Monthly Archives: February 2016

WHAT MARTIAL LAW?

PRISON WATCH

martial law

For the ordinary run of men, to common folks, whether there is martial law or whatever it is, they have no comment.  For them, it is part of their inevitable environment, no matter what it is.  They are never affected emotionally and philosophically.  The poor,  whether it is under martial law or even during any exhibition of martial arts, remains poor, so what gives?

Culturally, the poor among Filipinos, majority of them actually, were never too keen for wealth.  Their religion kept them that way.  Prosperity was a pie in the sky.  They would implore Biblical passages like (Luke 6:20-21) which is oftentimes quoted  as “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God; blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied; blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”  For them, well, for us, it is better that way…

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THOSE DAYS AT THE HELM OF IWAHIG PENAL COLONY

iwahig 1995

It was 1995.  In Chinese Zodiac, it was the Year of the Pig, and that probably explains why during my time in Iwahig at the helm, I was almost roasted!

I have just completed my mission at Davao Penal Colony (to stabilize security and take charge of then threat that prisoner Manero’s men may lay a siege to spring their leader out).  I was about to take my study leave to take the Bar exams but it was declined and instead I was reassigned to Iwahig Penal Colony.  The problem there was a borderline case.  Politicians wanted the penal administration in Iwahig to be transferred somewhere so that the resource-rich Iwahig Penal Colony will be open to civilians and add it as a virtual hen that lays the golden egg for the local government.  I was tasked to be the penal colony’s vanguard and challenge if need be intruders particularly politicians.

Youthful Leadership

And there I was, the youngest Superintendent of Iwahig Penal Colony (at 41), the same facility which several years back, the father of the late Speaker Ramon Mitra, once was the head of the prison facility.  There was too much history in said penal establishment which was organized by the Americans during their regime in the early 20th century.  The facility also had significant role during the Japanese invasion—a lot of brilliant personalities, future political leaders caught in the crossfires of the war, were incarcerated within its walls.

And I was then in the early mid 90s calling the shots.  Indeed, there were pressures from local government and worst, the Superintendent which I was tasked to replace made belligerent efforts to keep his post.  For a time, there was a quandary on who the prison officers will obey.  I did not force myself and allowed the former head to manage the area.  I merely reported on the status of the administration and for a time, went around the whole prison reservation—-on the whole 40,000 -hectare reservation—and took note of its awesome and resplendent space.  It was after all, the biggest penal facility nationwide in terms of land size, ideally positioned and considered the last bastion of forestry in the country.

Administrative Intervention

Central office sent a high official to resolve the impasse and thereafter, we had a simple turn over ceremonies.  The officer then  holding on the post eventually capitulated.  Finally, I was officially designated to take charge of Iwahig Penal Colony.  Prison officers pledged their support and offered to work doubly hard in the performance of their duties.  At that time, escapes were predominant and violence was a daily occurrence.  A few months before I took over, there were hostage situations and unmitigated riots.  There was internal strife among prison personnel on one hand and among prisoners on the other hand.  No wonder, local government found a strong argument for its relocation and was immensely interested in proposing for the transfer of the facility to another site.

I started outlining the profile of the facility, the magnitude and dimension of its land, the mountain ranges, the rivers and tributaries, the second growth forested spaces, the rain forest, the flora and fauna, mineral rich foundation of its highlands.  There were geological findings that indicate the fact that the whole prison reservation was sitting atop a vein of lavish gold ore and precious mineral deposits.  That probably explain why there was a rich concentration of silver and not far from the site, a hot spring water marshland when there was no volcanic fissure anywhere in the island.

Iwahig Penal Colony

Iwahig Penal Colony is a land lock area almost in the middle of Palawan Island.  American battalion composed of engineers worked wonders in determining an ideal area for a penal establishment.  They can explore and exploit precious metals using prison manpower and at the same time ship it out as booty for their mother country to repost and enjoy.  War broke out however and the insidious plan flew out into forgotten land.  The Japs took over and transformed Iwahig into an ordinary concentration camp devoted principally for the incarceration of POWs and what in their estimation were political traitors.

Years later, Iwahig would submit to the world of correctional administration a method which would be considered as advancement in the science of penology—the open institutions approach.  The Japs having recovered from war was quick to pick up the development and gave their penal system the same approach which to date has been considered by UN as a template for a model correctional administration.

