DAVAO PENAL COLONY IN MY MIND
Last April 7, 2007, Davao Penal Colony was attacked by insurgents. Firearms and ammunitions from the armory of Dapecol were carted away. There was no fire fight since the operation was conducted with military precision. The incident was a potential controversy which may blow the lid and embarrass correctional leadership. As institutional response, I was immediately sent by prison administration to trouble shoot the situation. After localizing the incident through local press, the news merited a small note inside the news daily. I succeeded in covering the incompetence of prison officers. That also saved the day for the prison leadership. It pays to have friends in the country’s fifth column, the media.
From there, prison administration coasted along, one brick after another. After a few months, the correctional facility for women was organized within the sprawling reservation of Dapecol. It was the second facility established after 76 years from the establishment of the first facility in Mandaluyong City. It was lauded not only by the active women sectoral group of Mindanao but by Women NGOs all over the country as well. After two years, the women’s facility became a template for rehab program in Sountheast Asia. (This was pursued by former Director of Corrections Atty. Vicente Vinarao and trailed by CIW Chief Atty Rachel Ruelo.)
The Dapecol camp for male offenders on the other hand has its own specific forte. It is involved in a Tesda governed training course on the ground at the biggest banana plantation in the world (Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation). Like that in Japan and Australia, inmates are earning for their upkeep and saving for the day when eventually they would be released into the mainstream of the free community. It is even perplexing to note that this is the only facility where there are records of inmates declining releases through parole if only to continue with their training and employment on the farms. And of course, through their stipends, they could sustain their family and even could send their children to school.
After a brief period of reassignment at New Bilibid Prison, seven months to be exact, I was again re-assigned back to Dapecol. The officer in charge, Gerardo Padilla, my deputy superintendent, accomplished what could have been an impossible mission. During the period of his incumbency, he sustained a record which no prison superintendent in the whole Bureau of Corrections have ever claimed. He governed Dapecol without any record of escape! I was mighty proud of the officer.
A few weeks from now, assuming the prison leadership would be liberal in appreciating clearances, I would have completed my career without any glitch. While I started my career as prison psychologist and rose from the ranks of superintendent with initial assignment at Davao Prison, I would wind up not elsewhere but also in Davao. Confident to have handled one of the best if not the best prison facility not only in the agency of the Bureau of Corrections but within the institutional contemplation of all corrective facilities in the whole Southeast Asia region!