Monthly Archives: June 2014
Dear future prisoners,
May the good Lord shower you with faith and understanding so that you can withstand a congested facility where the air of rehabilitation vanished with every issue of alleged VIP treatment accorded to anyone serving or doing time.
Every prison officer now must not smile at anyone, never mind if it would bring forth hatred. That way, no body gets suspected of directly or indirectly conferring special treatment on anyone. If there is maltreatment as a consequence of the sensitivity of people on conditions obtaining in prison, then so be it. Never mind if the world would look down on them as retributive and vengeful. Never mind if the universe would assume that they have never transcended tribal instinct. The point is: there is no other treatment that would allow prisoners to be human anyway.
We would likewise understand how hostile you could be. You may for sometime during the period of your incarceration harbor the thought of getting back at society, on imposing the cruellest means of hardship you can express on people but please, focus only on those who made your life miserable. Just bite your fingers and wait. Once you are released, it would be your turn. Look for those who made you as you were. You can find them almost everywhere. As they made you a game before, you have the option to do some karmic procedures on them eventually.
Don’t look at your future says one who was released on acquittal after 10 years. It would be wiped out along with your reputation and integrity while you serve time. You know what? The only period left for you is to get back at your tormentors. Don’t even listen to your conscience. It has faded in the din of labels, stereotype and catcalls you have been inured at being thrown on you. Don’t even think of repentance, it was merely a promise that broke as soon as you were shoved inside the stinking four walls. Forget hope, it will only foster insanity. Strike at the very heart of those who made you the way you are right now. “Vengeance is mine” says the Good Book, but you must sow it first.
It would take years to keep your rage burning. Let it ignite your resolve and keep you warm in a cold place sometimes called hell. It will keep your mind keen and your soul alive. Those who passed through this layer maintained that you need hatred to fill those insane moments of gross routine and familiarity. You need hatred to survive. Hatred will consume everything that deceives you in the course of imprisonment. It is healthy. Note that everything in prison is the reverse of anything in the free community. What is good outside is definitely bad inside. Love is only useful for those with freedom, hatred for those without it.
On your first day, accordingly, you must swear to high heavens for strength and fortitude. The past will accompany you up to the last minute of the day. This would be repeated daily up until your penalty is through. There is no present tense in prison, there is also no future. Everything belongs to the past. Time while under incarceration is frozen. It cannot be thawed by prayers; it cannot even be melted by miracles. Only death can erase its meaning. Yours or that of others.
For those who harbor guilt, this is your universe.
And Oh, by the way, jail time is not imprisonment yet. It is temporary and called detention. For those who are still in jail awaiting the final verdict of the court, those under custody of law are referred to as “detainees.” It is only when conviction is handed down that a detainee becomes a prisoner. That is the time when the court will issue a commitment order or mitimus addressed to the Director of Corrections for the admission of the person for service of sentence.
While under detention, one is still technically “innocent.” Except to move out from the detention facility, the detainee is free to seek any privilege he may want to enjoy, provided it is allowed by the detention facility. Discretion, at times, is the order of the day. There is however another rule, which the detainee may also consider. By signing up for “working detention,” he may opt to credit the period of his detention to be carried over to the next computation of his sentence once he is admitted in the penitentiary. The crux however is that he must comply with every jail or detention rule as if he is already a prisoner serving time. This means that he will have to wear the facility prescribed uniform, comply with regular headcount, acquire the mandatory regulation haircut and observe all related routinely defined activities.
In my three decades in the prison service, I have witnessed and taken note of all behavioral and emotional manifestations of all persons passing through the regime of incarceration. This is from Day One to the Last Day in the facility. I know the ups and downs, the high and low of the prison community. I have seen how laughter is expressed, how sadness is manifested. It is a leveled playing field. Everyone is fair game. It is a community that ignores distinction. Discipline is a state of mind. An inmate can be good or bad; his personal choice. It cannot be dictated and enforced institutionally. You will go through these in the course of your immersion. No one is exempted.
Prison officers, on the other hand ,are only as good as the walls and barbed wires that surround the facility. Don’t count on them for consolation. They must be cold and neutral. To be human is to be suspected. To be inhuman is to be acceptable generally speaking.
Another reminder and please bear this in mind: Prison service dehumanizes everyone: from inmates to workers. That is the reality. If one day you meet someone who retired from prison work or has been released and still there is a smile on his face, look closely; either the fellow is an alien or one who is about to be a Saint!
Be guided always.