Meanwhile, the agency,  Bureau of Corrections, having been led by political appointees whose knowledge of penal science have as yet to sink into their policy orientation, merely sustained token administrative practices which border on observation.  Hence, Iwahig, much like other penal establishments, were at times open and most of the time closed in terms of prison security and rehab formulations.

Fulfilling a Mandate

My administration was at the crossroads at that time.  While then prison administration wanted a strict security  plan with less rehab programs to be the anchor of management, I chose the reverse.  I worked towards the formulation of rehab programs first and secondarily the security component.  I allowed the reclassification of prisoners from maximum to medium then to minimum security category to expose them to healthy agricultural practices instead of consigning prisoners into the idleness of security lock ups.

The approach worked well.  Rice fields expanded.  Agro production achieved higher yields.  Violence was never heard of. Inmates became creative in their artistic and productive pursuits.  Few administrative cases by officers and there was almost a dint of prison viciousness. Officers had their own respective revenue generating activities on top of their regular functional role in the organization.  Tourists began to gain an influx even threatening the traditional Puerto Princesa spots in favor of iwahig sojourn.

And then there is Gold!

On my sixth month, the chief of the geological division of the Bureau of Mines came for a visit and asked for permission so that they could fly-by the mountainous area of Iwahig, which in my estimation is almost 70% of the entire prison reservation.  I asked if I could join and on a week-end, in a borrowed chopper from Wescom, we were hovering above the penal colony.

The chief geologist was very happy to share his observation.  He said that noticeably there are areas on the side of the mountain near the top that vegetation was poor while in other parts, it is almost a jungle.  That explains the presence of minerals under those fledging shrubbery.  Minerals deflect the heat and therefore warp the roots of plants and trees rendering the area almost uninhabitable to hardy greeneries.  In short, according to the expert, minerals, a vein of gold ore it is believed, runs along the geologic terrane of the highlands.  My hunch was correct from the start.

Iwahig folks had a name for their major mountain range depending on how it looked from a distance.  There is “Mt. Salakot” because it resembled a local headgear.  There is also “Susong Dalaga” because its contour looks like those of shapely female boobs.  The elevated range is determined according to its proximity to those two mountainous spots.

The mountain lair is home to exotic biodiversity of wild life, most of which are still uncatalogued.  It promotes an ecosystem which simulated ancient, even Jurassic condition.  The prison on its periphery served as vanguard to its pristine state.  And beneath this façade is a mind-boggling wealth.

It was an “OMG” revelation which I was excited to share to my superiors.  It was never ordinary to offer a game-changer more so if it would greatly benefit the country.

On sharing the Good News

I immediately informed the circle of officers near the prison leadership’s ear so that they could whisper my findings but instead of reckoning my information, there was a mad grab by these people to replace me.  I suspected that the man at the top never heard my research.  I stayed for a while waiting for the response of the leadership but there was none.

I have completed my book on the Land Use Study of Iwahig but I did not include the chapter which contains my findings based on the scientific study  of a mining expedition led by the government’s chief geologist.   I had it reserved for future publication.

A few weeks after in my 10-month term, I received an order for my re-assignment to San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga.  My successors subsequently were limited in the pursuit of disciplinary and security concerns in governing Iwahig.

As it were, Iwahig land has been downsized with issuances of proclamations left and right.  The area has been reduced markedly and most of its poetic sceneries transformed into fledging habitats of informal dwellers.

Note that Iwahig holds the key on the self-sufficiency of prison administration if only properly supervised.,   The food requirements for its entire prison community  will be sustained and perhaps, if ravenousness and greed were not a quality of people at the top, it could also be a major source of revenue that could uplift the quality of life of the Filipinos.

That is right.  Not everything in prison is worth hating.  It has something that could even save a country from bankruptcy. 

A PLANT FROM OUTER SPACE?

outer space plant

Two major living things dominate the planet earth—the animal and the plant kingdom.  Man, of course, belongs to the broad category of animals (even if Boy Abunda and Vice Ganda had objections to it.)  Plants include the tiniest algae up to the giant trees of the Amazons.

My special interest here is on plants.

There are plants with special features helping them cope and repel predators.  Other plants can survive and even thrive in hostile environments, such as cold, drought, salty waters, high altitude lands and rocky Mountains.  However, I have yet to see a plant subsist in an environment without AIR!  Real plants and not the plastic or resin ones.

