Fourth, “  there should be commutation of sentence on life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua before additional GCTA is applied.”  Fifth, “subject to the requirement of commutation of sentence by the President, the grant of GCTA will be governed by the original provisions in the Bucor Manual.”  And sixth, the Technical Working Group created to draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10595 (Bucor Act of 2013) will address the question on the determination of granting and withdrawing the privilege of GCTA and colonist status.

 

Corollary to the DOJ Memorandum dated March 18, 2014, another DOJ Memorandum Circular dated March 28, 2014 was issued by the Secretary of Justice.  It refers to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10592, otherwise known as “An Act Amending Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of Act No. 3815, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code, as amended,” or the GCTA Law.  The circular mandates that the IRR should take effect “fifteen (15) days after the date of its publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines.”  Furthermore,  the DOJ Circular directs “Bucor to strictly follow the procedures in the grant of the privilege (new GCTA) and to see to it that each inmate is given a copy of the IRR for their information.”

 

The IRR for the new GCTA has the following features:

  1.  It should be construed liberally in favour of a detained or convicted prisoner.
  2. A Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee (MSEC) shall be created to determine the procedures and standards of behaviour for the grant of GCTA and related grants for submission as recommendation to authorities for approval.
  3. The grant of GCTA and other grants (like STAL and TASTM) shall be PROSPECTIVE in application.
  4. Aside from GCTA, an inmate stands to be granted Special Time Allowance for Loyalty (STAL) from 1/5 up to 2/5 from his preventive imprisonment or service of sentence; and Time Allowance for Study, Teaching and Mentoring (TASTM) corresponding to 15 days for every month of study or mentoring services.
  5. Deductible GCTA is based accordingly:
  • First 2 years:  20 days off for each month
  • Third to fifth year:  23 days off for each month.
  • Sixth to tenth year:  25 days off for each month
  • Eleventh and successive year:  30 days off for each month

6.“An appeal by the accused shall not deprive him of his entitlement to the time allowance.”

 

The IRR also defined certain corrective parameters in the administration of inmate documents and its application.  Thus:

  1.  Preventive imprisonment by a detainee is credited FULL TIME when there is a Detainee’s Manifestation.
  2. In the absence of the manifestation, when there is Detainee’s Waiver, the creditable period is four-fifths (4/5) of the time of preventive imprisonment.  This means that 80% of his detention is credited in his record.
  3. GCTA has been included in the enumeration under partial extinction of criminal liability.
  4. Those authorized to grant time allowances are the following:
  5. Director of Corrections
  6. Chief, BJMP
  7. Wardens, Provincial, District, City or Municipal Jail

 

From hereon, the Corrective Services of the country (through Department of Justice and Department of Interior and Local Government) will have to incorporate and prepare a new manual for the application of said new GCTA law.  Without “faithful compliance”, a corrective officer stands to be penalized for one year imprisonment, fine of P100,000.00 and perpetual disqualification to hold office.

 

THE PACMAN MYSTIQUE

pacman

Of course, there is the person of Manny Pacquaio, a provincial lad shoved into a dangerous precipice of choosing between sticking his neck in a contact sport or dying of hunger.  The choice for him was real.  He would eventually succeed in the art where others merely coasted along.  For every trophy and belt he would receive, the adulation of an impressed audience could only cement a reputation for his  greatness.

Manuel Pacquaio was also  labelled the Pacman.  The alias was unintended although it was lifted as a  pun from an animated game where the variant gobbles everything and the score produced.  The more objects swallowed by pacman the higher the score.  And so it was with Pacquaio, the boxer.  He appeared at the lightest weight division and swallowed every champion along the way until he reached the eight division.  From there he was declared a different specie already, short of being suspected as alien, since he cornered a record which no other mortals ever achieved in the field of athletics.

From there the pacman diversified his concern.  I will not deal with this diversion however.  There is no mystique in them anyway.  I would rather focus on boxing where Pacquaio almost achieved a perfected stance notwithstanding defeat and failure in some attempts.

Note that like any other field, passing an exam or hurdling a difficult course or yes, achieving a strong condition to claim something like championship or winning a case or closing a deal, require preparation.  I am tempted even to say PREPARATION, all letters in caps.  It is in the preparation that makes the great difference.  It is in the preparation that a billiard game is won; where negotiation is wrapped up; when an agreement is sealed.

This is where discipline counts most.  This is where structures are built.  This is where restraint is most demanded.  A person wanted to succeed?  He must prepare for it.  A person wants to become somebody, a class of his own, in top form, outstanding, then he must work for it, he must prepare and be ready for the journey to force himself, to concentrate, to focus and eventually achieve what is aspired for.

Whenever famed boxer Manny Pacquaio is tasked to claim or defend a crown, he indulges in a massive training course which no ordinary man could possibly conduct.  He would inflict on himself a rigorous schedule, strain every muscle, push the limits of his lungs, engage his mind towards overcoming whatever distractions, stay healthy despite a regime that would literally break his bones and tear every ligaments of his body.  For months, he would bury himself, confront every demon, deprive himself of temptation all for the sake of a conditioned body and mind.  Reaching his peak means meeting the challenge head on.  It would be a competition with himself as opponent.  That is the mystique all about.

Michael Jordan, the best hoopster ever in the sports of basketball, said that an accurate shot on a dying second is not luck repeated oftentimes, it is the effect of several shots, thousands of trained shots as a matter of fact, to achieve what could have been a precise move for the winning basket.  It is the aspect of disciplined preparation that makes a mystique shown in the flesh.  It was precisely this fact that Pacquaio embraced and would fully subscribe.

Plain as it was, it is also the mystique of winning.

 

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