Senator Madam Miriam Santiago’s legislative proposal entitled “No Frills Act” essentially declares that incarceration should be plain and simple captivity. In her pronouncement, she believes that prisoners, even detainees for that matter, should spend time in a facility FOR punishment. Never mind the dictum “a person is imprisoned AS punishment and NOT FOR punishment.”
Senator Santiago was emphatic as she sounded, “These prisoners are supposed to be experiencing punishment for their crimes, not taking a vacation. They are making a mockery out of the justice system by turning our jails into their own private resorts.” Had there been this law in operation during the time of Jose Rizal, there would have been no Dapitan at all.
In her estimation, all persons under custody of law should bear the brunt of pain of loneliness and seclusion. For her, spade should be called a spade. That is also what retribution is. The State must punish those who violated the law and it is not enough to segregate the offender, he should also suffer during the period of his servitude. Hence, she is advancing through a resolution that penal facilities should remain as it is, a mere confinement area.
For Senator Santiago, “It does not matter whether you’re a Johnny caught picking pockets or a Johnny charged with plunder. All detainees and prisoners whether common criminals or senators, should have the same accommodations.”
As such, inmates should never have television sets, radio and anything electronics. They should be isolated totally and deprived of anything that would spell out communications. Like all penal facilities, prisoners should be crammed in overcrowded camps, mixed in congested fashion and so what if faces would interchange in jam packed prison cells as long as their prison term is served, that would have served the purpose of judicial prescription.
Madam Santiago was a career trial judge before her political star rose. Her world view of prison is therefore understandable. She was a feared symbol of judicial competence. Her stature as an incorruptible government official made her reputation as a future leader. She could have been elected as President and made all Filipinos proud as a race. For the middle class, she was their “iron lady”, a Lee Kwan Yu, political savior, the mother of perpetual vigilance.
She detested mediocrity in whatever form. In the process, she earned a following (including me not because her sister is my best friend but because her ideals reflect those of mine too) and a number of detractors too. In a society that is shamelessly governed in a criminal way, she was an outsider, with a questionable mind. She was an outsider to her peers, a villain to most of her colleagues.
Recently, the feisty senator filed on February, 2014 Senate Resolution 525, urging the Senate to conduct a probe into the reported “extravagant lifestyle of rich prisoners and the double standard applied in treating inmates” at the NBP. This has been reported in media and whatever is projected in mass communication, oftentimes, is accepted as real and biblically true. Ironically, if the issue refers to those in power, media is always wrong.
Senator Santiago earlier filed the “No Frills Prison Bill” or Senate Bill no. 1759, proposing measures to prevent the favoured treatment for select inmates. The Bill was filed on October 2, 2013.
The Bill prohibits in-cell television viewing, unmonitored phone calls except with legal counsel and immediate family, possession of pornographic materials, less than 40 hours of work a week, use of computers and combat training equipment, among others to an inmate who already earned good behaviour credits. Accordingly, a prisoner serving a sentence for a crime of violence which resulted in serious body harm, the list of prohibitions is even more exhaustive. They are not allowed less than 9 hours a day of physical labor unless physically restrained to render work, leave prison premises for any purpose unless under handcuffs and constant escort of at least one armed officer, inter-prison travel for competitive sports, possession of personal property exceeding seventy five (75) pounds or what can be contained in a standard-sized bag, among others.
The Bill “aims to prevent luxurious conditions in prisons particularly for selected prisoners.” It was prompted by reports before when then prisoner, former Representative Romeo Jalosjos allegedly had his own personal bathtub at the NBP.
The Senator argued “How can there be justice in our correctional system when we have a double standard between the poor and rich inmates?”
Of course, under the air of corrections, there is a levelled playing field. If at all there was deference for those considered celebrity inmates, it is their fellow inmates that confer said adulation. The prison community has its respective atmosphere and culture only its denizens could express. For prison administration, all inmates are plain statistics. The Bill “No Frills Prison Act” must sit well in a well-funded penal facility where every correctional standard on space and program are observed, where prison officers are provided for with upgraded professional compensation, regular security and technology based instruments, where judicial decisions are perfected and no errors committed as in releasing inmates after years of incarceration because of acquittal. Further more, correctional administration should be a career consideration without any political contemplation.
War is an acceptable option when there is a principle being fought for. It is useless when there is none. In Mindanao, there is constant struggle, a war if you may, between forces out to annihilate one another. And in between these two forces are civilians, bystanders who are merely coasting along, eking for daily subsistence, struggling also to get a piece of the sun. War in this side of the archipelago is almost a carry over of past sentiments. And even if the persuasion has changed, the protagonists are almost a cut from the usual tradition.
