I FAILED TO CHANGE GOVERNMENT
In 1977 when I graduated with two degrees, one from Letran College and another from the University of the Philippines, I thought that joining government service would give me a rebel’s chance to change the impression about the lackadaisical nature of government. I even went to the extent of convincing my fellow graduates to give government a chance to improve itself through our sacrifices. For me, activism is not challenging or insulting government service, it is not lambasting the people running it, it is not criticizing the system, it is not even attacking the entire bureaucracy. Personally, getting into the service, penetrating the innards of the system, effecting change in whatever form means genuine and unpretentious activism.
I tried my best. I must admit I was in a way too imposing and at the same too trusting. I tried to be consistent in all my undertakings. One day, I was the one giving direction, in another day I am situated at the end of receiving line for instructions. Short of even being called a straw or sipsip, I pursued programs through dint of ingenuity. Initiative after another however never created a significant mark. If at all something is introduced, it is more out of audacity of those benefited rather than an institutional recognition. Worst, all my efforts afforded the system to have a way to discard me in the process.
Whatever it is that glistened whenever I hear “serve the people” suddenly evaporated in the mist of routine. Work in government seems to be a long stretch of time, an 8 hour grind to fulfill what could have been completed in an hour’s time. The rest of the period would just be an occasion to think of sidelines and rackets; to ruminate on matters to make money; to make something out of well, nothingness.
Work in government is almost everything covered in black and white. Even in areas where operations are concerned, it must be supported by reports, reams of endorsements, handful of attachments. Never mind how work has been done as long as the report beautifully would capture the concept, essence and manner of the mission. The effect is not necessarily of import, it is how it explained that matters. After all, government would rather listen than look. This has been the milieu on which I have virtually subsisted for the last three decades of my career in public service.
In my mind, what is important on the other hand are the clientele. In my case, the prisoners. I could live through without recognition, although I have my own approach in getting one through promotion, but my primary concern is the prison community. It is the universe of my career. It is not about how comfortable I am in my work area; it is not about how much increase I would be receiving in terms of salary and allowances; it is not about the number of seminars I would attend so that I could enhance my curriculum vitae and improve my credentials; it is not about how influential and power I could be in the prison service; it is not about me that I am concerned about. It is the prisoners. The prisoner in particular, the subject of my career, the basis why I work in the prison service in the first place.
I have literally circumnavigated all penal colonies, the big ones, under the Bureau of Corrections. I have been the top gun in New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City (four times), Davao Prison and Penal Farm (four times), Iwahig Penal Colony (twice), San Ramon Prison in Zamboaga city. In the course of my stint in Davao, I was one of those who pioneered the establishment of another corrective facility for women in Mindanao.
I have as yet to fulfill much changes through advices and active participation in the administration and handling of prisoners. I have as yet to see whether the prison service I entered in 1977 has changed through some works I have contributed at present time 38 years later. In my estimation, much as I wanted to offer more, I have done little.
If it is an exam that I participated in, my personal rating would be low. In the academe, it is more pronounced if one gets a low mark. It means that I failed.