THE REBIRTH OF PHILIPPINE CORRECTIONS
On December 12, 2014 at Hyatt Hotel, Secretary of Justice Leila M. Delima during the launching of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 10575 (otherwise known as the Bureau of Corrections Modernization Act of 2013) declared in the last sentence of her speech that the IRR signals “the rebirth of BuCor.”
It is indeed a daunting task ahead. Prison Director Franklin Bucayo shared the challenge by predicating his mandated task as Director General by addressing a no non-sense stand against institutional problems which have piled one top of the other “through years of neglect.”
Rebirth presupposes a process that would highlight a period to start all over again. To be reborn. To start anew. To begin with a clean slate. That is to say that prison administration must have to begin and start correctly from hereon. The IRR simply provides prison management with a tool, and not just a panacea, to deal with that ailment that bedevils the prison service. It is equipped with the proper policy direction, a brand-new vehicle if you may, to traverse the sensitive blind corners of corrections. It intends to modernize not only the physical requirements of rehabilitating prisoners but also the mindset of officers dealing on daily basis with the challenges and disputes manifesting within the prison community.
And it is not a walk in the park. Years and years of prison leadership changes, of varying and conflicting styles, of learning and relearning, of ascertaining and understanding, of organizing and reorganizing, of restricting and tolerating, aggravated by incompetence on one hand and less political or legislative concern on the other, the prison community, already overcrowded and spilling at the reams, has turned into its own devise if only to survive. Control eventually slipped away from authorities and in a matter of time, the prison community has grown into an enclave where subdued and illegal activities dominate its landscape. Prison rules had been replaced with a set of guidelines based on human desperation.
For long term prisoners, where the wait for freedom is nil, violence is almost given in a congested facility. Congestion assaults the senses and dehumanizes anyone who trespasses. There is no other way to breathe a cleaner air but procure the necessary wherewithal to make survival a matter intended for convenience. The climate invites no longer an environment for reform but rather an atmosphere for deformation. Either an inmate becomes disabled and mangled for life or he meets his Creator in a matter of time. For these inmates, it is better to ruin the surroundings than become mentally imbalanced. For these inmates, government neglect does not mean resigning towards subservience and instant insanity when they could make things work for their advantage. Gangs took over and their reign virtually turned upside down the ideal disciplinary regime of custodial management. The prison community eventually became a den of vices and individual discretions.
The disparity of life in prison has become a marked consideration and a challenging proposition for every prison administration. The Prison Law of 1917 could no longer restrain the difficulties in running the affairs of the penal establishments. Prison leaders appointed at the helm would bow out in desperation, haunted by charges and failure in undermining the effects of dehumanization obtaining in prison camps. Cruelty could no longer solve an abusive regime of incarceration. Every corner invited a litany of temptations. Prison administration could no longer contain their sworn mandate according to public expectation. Careers of officers were not only demeaned but devastated.
Congress finally deliberated what it failed to complete in the 60s on penal reform and in 2013, the President signed RA 10575. After a prolonged legislative drought, almost a century of struggle, 97 years to be exact, finally, prison administration got the necessary apparatus to intervene and restore prison into a facility devoted for rehabilitation.
The time has come.