The casualties in the war are never an encouraging sight and consequence. While death is a natural, an eventual occurrence, it should never be an effect of something useless. There are instances when accidents, negligence, diseases—self imposed or epidemic borne, that bring about the demise of a person but fatalities during conflict, during a period known as war is plain and simple foolishness. Violence is man made and can be remedied. It should never be a basis for trouble that would result in the extermination of a given humanity.
Note the following:
Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 22, 2014. “The remains of six elite soldiers killed on Thursday in an encounter with Abu Sayaf bandits in Patikul, Sulu arrived at the Villamor Air Base yesterday afternoon…
Mortar rounds fired by the bandits reportedly killed the six soldiers.
Aside from the six JSOG troopers, also killed was Marine 1Lt Roger Flores of Philippine Military Academy Class of 2009. Flores was killed in an encounter earlier with a band of Abu Sayaf terrorists headed by Hairula Asbang.”
That is just the recent incident although as expected, in time, it will be buried with more current cases as conflict would escalate for years to come. There has been countless of casualties from displaced homes and communities, destruction of properties and untold misery for countless people, not to mention the terrible effect of the atrocities on the limb and lives of people. Deaths have become a common occurrence, a regular feature of daily life; and to think that we are already in a significant moment of the century when life is treated with sacredness and inviolability.
And this is just a speck of a long list of incidents involving the protracted conflict in Mindanao. For those affected in the area, the experience is gruesome. It is like watching an undesirable movie, or eating an unpalatable food. Or, spending time with unwholesome people, or forced to enrol in a hated course.
War in Mindanao unlike any other war anywhere is based on pride. World War I is more on conquest and control. World War II is more on power and politics. War in the Middle East is more corporate and slanted on business. War in Russia is more on independence and assertion of self-rule. Most wars are based on righting wrongs, correcting errors, all in the pursuit of peace.
War in the Mindanao however is exactly the reverse. There are no principles involved. There are even no values and philosophy. Both warring camps are there merely to exterminate one another. It is only their leaders who have the stake to claim. Those who are at the front are there as cogs to a fireplace. There is no significance, there is no importance. If either camp wins, nothing substantial is achieved. Therefore, to fight and die in a useless war, viewed in a less calibrated way, is like receiving diploma from a diploma mill, or undergoing surgery based on false diagnosis, or having pulled the wrong tooth.
Worst, those who perished in this unfortunate game have bright tomorrows, a great future and a promising prospect. Conflict of this magnitude is almost a joke. One is never amused seeing brothers’ fight over something inconsequential.
It is not even worth writing about it in history books except as a chapter in a comic pamphlet.
There has been a lot of back patting and congratulatory high fives when a bunch of accused in the PDAF scam came forward to be booked and detained. Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the uniformed law enforcement groups was all a picture of contentment including their non uniformed, civilian nay political counterparts. It is as if the surrender is a milestone for criminal justice administration. It merely projects that those who volunteered to be placed under custody of law have the guts to respect the law in whatever form it has been served. The voluntary surrender of the accused virtually gives us the state of a person’s maturity in the face of judicial inquest, plain and simple.
Media had a feast day. Scooping and amplifying warts have been the mark of licentiousness. It is commercially viable and people flock at the headlines. They wanted to project to the world the insidious and criminal profile of those who surrendered as if by publishing opinion and suspicion are evidentiary proofs of their detention. Note that detention does not constitute punishment yet but allowing oneself to be within the jurisdiction of the courts. The impression peddled however is that by detaining the suspects, criminal justice administration has already been served. Not so fast though. There is still a process called hearing and determination of guilt.
Now, how about those who merely ignored legal procedures and skipped the cookoo’s nest? These fugitives are nowhere to be found. They may be somewhere around, thanks for their resources and the ability of those who are supposed to hunt them down, for their vulnerable nature. The fugitives merely reflect how inutile, how incapable, how incompetent our government trackers can be. Up to now, there is no information on the whereabouts of former General Jovito Palparan, former Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr., former Governor Joel Reyes, former Mayor Mario Reyes… They constitute the fly in the ointment so to speak and their disappearance is a disgrace and embarrassment to our legal system.
Labeled “The Butcher” by political activists, Palparant went into hiding in December 2011 when he was ordered arrested by the Regional Trial Court in Malolos, Bulacan province, in connection with the 2006 abduction of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.
The Reyes brothers disappeared in March 2012 after the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa City issued warrants for their arrest in connection with the murder of Palawan broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.