And this is the tale of what I have discovered lately.  Retirement gave me that precious period to use time in a manner which would satisfy my curiosity.

Sometime ago while loafing near the church yard, I noticed a beautiful swarming plant near the grotto that I could not resist in plucking a stem.  Knowing that it is one of those succulent plants, a hardy and enduring herb, planting it anywhere would not in any way make it wither.  It is low maintenance and ideal for busy bodies like me.

The plant looks ordinary, a common succulent plant and endemic in tropical countries.  I googled the plant to check its name.  I got some names like Agavoideae, Cactaceae, Crassulaceae, so on and so forth.  I almost choke in pronouncing them.  Anyway, I tried to look at the pictures of the succulent species, their family and sub family but I could not get one, even something familiar.

Botany is Greek to me but I love plants.  I probably inherited my father’s green thumb and fetish for gardening.  And so when I saw that the succulent which I placed atop the soil of a potted palm plant, in just a couple of weeks, grew and branched out quite profusely, I was impressed.  I thought it would not survive and if at all it lives, it would just protrude in one corner.  It did not.  It literally covered the entire vacant space of the big pot where I laid it down.

I plucked a few stems and introduced it on smaller pots and after a few days, it grew healthy even if I simply arranged it in one corner of my garage.  I thought of plucking a few shoots and bring it in my library to contribute oxygen to my book congested library.  The plant seems to enjoy humidity anyway.  To my mind, the plant might enjoy further its stint  because of the continuous smoke from my cigarettes.

One day, out of boredom, having read three books already, I tried to be a little punishing, much like my schedule before I retired.  I produced a sealed bottle, placed dried white sand and along with the plant, gave it company, a couple of pesky winged ants which would oftentimes fly over my computer monitor, attracted by its radiation.  And so, I made an accidental experiment just for the kick.  It was not to torture a living thing but merely to observe if only for a few hours.

Eyes need relaxation after a rigorous reading spree.

And there it was a terrarium of sort.

Unfortunately, I have forgotten the whole experiment.  I got busy with my facebook posts, writing blogs and reading a number of books I have missed for a time.  Time flew fast.  I never realized that I had one research going on.  I placed the sealed bottle near my book shelf, in a corner I almost would pass through without noticing.

It was after a week when I was about to clean my room that I realized my  botanical folly.  The sealed bottle where living things were kept has been there all along.  I lifted the bottle and saw the winged ants splayed lifeless while the plant, the succulent , still hale, ascendant,  stiff, as in proud, and hearty.    It is as if I just placed it inside the bottle a few seconds ago.  I felt pity to the poor ants but the plant, how come it is still alive when for more than a week, there was no air in that seal compartment.  It was weird.

I checked the internet if there is a plant that can live without air.  There was none.

I cancelled all my appointments that day to browse on botanical books and references I could get my hands on.  I could not believe that there is a living thing in my room which can endure a long period without air.  Of course, the plant has no nose and lungs but surely its petals or probably its stems and roots have some kind of a mechanism where air is trapped for its purpose.

It has been said that succulents are drought resistant plants in which the leaves, stem or roots have become more than usually fleshy by the development of water-storing tissue.  Other sources exclude roots as in the definition “a plant with thick, fleshy and swollen stems and/or leaves, adapted to dry environments.”  Like any dessert or highland plant however, they need bright light and fresh air, and they need a cool, dry weather to rest as well.

Well, that was the most I could find on the net and in my library.

The problem with pseudo scientists like me is that we seldom know what to do given a specific unnatural situation.  Well, the most that I could do is merely to observe the object, give it some time to gestate, react or develop some kind of response or any form observable.  I could not make something out of my findings.  I could not even brag to my neighbor that I have a plant that can survive in outer space.  The problem there is that my neighbor might not greet me anymore.  Worst, those who take interest in what I was doing might think I am a cookoo already!

But seriously, I have this strange plant growing in my backyard which is as perennial as the grass.  But unlike grass that turns brown when it has not been watered for days, this plant takes everything in stride.  It flourishes without water and alive without any atmospheric assistance at all

All that I know is that without enough carbon dioxide in the air, ALL plants can’t survive.  Now how do I classify this “thing” now?

