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.