Ecleo, on the other hand, went into hiding after he was meted out a 31-year prison sentence for graft by the Sandiganbayan in 2006. In April 2012, a Cebu City court sentenced Ecleo to life imprisonment for the killing of his wife. He remains the object of a nationwide manhunt.
How does the public accept or feel about it? Amidst the surrender of those accused in the PDAF scam, an official was even heard intoning “At least the authorities didn’t have to go to them to pick them up.” This was expressed as if there were no fugitives around; as if the arms of law enforcement are that efficient; as if there is superiority in the face of those who frontally challenge the might of government in dealing with those who dared the criminal justice system. We must appreciate the level of maturity of those who were accused even if we really hated the offense for which they were indicted of. Let us be grateful that somehow there were those who subscribe to the fairness of our criminal justice administration. But let us not be confident to the extent that we would sweep under the rug the pitfalls and weaknesses of our system with respect to bagging those who are at large.
Besides those who would rather hide than be arrested, there are also those who are jailed and even imprisoned who would dart out of freedom and savour the air of free community under disguise or whatever. Life for fugitives and escapees is prone to panic whenever there is a sound of a whistle from a boy scout! These denizens have no peace of mind. They know that in every human community where they would repair, there is betrayal everywhere. And so, they constantly move, and wander every which way, a virtual Abel, who was consigned to meander as fugitive around the world in perpetuity.
In Biblical lore, a fugitive is a cursed person “condemned to perpetual exile; a degraded outcast; the miserable victim of an accusing conscience.” Gen 4:12.
In the final count, there is wisdom in submission.
There is a world of a difference between a detainee and that of a prisoner. A detainee is, well, detained for purposes of avoiding flight during the period of litigation, especially if the charge is one that is not bailable (or if judicial estimation of evidence against the accused is strong). Those who cannot post bail, even if the case is bailable, are held under custody of law in a facility devoted for those similarly situated. They are likewise referred to as detainees. Their guilt has as yet to be determined during trial. They are still, technically speaking, innocent. The constitutional presumption of innocence is still there.
Detainees all over the country are almost the same as the number of prisoners. They are booked and held in various areas depending on the agency where the courts ordered for their security and detention.
While awaiting trial, detainees spend time in a facility supervised by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) or in some cases, by different groups within the law enforcement fold like the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), PNP Custodial Center. If the agency tasked pursuant to court order mandates the BJMP, the detention facility is either the municipal, city or district jail. In some situations, it is the Provincial Jail under the supervision of the local government.
Detainees are therefore temporarily locked up in a facility not as punishment although the place and condition of the facility where they are lodged are almost if not more pathetic than the penal facility for the convicted. Remember Hubert Webb? After 19 years in prison, he was released through acquittal. That is another story though. Hubert stayed in Paranaque jail during the period of his court hearing. He stayed almost three years. During said period, his skin asthma worsened to the point that he could barely lift his body. He developed skin rashes all over his body. After his conviction and transfer to the national penitentiary where the facility is lighter and more spacious comparatively speaking, his health improved. The point is: detention facilities should reflect and project humane consideration for those temporarily housed. It must have the comfort of a regular house. For all we know, there are still detainees who are actually innocent. Never mind if there are more guilty ones lumped alongside the innocent, the point is, the detention place should not exceed in a negative way what a temporary sanctuary of law should be.
This should not imply though that prisons should be brutal and more incoherent than its counterpart jail or detention facility. As it were, prisons are better areas with better conditions than jails and other detention facilities in terms of spatial consideration. Any facility devoted to be used by those under custody of law, whether it is a waiting room while undergoing trial or a camp intended to secure those serving time, must reflect humane consideration. Well, much more so for detention camps. Until such time the court has pronounced guilt, detainees should only be secured but should never even be imposed any semblance of compulsory prison work or to live in a virtually cramped and restrictive environment (unless the detainee would manifest through writing that he intends to be treated as a regular prisoner and hence his detention be counted fully as deductible period from the penalty when the court has handed down its verdict). Depending on the type of offense charged, detainees are subject to various, specific treatment that is never dehumanizing and demeaning. Remember that there is still the constitutional presumption of innocence yet. One does not need to be cracked open if only to repent. There is nothing yet, until the court has determined, to repent. (This explains the recent court memo on the mandatory 180 days trial period by the courts to issue judgment and the so called “Justice on wheels”.)
A detainee must never suffer the inconvenience of incarceration. His case should be taken up to determine the charges. Failing to immediately do this, the criminal justice system merely reinforces a lamentable period when an innocent man would be convinced to seek vengeance, to be hostile, hopeless, suicidal (or homicidal) even if in the end, he would be proven innocent. The scar of incarceration, the curse of communal brutality has been embossed on his soul already.