 

 

 

 

RECALLING OUR DAYS DURING PRISON DIRECTOR VINARAO’S ADMINISTRATION

vgv

I tell you, it was fun and a bit sentimental down memory lane.

I met Prison vet Noel Martin Marquez or as we fondly call him, Doc Marquez, along with two of penal colonies visiting veterinarians, all of them attending a conference on their field in Davao.  While waiting for word on their itinerary, we could not help but reminisce the days during the time of erstwhile, almost the best prison director ever, Major General Vicente Vinarao.  Well, almost the best except that his choice of lieutenants, poor selection if you may,  during his incumbency at the helm of the Bureau of Corrections, had virtually dragged down his record breaking accomplishments.

We could have discussed other administrators but they never created a dent on our professional calling except for General Vinarao and understandably so because he is the only prison director who had two terms.  And on both terms, he made bold moves to improve and develop correctional administration.  His intentions were impressive except for the fact that those he pushed to implement it were so-so and inexplicably uninspiring to say the least.  They were merely there as ornament that never contributed to the beauty of how Gen. Vinarao conducted correctional administration.

Be that as it may, he performed better than the rest.

It could even be instructive to note that a good administrator with poor adjutants would never in any stretch of imagination accomplish much; in the same manner that a poor administrator with competent officers would suffer the same fate.  A good leader would never be followed by poor followers in the same vein  a poor leader would never be generously followed by good subordinates.  The equation should be a good leader and good followers to make a remarkable organization.

Hands down though, General Vinarao’s regime was the most competently driven administration.  And why not?  General Vinarao topped the MNSA (National Defense College of the Philippines).  He was already an outstanding government official.  He is a good lawyer.  He was a member of Manila’s Finest, when law enforcement was at its peak.  He has authored books on Investigation and Corrections.

On top of that, he is very enterprising (he owns one of Metro Manila’s biggest security agency); he is also a genuine marksman and can shoot using the reflection of his wrist watch in aiming a target several yards away.  He was once the Presidential Adviser on Police Matters (during FVR time).  As a sportsman, during his youth, nobody can guard him as he drove to the hoops in a basketball game.  He once led as Superintendent of the Philippine National Police Academy.  He became a major general, rising from the ranks even if he never passed through PMA like his command competitors.

He was an ideal administrator.  And never bogs down from any challenge.  He would confront one grave task after another and would win in the end.  He was that focused and astute as an administrator.

Doc Marquez had sad and exciting moments with Director Vinarao.  I had mine too and in sharing mine to my audience that included the two other vets from Sablayan and Iwahig would make them cringe as I divulged the finer details.

During Director Vinarao’s incumbency, I would pile up one administrative case after another.  And one criminal case after another too.  In sum, I would struggle defending myself on 15 administrative cases and 2 criminal cases that were slapped on me.  And what is worst is that, those cases were filed by a Prison Director I admired most!  It is like being ditched by your loved one 17 times!

After his term and followed briefly by other prison administrators, all my cases were subsequently heard and I would receive one exoneration after another for administrative cases and dismissal of the criminal cases one after another.  I have to submit almost on a daily basis my notarized answers and just by paying notarial fees alone was already equivalent to spending my salary up to the last centavo for months and years on end.  I felt maltreated during that time.  But I struggled to keep my balance and eventually got cleared.

I thought that enough of Director Vinarao’s punitive measures would be over.  When he came back for the second time, his first directive was to abolish the office where I was:  Public Information Office.  For a time, I was somewhere in limbo and the deep blue sea.  But there I was in one corner consigned to work on a routinely task, depending on the mood of the prison leadership.  It gave me a luxurious time though to write my first, second and third book on Corrections.  That’s right, if not for the cold shoulder treatment I got, I would never become an author!

With such literary exposures, I would continue writing books up to the present and would even try my hand on writing novels.  Not to mention the fact that during those times I was frozen, I have literally read a lot of books from the classics to world affairs, from religion to sciences.  I didn’t mind being ignored and disregarded at all.

General Vinarao would be followed by other Presidential appointees and I would coast along in the performance of my duties.  All those times, I was computing how much I would receive once I file my retirement.  I lost all my savings just for the notarial submissions alone and I wanted to rest already, of course with something to cook and eat on my table.  I never wished to court the gods of chance anymore.  I was getting old and too slow to deal with organizational intrigues.

