PRISON SUPERINTENDENTS ALL
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.