And we should never be appalled when at the farthest corner, upon the entrance door of serial and heinous crimes you find the man we unjustly detained welcoming you as initiates in a world we helped to create for them.
Medical practitioners in correctional facilities are ideally there not necessarily to preside on the lethal and brutal effects of imprisonment on a dying prisoner but for his treatment and rehabilitation. It is an outright taboo, however, in public perception to provide inmates a respite because they are serving time in prison and ought to deteriorate, fade and unceremoniously be exterminated in the process. Never mind if there is a law protecting human rights specially those under custody of law. It is never operative in the first place. Confer human rights on a prisoner and out rightly, the officer is suspected of coddling his ward. Ignore the welfare of prisoners and most likely, the officer is recognized as objective. That is how things are in this side of criminal justice administration.
Prisoners are never seen as humans in the first place. They are known on the type of offense they were charged and penalized. Never mind if the State mandates rehabilitation, it is never popular and does not carry premium. A prisoner is never a person wanting change and up for repentance; he is better known as murderer, thief, plunderer, rapist, arsonist, robber, paedophile, etc. No, the offender is not serving time to cleanse and repay society; he is there as an exhibit, to be exploited, debased and humiliated until his sanity snaps. Society actually developed heinous crimes by pushing offenders towards hostility and hatred. Once released, a prisoner has been planted with the seed of monstrosity and wickedness.
Medical practitioners took the Hippocratic Oath as commitment; that is, to practice medicine HONESTLY. And by its term, serving anyone, hero or heel, saint or sinner, protagonist or villain, anyone as long as healing is needed, they are there. Prison physicians are a special lot. Only a few would dare get into the prison service. They are exposed to the hazards of the prison community, open to contagion, threat and epidemic. Their offices are repository of prison brutality, sanctuary of villains, comforters of troubled, oftentimes violent and insane personalities. Even if the world would rule that prisoners must suffer and die, prison physicians are there to take the cudgels for life and welfare. A physician indeed is an anti hero in the prison setting.
Let us review the recent case on the so called VIP scandal. Accordingly, drug lords and bank robber (see the labelling?) were allowed to seek medical intervention in an outside hospital. There ought to be a clearance whenever this procedure is allowed. But there are exemptions like when there is an emergency situation obtaining; that is, a case where the life of an inmate is endangered, where life and limb are at stake. It is sufficient that after the emergency referral, a post referral report is immediately submitted for information and reference. These are administrative matters laid down to obviate any possibility of abuse by any prison officer tasked on the matter of handling prisoners.
Medical practitioners in prison, like all physicians, have wide latitude of decision making though. They can submit their medical opinion for reckoning. If in their estimation a person needs medical intervention in an outside hospital, then their word should be taken at face value. If on the other hand the hospital from where an inmate was sent would have a contrary medical opinion citing that the patient is not an emergency case, then the hospital can just send back the referral. Patients receive medical opinions one after another. One physician’s opinion may alarm a patient but when given another opinion from another physician with another diagnostic view may have a relaxing result. Not every opinion should carry definitive outlook but nonetheless, physicians have that capacity and training to determine the level of a patient’s condition. That should never be taken against any physician.
What makes the referral equation ticklish however is the malice on the label. If a patient who was previously charged for drug offense and therefore labelled as drug lord is sent for outside referral, the inference is that the physician is on the take already. This is unfair. If referral is based on label, then Hippocratic Oath takes a back seat in favour of hypocrisy.
If we really care about our professionals, if we really care about prisoners, then let us build a good hospital where facilities, medicine, technology can be made available for all types of ailments. If not, then we can just expand the area intended as cemetery. Better, execute all offenders (although I disagree with this). That way, the State does not spend so much for the maintenance of those unfortunately labelled according to their penalized offense. And those professionals in their midst, like prison physicians, would no longer be suspected and their skills devoted entirely to the benefit of the free community.
If wolves, or any social animal for that matter, can speak, they would just refer any of our inquiries to their ALPHA MALE. In groups, it is the individual with the highest rank. Male or female individuals or both can be alphas depending on their species. In patriarchal societies, it is the eldest male in the household. In matriarchal societies, it is the elder female in the family. In the Philippine setting, it is a bit ambiguous. While the husband is the head of the family, it is the wife that handles the purse. There is a saying in the vernacular: “Ang lalaki ang nagdadala ng pamilya pero ang babae ang nakapantalon.”