A few years later, I got what I wished for.  I got my retirement papers and here I am a witness, an outsider to the prison service already.  Meeting up with my former colleagues, Doc Marquez and the two vets from the penal colonies, gave me, for a while, that exhilarating period of reliving those days, those exciting days in the correctional system.

A few weeks before I retired, I visited General Vinarao in his residence and we had good fun reminiscing those days at the forefront.  His mind is still sharp and his physique ruggedly strong.  I could sense from the stern eyes and stentorian voice of the man as if telling me, “buhay ka pa!!  And of course, because all those years while he was at the helm, he threw everything to me including the sink, toilet bowl and all.

But I respect the man the most because notwithstanding the fact that he deprived me of logistics, opportunity to take the Bar exams (I could have easily topped it but I was sent on colony assignment whenever I would seek a study leave),  he never even for a bit included anything that would disturb my personal life.  I appreciated him for that.  Hindi siya foul na supervisor.

At the end of our conference, we parted ways almost embracing and laughing at each other.

THE PENSIONER

pensioner pic

After seven months since my departure in government service, I finally got a word from GSIS that my application for retirement, in a few weeks, will be processed.  By then I will be called a pensioner.  By then I will no longer dream of re-entering the labor force to work my butt out.  By then I will be receiving, if my computation is correct, an amount almost at par with my previous monthly salary and surprisingly, it is no longer taxable.

I will definitely miss my allowances, some perks and privileges but what the heck, I would gladly exchange it with all the drudgeries, humiliations, stresses, intrigues, indignities and intimidations one gets from working.  The agency can have it lock, stock and barrel.  No love lost there.

But definitely, I missed the friendship forged in the course of the struggle to achieve something in the organization.  Well, several of them have retired anyway while others are contemplating to follow.

As a retiree, I will finally get to see  how a part of my salary which was spliced and obligated, even made as investment, delivered back to me in the form of pension.

Accordingly, the pension will be deposited by GSIS in my UMID card and I could regularly withdraw from it on a monthly basis up until I reach thy kingdom come.  Fair enough.  A friend of mine, formerly head of a national association of government accountants, confided that I, along with several retirees, are lucky at this time to receive a fair share in our pension because it has been increased from the usual 20% of the retirees salary to 80%.  He never enjoyed it though because he retired earlier when his recommendation had not yet been considered.

Anyway, while in my estimation my pension could smoothly sustain my routine, the threat of contracting ailments remains a proximate reality.  Those who have reached senior citizen level have sensitive physical and psychological predisposition already.  Their eye sights are faltering, their body metabolism has slowed down, their stamina has become suspect and their endurance has slackened to a large extent.  But of course, moderation in diet and a disciplined restrain on certain physical activities may obviate sudden physiological deterioration.

A number of my fellow retirees have virtually made the hospital their home and their pension as passport for their medical travails.  A handful actually is there to enjoy in pristine form their annuities.

Pensioners have achieved a certain degree of recognition with the passage of law on the benefits of senior citizens.  In some cities, movies for them are free.  They get considerable discounts too in malls, restaurants, pharmacies and groceries.  Unlike before when I along with my peers would display generous braggadocio in paying the bills as treat in a restaurant, now we could only wave and present our senior citizen IDs to the cashier and we are granted a handsome cut.

Personally, I felt that it was also some kind of racism as when I would be at the tail end of a cue in the bookstore.  Before, I will have to patiently wait for my turn.  Now, sales clerks would even carefully accost me to the nearest cashier for instant transaction as if I am the owner of the joint!  There is respect everywhere.  Well, provided that one must not act or appear as a millennial.

When I look back, I could see my grandfather, my father and all those old people during my youth and I swear, they  were all to me so pitiful ageing beings.  They stooped a lot.  They unbearably smelled like the soil also.  Now, the ball is in my hands but boy! I have a complete line of lotions which the youth today may find it competitive to deal with me at close range.  Half of my pension, I intend to devote on vanity.

The struggle to look fresh and clean is always there, something my ancestors forgot.

 

 

 

 

RA 10575 (BUCOR MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2013) : From Conception to Birth

bucor-law

It was a law originally formulated during the incumbency of former Director of Corrections, Oscar Calderon, a GMA appointee.  The draft formulation underwent several reviews and numerous referrals from one congressional committee to another.  It went through the committee on justice, committee on budget, committee on public order, so on and so forth.  In the process of deliberation, there were several versions and refinements on how the law would appear once completed.

