THE TROUBLED SHOOTER
“Life is short, troubles make it longer,” says a Latin proverb. And indeed, pain and suffering make life terribly long for those who do not want it in the first place. The agony that goes with it makes every second a template of misery. Yet it is in the struggle, in the sacrifice, the anguish that provides the spice and excitement to an otherwise drab, monotonous routine of life. Westerners are into extreme sports as a defining moment for them. They would even brave visiting and staying in other third world countries to taste the challenge of living in a dangerous situation. Adrenalin is better served when there is a demanding proposition.
Indeed, for every trouble there is an equally contingent stress for those who are affected. At times, stress is needed to stabilize the mind. Without it, there is nothing to balance, there is nothing to fulfil. Not that trouble should have a space always. It’s just that troubles are necessary as a means to achieve equilibrium. For those who can understand this, they are called trouble shooters. They can ride the tiger or change horses in mid stream so to speak.
Trouble shooters are not caped crusaders. They are never in the league with heroes. They are just common citizens prepared to deal with any opportunity to help. They are ordinary workers with uncanny ability to neutralize a troublesome incident. They are like referees in a game. They are not super athletes but they govern how athletes should conduct themselves. They know the rules and would apply it evenly and fairly. A good referee can put order in a disorderly competition played by the worst contingent. A bad one on the other hand can wreck the game even by the most disciplined competitors. The good one is the real trouble shooter.
They are always there in the middle of the trouble, at the center of chaos . When an incident therefore can no longer be controlled, it is usually these people who are critically hurt if not fatally injured. Worst, they are even called as escape goats. Without them however, there is no playing field.
For quite sometime, I was called to deal with problematic albeit game changing situations. I was a trouble shooter for a time.
Sometime in 1992 when I was promoted to the post of NBP Superintendent, I was called upon to quiet down the simmering danger in the prison community brought about by prisoners calling for a hunger strike. After negotiating with the political prisoners, stability and order were restored.
In 1994, when Davao Prison was besieged and threatened to be attacked by a cultist group identified with a notorious cult leader, I was sent to neutralize the situation. The inmate cult leader was supported by military officers in the area, hence his seeming belligerence. As soon as I landed, I immediately bundled the cult leader and brought him to the maximum security prison in NBP. That ended the threat.
I have as yet to enjoy the fruits of negotiation when I was again sent to Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm. This was in 1995. Accordingly, a big portion of the penal farm had been at the cross hair of local politicians. I was sent to protect the integrity of the area. I was able to preserve the farm for a while but I was relieved because of political pressures. My successor merely gave the area on the silver platter and now the penal farm is but a broken piece of a historical relic.
Thereafter, I was sent to San Ramon Prison in Zamboanga City in 1996. The penal farm has been eyed as a part of the Eco Zone of the area and has been threatened to be transferred to a remote mountainous area in the municipality of Bonggyao. I immediately went to the National Historical Commission in Manila and submitted a position paper citing that San Ramon Prison is the oldest penal facility in the country and therefore must be preserved. The NHC reckoned the recommendation and the move to transfer the facility has been deferred indefinitely.
In 1998, the Bureau of Corrections was tasked by then President Joseph Estrada to proceed with the execution of prisoners condemned through death penalty. I was called upon to report to then Secretary of Justice Serafin Cuevas. I was given an assignment to take over the execution proper if the officers tasked would withdraw and fail to act properly. At that time, the Church was sending the message that they have “consciencitized” those assigned to execute the condemned inmate. Subsequently, I headed the execution team that sent 9 condemned inmates to their Creator one date at a time.
In 2001, I was again given another mission. Accordingly, I must deal with an officer who was deemed confrontational and did not comply with orders from central office. Every officer instructed to deal with the rebellious officer previously withdrew and begged to be replaced. They were all fearful because of the threat which the beleaguered officer was insinuating. As a last resort, I was tasked to relieve the officer and take over the administration. I did. Thereafter, I managed the facility for a number of months and once again, after stability had been achieved, I was sent back.
In 2007, the same facility was attacked by rebels and its armoury was emptied. A few hours after the raid, I was asked to proceed immediately to the area and negotiate with the rebels. At that time, there were 3 security personnel held captive as human shield. The hostages were freed after the rebels were informed that I was trailing. I failed to recover the firearms though but succeeded in obliging the military command to deal with the rebels.
In 2013, I was again required to proceed to NBP and deal with security threats coming from within and from outside. Most especially, I was tasked to deal with media. Succeeding with the task , I was able to restore order and normalcy in the prison community, In 2014, I was again sent back to Davao to deal with land speculators who are creating confusion among farmers, claiming rights over Davao Prison reservation to the detriment of its rehabilitation program and its Joint Venture Project with the private sector.
On the whole, I have circumnavigated the entire correctional system and dealt with all kinds of problems, with a variety of challenges, with numerous troubles. I was for a time a neutralizer, a catalyst, yes, a trouble shooter. Now, I have aged and have reached the age of mellowing. Now is the time for me to reflect and be contemplative.
In a few summers, I must accept the reality of slowing down. With poor eyesight and weak trigger finger, it’s time for me claim the title “troubled shooter.” It means time to retire.