When I was young, I intimated to my father that I do not wish to get married. I could not imagine myself wrapped in love life. That early, I was a free spirit already. I never wanted to be structured. I preferred priesthood. His advice was perfunctory: “All men desire to be a King. But unless he begets a child, unless he has his own family, he will never be a King, he will never have a Kingdom.” The idea got stuck in my subconscious. Father was right, I wanted to be a King, not for anything else, not somewhere or elsewhere, but just the feeling of being one is sufficient. It would satisfy two supreme instinctive calls: Esteem and Immortality. With that in mind, I went about my daily routine, in school, on the road, office, war zone and in the comfort of my dreams.
To have children, they who would bear my name, they who would continue with my blood line, they who would perpetuate my genes, they, who, like me, inherited a specific instinctive disposition from ancestors, onwards to the future generation. That was what was in my subconscious. That was what was brewing in my person. Society and norms may have every obstacle thrown along the path, but it is the subconscious that manifest resourcefulness to achieve what ought to be undertaken.
And there are a lot of men with similar persuasion. I do not even presume that I am no different from the rest of the male specie. We can only be distinguished according to how we conform. And of course, this is based on our understanding of what courage is, what daring is. And so, for those who can do it, do; for those who cannot; teach, as the adage goes. There are Alphas in the midst and there are also Betas, for those with limitations although equally capable.
Great men of history, they who shaped history and were bearers of civilization merely replicated their superior cavemen counterparts. They fathered children on whose bloodline the present civilization is now succeeding in evolving what is expected as the perfect being. From their genes emanate the genius of the race. Without this courageous, well, almost instinctive persuasion, mankind would still be as dumb like his cousins in the universe of primates.
Not that I consider myself in league with great men or those on the pantheon of heroes. But like them, I also wanted to contribute a share if not a stake in the future of humanity through my children, and my children’s children. They may not relish the thought of bearing the torch I would leave behind but their name and persona will definitely see the future for me. From my angle, I could already grasp perpetuity.
I may cherish the degrees I have completed, I may also feel accomplished with what I have undertaken in my career, I am very satisfied as a consoling friend for my contemporaries and a knight in shining armour as succour for a great many others. But what animates my whole being is the fact that I am very comfortable at the thought that I am a father to a bunch of wonderful kids through and through.
PROFESSOR CARLOS LEGASPI TESORO (born in San Pedro, Laguna on January 19, 1922) gracefully passed away in November 7, 2008 at the age of 86.
He was a self-made man, an unico hijo, who grew up not from the nurturance of a parent but from the busy laps of his maternal aunts. His mother was a serious educator who sacrificed family in favour of her career in a number of educational institutions. His father, on the other hand, was an itinerant gun supplier and a part time vagabond for a while. As a result, my father grew up virtually mending for himself, working his way to school up until he completed his college education.
To satisfy grade school requirements, he peddled peanuts. His secondary education was spent as errand boy in the convent which later would sponsor him for priesthood. The parish priest was amazed at how easily my father could grasp language especially Vulgate Latin, a dead language, still used by the Church then in celebrating traditional High Mass. He was sent to San Jose Seminary in Palawan and as part of the curriculum, was allowed exposure before he was to be ordained. World War II however cut short his dalliance with spirituality and the threats of the invading Japanese forces in his town convinced him further to stay and in the course of his community exposure, he eventually saved his town mates instead. He had a gift for languages. He learned Niponggo quickly that he used such linguistic skill in negotiating with the Station Commander of the Japanese Army in the area to spare his town mates from being arrested and most likely to be massacred on suspicion as enemies. Truckloads of suspects from his town of San Pedro, Laguna were saved. He relished such accomplishment and his town mates ever grateful and because of the accolade, however fleeting it was, he was convinced not to return to his seminary after the War.
When the smoke of War vanished, every Juan, Pedro and Pilar went up the stage to claim honor for heroism. My father merely walked away with a thought that he merely did what was right and he never wished to be recognized for such an ordinary feat. He would rather see smiling faces from those he saved rather than keep a cheap memento.
He sought employment at the Bureau of Post as labourer and later on, as bank teller and worked on odd jobs for his tertiary education at Letran College, a school adjacent his office. After graduating in college, he enrolled in the College of Law at the University of Santo Tomas and thereafter, took courses in languages. He married an office mate, my mother, Salvacion and they bore two kids, a boy and a girl (I was the eldest). After office hours, he would shuttle to a newly established school across his office, the Philippine College of Criminology as one of its pioneer faculty members. His subject was Spanish, English and Rizal Course.