Subsequently, another prison leadership was politically appointed replacing Director Calderon.  By that time, GMA has completed her term and another political regime had taken over.  Partisan tradition and bureaucratic practice dictate that appointees made by previous administration, whether good and effective, must be replaced.  And so, a newly retired AFP official was called to action and Major General Gaudencio Pangilinan was sworn in.

It was Director Pangilinan’s active congressional participation that the law derived its full flavor.  It was under this period that the future law would take its shape.  While congressional hearings were going on, there were technical difficulties that would be experienced by the agency, Bureau of Corrections.  Various sectoral groups were invited as resource persons to enhance the drafting process.

Interest on criminal justice administration with respect to corrections had gained ground.

However, one controversy after another would shake the organization sending a series of different officers to maintain the daily administrative routine of the office.  Meanwhile, congressional committees reviewing the future prison law had a mixture of representation coming from different offices to explain the functions of the correctional system.

For a while, the law got stalled somewhere because there was confusion on various representations and their supplications.  Congress got mixed up and it amounted to an impression of little interest somewhere.  From the side of the Bureau of Corrections, because the current leadership was not privy and familiar with it, and from the congressional point of view, because it would entail unnecessary expense since the law would also be a basis for the construction of a multi-billion prison facility.   The law was in hibernation for some time.

It has been a tradition that since there was dearth of controversy for people to get excitement from, anything bizarre from prison can make real headlines.  And so, there it was a simple political incident where the first Presidential visit in the penitentiary was made into a provocative foray.  The red carpet reception of President Aquino by the prison leadership was minutely scrutinized for whatever scandal can be squeezed from..

The Bureau of Corrections suffered another disgraceful challenge brought about by media bashing.  Hence, there was no way for the prison leadership to make a follow through on the status of the law as a consequence.  The draft law however has passed the first phase and about to go through the second reading.

Director Pangilinan opted to file his leave and eventually due to pressure was convinced to resign.  The DOJ Secretary for a time took over the reign and a parade of personalities acting as Officer-in-charge was detailed.

From one Officer-in-charge to another came a regular Presidential appointee, Gen Franklin Bucayu.  His administration like his predecessors would be met with challenges they never learned at PMA, nor experienced in the field of battle or in police criminalistics.  It was a total re-education and re-orientation for him.  Meanwhile, Congress was almost done in shaping the final touches of the prison law.  More than what corrections can bargain for, Congress even formulated a complimentary correctional law, the new good conduct time allowance act, RA 10592.

It was under the stewardship of Director Bucayu that RA 10575, otherwise known as the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013 has been signed by the President into law.  The Prison Law of 1917 has eventually been replaced.   It was also under Bucayu administration that its twin law, RA 10592, the new Good Conduct Time Allowance Act, would also be passed and approved.  A year and a half later, DOJ Secretary Leila Delima announced the formal issuance of RA 10575 Implementing Rules and Regulations, IRR.

It was all systems go in 2014.  DOJ Secretary Delima proclaimed during the IRR launching that the Director of Corrections should henceforth be called Director General.  And so history had dawned.  Finally, a law bringing Philippine corrections on the front of the 21st century has been realized.

As expected, the organization was priming its workforce for a change in nomenclature.  Prison Guards, pursuant to law, will be called Corrections Officers.  The change will cascade from the position of Director General of Corrections down to all ranking subordinate officers in the organization.

But it did not proceed as expected.  Controversy intervened for a while and a number of administrative changes were made virtually skipping the operation of the law.  The one proclaimed earlier as Director General quitted on his post amidst confusion brought about by a raid which the prison official himself spearheaded.  The move to apply the law with its IRR had been consigned to a corner.

Note that everything—– from applicable procedures to transitory provisions—- has been carefully laid out in the IRR.   It is just a matter of fulfilling what has been prescribed.

The law has been there awaiting its baptism of fire but as yet to make its presence felt precisely because it is still hidden behind a network of technicalities.  It can resolve pestering flaws and inconsistencies in correctional administration.  But it is still frozen.

