LETTER TO A LAWYER
My dear Atty. Spocky (Farolan), greetings.
Thank you for offering your legal services. With you around, truth and justice will always be within reach. And thank you too for patronizing my literary exercises (read: blogs). It is my way of sharing through such humble means lessons I have encountered in the rough and tumble science called corrections. If I have created an interest and made a spot in your busy schedule, I have to admit that I have succeeded already. It thought that it was only my mother who had time reading my notes!
First off, in one of your queries you asked “…ever wondered why the term Correctional system was adopted rather than Prison System?” When we talk of “corrections” the intention there is to “correct” or “rehabilitate”. For a time, our penal system followed the Prison Law of 1917 and it was only in the mid 50s when we became signatories to UN in the pursuit of Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. It ushered in our criminal justice consciousness that prisoners ought to be treated humanely. The doctrine “An offender is imprisoned AS punishment but not FOR punishment” has been observed. In the 70s when human rights became an advocacy, the prison system adhered to its principles too. From that time on, the seeds of corrections have been planted in policy formulation.
In 1989, under the 1987 New Administrative Code, the name of the agency (Bureau of Prisons) was changed to Bureau of Corrections. It further galvanized its functional role in the treatment of offenders. In 2013, RA 10595 was passed ushering a progressive legislative piece, replacing the law forged in 1917 and finally, modernization of correctional measures became a template of penal administration.
For me however, the change of nomenclature should follow structural and substantive forms also. Corrections presupposes institutional and non institutional corrective services. The agency that carries corrections should spear head standards on both institutional and non institutional approaches. Corrections should supervise not only jails and prisons but all detention facilities, custodial centers, lock ups including non institutional programs like probation and parole. In the present situation, the Bureau of Corrections is only handling prisons.
Secondly, and this is quite different from my first discussion, is the involvement of lawyers in the field of corrections. I could sense your interest in penal administration since our prison system is rocked by one scandal after another; more so, because it would feature a prison official, me who else, who is closely affiliated to you. This situation would reveal a number of hidden insights too.
The legal profession, well its training to start with, is predicated on learning skills to win a case. If a case merits a losing proposition, there are remedial approaches. If none of it matters, that is the end of the line. Legal education stops when the case is handed over to the correctional system.
Like you, I studied law. You were lucky to have passed the Bar (and appear on the courts of law). I have as yet to take it (and remain in the sideline). Nonetheless, we underwent the same rigorous preparation. You were better since you graduated in UP, in my case in one law college better known as a relic already. Nevertheless, we also read the same books, reviewed the same cases and went all out burning our eyebrows during examination days. As you prepare your self to take on cases, in my own sphere, I have to review on cases of those who are serving time, having lost their pleadings and awaiting redemption or whatever it is in store for lost cases.
I have one advantage over other lawyers though. I know when a prisoner can exact the necessary petition to achieve freedom not necessarily along the “writ of habeas corpus” way but in another procedure equally, if not more, effective.
Amidst all your corporate concerns and stacks of civil cases, and if perchance, in the near future, you intend to enter and include in your advocacy rights of prisoners, I am just around the corner.
And lastly, I must tell you this: it is never an easy task to help prisoners. History tells us a lot. When Simon of Cyrene was asked to help Jesus to carry the cross, the former too perspired blood. When Dr. Pio Valenzuela advised Rizal in Dapitan that Katipunan sent the former to help the latter, the Spanish authorities tagged Valenzuela as an outcast. When Senator Ninoy Aquino, technically still a prisoner, came back to help government, he was shot dead as soon as he alighted from his plane.
Nonetheless, I am very grateful for your interest and intentions.