We call him Tatay. He is a confirmed hyperpolyglot—-a gifted linguist who had a mastery over several major world languages, Spanish, English, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic (language of Jesus) ,Italian, Niponggo, Mandarin and several major dialects Tagalog, Ilocano, Pampango and a splatter of Visayan and Chavacano. He could have taken Mensa and would have passed it easily. His IQ is terribly high at 185. I never had a time with him though when I was a kid because he was always secluded in his study room poring over his books whenever at home. Such a sight intrigued me no end to spend my days later in reading stacks of books too without him even telling me to study or read or even write. I thought that reading was a pleasurable experience, and he was right. He struggled to provide everything for his family, from a well furnished house (in Project 2, Quezon City and parcel of lots in Novaliches and Antipolo) to a regular education at exclusive schools for his children. We never knew hunger, penury and any hardships at all. Tatay was an inveterate pillar and a conscientious provider. The downside however was that I could barely see him or had any recollection that gave us bonding sessions. He was an academician through and through. And like his mother, his life was the school.
There was something that turns me off in his personality though; he was always by himself. He had no patience with foolishness and abhorred stupidity. He was mercurial in his temper. He hated trash talk, silly conversations and trivialities; and he would rather be confined in the company of his books. That made him an easy picking for those with illicit activities. He could not determine who his friends and enemies were. Of course, his enemies were those who wanted to fool him. And fooled he became which merited a case for which his resources would reach rock bottom. After the courts had ruled his innocence, every savings he made for years went down the drain too.
The only time, precious as it was, I had the rare moment to stay with him was on his bed side. This was when the treachery of environment, stress of work, of struggling for his family, caused him a series of surgeries. His body would be ravaged with tension related ailments. I would be there to take instructions from him on what agency or office to follow up his requests, his expense assistance and related medical and social concerns. Along with my mother, I would be their go-to guy, errand and fixer and facilitator. I cherished those moments except the sight of an ailing parent whom I have seen as indefatigable and one who never knew how to rest. For me, Tatay was Superman and Hero. On sick bed, he was, for me, just a figure relaxing before another bout was to commence. During those trying periods, I matured several times over.
Tatay never wanted to retire although at 65 he was compelled to bow out from government service; but he never folded up in school. He would be a regular college professor and language tutor on week ends up until his early 80s. Occasionally, he would be hired as corporate interpreter. He was also a tireless traveler During holidays, he would be up and about visiting his children in their respective turfs. He would always find time to visit his town in Laguna and attend feast days in nearby towns where he had relatives.
At an advanced age of 85, he would also regale me, every time I would pay him a visit (so that he would not commute anymore just to surprise me in my prison office), with a keen sense of history, keener mind and sharp intelligence.
“Guard and protect our properties, those were products of a lifetime struggle I made for both of you and Doris. Guard it with your life and conscience,” a repeated chant, almost like a broken record, which Tatay would always implore every time he appeared at my doorstep.
Even for once, he never had any symptom of forgetfulness. He would never allow himself to be left out of the fad. He listened to the radio, to the commentaries and would read three major newspapers back to back. Even in his 80s, he would always sport the latest trend in haircut among the youth. He had a complexion of a man only in his 40s and he was thankful to his parents for such genes on vanity. He never entertained death even for once. He knew that as survivor he can live forever.
For me, Tatay never left at all. He will always be a part of my consciousness, a part of living history.
And why not? People flock the town plaza not to hear politicians but to ogle at the invited guest entertainers. The problem with our political class is that it has no more class at all. People would rather subscribe to whatever the entertainer would endorse. People believe the endorsement more than the promise of the one seeking public office. These thespians are more credible and believable even if their only credential was a role or two in a popular film. Products are known and bought if an entertainer tells the public to buy it through commercials. If they are stereotyped in a fantasy flick, chances are they are seen as superhuman and therefore fit not only to slay villains but to advise people. After all, they are known to have saved a planet in the course of their theatrical advocacy.
These entertainers know their limitations. Only a few of them are schooled. It is their good looks and charm that is considered their prime possession. Only a few of them however could utter words of concern without scripts. But there was a time in the political history of this country when even the most schooled politician, the most educated and the most brilliant would go down the drain, enter low life, get involve in shenanigans, participate in corruption, violate laws, display arrogance and exude an air of superiority. Statesmanship has seen better days and the people had enough. These elected personalities never improved their lot at all; their quality of life was even diminished. Entertainers are better options.
