AT THE WAKE OF A LOYAL SOLDIER
Sonny Olegario was not a foot soldier. He was in the civilian sector of a uniformed agency and once upon a time, my immediate staff. And like a soldier, he would prod on and pursue a battle plan based on how he intends to win for us. No, it was not the kind of shooting warfare but more than that. It was more on rebuilding than destroying, more on improving rather than mowing down, more about renovating rather than exterminating.
When I was designated to administer Davao Penal Colony, I chose Sonny to manage a run-down, out station of Dapecol in the central district of Davao City, almost 60 kilometers away from the main camp. It had not seen better days for years because of irrelevance and neglect. It had become a sore spot in the rejuvenated area, a lively commercial district just across a big mall, adjacent giant malls and business hubs.
Worst, government could not spare budget for outlay on improvements much more so the facility was far from the penal reservation and penal programs. The area had become extraneous after it has fulfilled its previous role as a receiving station of supplies for the prison community. Previously, the road to the penal colony was difficult to navigate hence a station to stock supplies before a common carrier could deliver it in batches. There were improvements done on infrastructure over the years until the penal colony could easily be reached, supplies could readily be conducted without passing through the receiving station.
But the outstation was still a prison asset and needs maintenance despite its passive role.
It was during the term of Sonny that the facility got its makeover. From a dimly lit dilapidated structure of olden wooden planks fire stormed by termites and muddy pathways, it became what today could be mistaken as a newly opened branch of a prominent bank!
And it was reconstructed merely on the basis of charms and friendly overtures only. Sonny was at the forefront of the mission to improve the facility and he did it through his initiative.
If he was in a private firm, he would have been rewarded with a trip abroad, a trophy, an instant promotion, a recognition day in his honor, a gift checque, or all of it in one swing. But he happened to be in government and initiative is almost a crime. Hence, when I joined Sonny in presenting the newly renovated facility a visiting prison officer instead of tapping our shoulders whispered “how much did we gain in the contract!”
Sonny and I merely smiled. I don’t know whether we were thinking the same way on mauling the fellow but when Sonny slowly walked away, I merely threw away a broken bottle in the trash can and left the guy.
To date, the facility is spanking edifice holding its own ground as an impeccable structure of government amidst the glowing commercial structures that have sprung out in the area.
The Dapecol Receiving Station is a testament to Sonny’s creativity and single mindedness in pursuing an almost impossible task of renovating an almost impossible to renovate facility.
Some soldiers posthumously merit an award for valor. In the wake of Sonny, I had this thought that the Station is in itself a memorial for his valor in government service.