In the electoral exercises during the early 2000s, there were virtually a surge of application from entertainers entering a new field in public exposure. The shift could only be appreciated by a desperate population; the shift from public entertainment to social governance. The people will be amused and governed with honesty. Not bad.
There are no persons credible enough that could rectify the social condition of the people, and they had no other alternative but to brace themselves towards the incredible. They would elect entertainers one after another. It is for the people sheer stupidity but whadaheck, if it could soften the blow of desperation then it is better to grab the knife by the blade so to speak. When entertainers speak, people may not be able to increase their intelligence but definitely they would be entertained. And it is enough exposure for them to forget their predicament.
For the masses, amusement is their only refuge to a terrible condition. And only entertainers can deliver the goods. For them, the personal appearance of their elected matinee idol is sufficient to drive away extreme anxiety.
But what makes the entertainers poor managers is when they try to ape, if not replicate and follow how the politicians operate. When these theatre denizens become politicians, they become ineffective, clone to incompetent roles and absorbed in the illicit machinations of corrupt practices. They are no longer true to their commitment and they evolve into the usual hated symbols of former administration.
What we have right now, unfortunately, is a persona of a protagonist but whose swagger is that of a villain. It is like watching Batman switching role with the Joker.
There are two legal terms that circulated in mass media pertaining those who were linked with the alleged malversation of public funds with reference to PDAF (or Priority Development Assistance Fund) or simply known as pork barrel. These are “warrant of arrest” and “fugitive from justice.” For those with legal education, these are simple terms understandable in its concepts and application. Indeed, at this time, the most exciting course is Law. To be a lawyer or merely completing a law degree is like becoming a physician at a time of epidemic; or, a mechanic in an unforgiving road terrain.
Just what is an arrest warrant? In this country, it is called warrant of arrest. It is a court “order issued by a judge on behalf of the State, which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual or the search and seizure of an individual’s property.” The latter is known as “search warrant”, also an order coming from the court of law.
Previous cases where warrant has been served on high profile cases also introduced another term “fugitive from justice.” This is obtained when “an individual who, after having committed a criminal offense, leaves the jurisdiction of the court where such crime has taken place or hides within such jurisdiction to escape prosecution.”
The legislators upon hearing of the possible issuance of a warrant of arrest manifested their compliance and even volunteered to surrender. This is a matured response from responsible individuals. For all there is to it, Star editorial summed up the impression that “only the guilty will want to delay the trial and buy time while looking for a way to escape life in prison. The innocent will want his name cleared as speedily as possible.”
But how fast and prompt this “speedily” thing in our criminal justice goes? The Ampatuan case has been there in the dockets for almost four years with no resolution to reach a final judicial decree yet. The proverbial light in the tunnel is as yet to manifest any glimmer of completion. Never mind Cedric Lee, but we have a lovely Denise Cornejo in detention also waiting for the disposition of the case, the end of which has no timeline and we talk of speed in criminal prosecution as if it is a component, although it really is, of criminal justice administration.
There are lots of legal niceties and nuisance to bank on as a technical approach, all of which stretches the limits of judicial temper. It is there as guarantee for fair play even if in the process, it broadens likewise the extent of credulity. Those at the other end are either disadvantaged or worst, if they are innocent, short-changed.
The length of the period inspires dodging by those adversely affected. If this should be a part of the system where there should be speed but in reality there is little, then the sane option is to be a fugitive from justice. Although jurisprudence is harsh for those who would flee from the legal machination of our courts, citing that by flight indicates guilt; there are persons who would rather take the risk. We have heard of Senator Ping Lacson evading arrest for a year by hiding. There are also persons who have achieved celebrity status if not notoriety like Congressman Ecleo, General Jovito Palparan, Palawan governor and mayor, Reyes brothers. Whether by hiding could later be explained and taken on its face value benefiting the determination of the offense or not is a matter for the courts to weigh in. In the case of Senator Lacson, he benefited from the act. He was proven right although by hiding, it entailed gargantuan sacrifices and so much compromises.
For a fugitive, he must harness and spend a fortune. He cannot afford to be trusting. A whistle blow from a Boy Scout is enough alarm for adrenaline to flow. Hiding or disguising is punishing already although for the adventurer, it is enough to supply excitement. Fugitives must have a competent understanding of those chasing him and his social environment, or else it would just a waste of effort.
At this point, media is everywhere monitoring who gets a warrant and abuzz on who the latest to disappear from view and has turned into a fugitive. Gone were the days when common felons or ordinary delinquents are treated by criminal justice system this way. Now, it is the turn of the celebrities.
The prison community is waiting with bated breath.