Another retired military stalwart, Major General Rainier Cruz III , was appointed to replace the former Director General of Corrections and it was on his lap  that the new law, after three years in a hiatus, will see realization.  Unfortunately for the new appointee, RA 10575 and its background have as yet to be understood for the technical complexity needed in its application.

As it were, there were too many directions undertaken.  DOJ has taken the initial step.   Representation in congress for the final instruction was conducted only to be referred to DBM for the completion of required conditions.  DBM on the other hand confirmed that funds are appropriated already once Bucor is prepared.

The RA 10575 IRR has spelled out the matrix and approaches needed for the implementation of the law’s final touches.  As earlier maintained, it is just a matter of adhering to its provisions, applying it organizationally and everything will proceed in its proper places.

THE SO-CALLED BUCOR MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2013: why it got stuck

hunger strike

In May 24, 2013, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III signed into law RA 10575 otherwise known as “An Act Strengthening the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) and providing funds therefor.”  The Act is also to be known as “The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013.”

On the ground, it is referred to as “Bucor Modernization Act of 2013” because the principal coverage of its declared policy calls for the provision of “modernization, professionalization and restructuring of the agency by upgrading its facilities, increasing the number of its personnel, upgrading the level of qualifications of their personnel and standardizing their base pay, retirement and other benefits…”

The law (RA 10575) like any other laws requires the fulfillment of a technical provision towards its full application.  Hence, Section 23 of the law says, “The DOJ, in coordination with the Bucor, the CSC, the DBM and the Department of Finance (DOF), shall, within ninety (90) days from the effectivity of this Act, promulgate the rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this Act.”

On December 12, 2014, DOJ formally launched the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10575.  Then DOJ Secretary Leila Delima implored that “With the passage of the law and the promulgation of the IRR, the Bucor now has the flexibility to adjust its facilities, manpower and other resources to meet the changing and growing needs of our corrections system and to adequately and fairly compensate its personnel who meet the professionalization standards set forth in the law.”

On same date, the Honorable DOJ Secretary referred the prison leadership with his new title as “Director General.”  It was presumed on said occasion that the announcement will cascade down to the organization and those offices and officers pursuant to law and its IRR will gradually have their new titles and calling.

Everybody was congratulating everyone.  Every Pedro, Juan and Pilar in the agency was claiming heroic adulation for the passage of the law.  Every Toto, Talpulano and Petra wanted to be recognized for the sacrifices in making follow through.  Indeed, the formulation, drafting, haggling and eventually the passing of the Bucor Law is a historic accomplishment that invites parentage from all sectors of the correctional system.

Two years later however, the law has not yet been applied and implemented.  Accordingly, there are still requirements sought and additional technical necessities which must be submitted before the final application can be carried out.  Even the Bucor administration is found wanting.  It has never taken steps to follow what is there in the law itself except wait until it is spoon fed as what happened when DOJ announced that the head of the agency shall henceforth be called Director General.

The Director General of Corrections did not pursue what his superior has initiated.  He was cautious.  He never referred to the succeeding line of officers after him.  And since it was overlooked, the entire process got paralyzed from neck down to the extremities so to speak.  Lahat naging mahiyain na!

That is the problem.  There was desperation everywhere.  If this is sports, we have this situation where a person who does not know basketball is made a coach of a basketball team.  Or from the medical point of view, a nuclear scientist was assigned to conduct a heart by-pass operation.  Be that as it may, the players (or patients for that matter) are not even alarmed on this awkward situation.  They would still blame the world for their losses and unfortunate fate.

Furthermore, instead of reckoning the provision of law with respect to Deputy Director General items which refer to organic members of the organization, the Bucor leadership would recommend and DOJ would accept the appointment of “outsiders.”  From said acts alone, there was no serious nay solemn observance of the new law already.  How can it proceed to tackle onwards to complete the entire picture of implementation if it has been saddled with ambiguities?

And now, the organization feels that the law, RA 10575 is still hanging in mid air, unimplemented, disregarded and unheeded.  But of course, because nobody gives a shit about how the organization works.  Hindi gagalaw ang batas at hindi ito maisasakatuparan sa pamamagitan ng kwentuhan at sisihan lang.

Meanwhile, the blame game continues.  Malacanan has been impugned, DBM has been censured, DOJ is pestered with requests, CSC is badgered for consultation.  They can do so much provided the concerned office, the agency itself, Bucor, must provide the necessary working site on which the law should operate.  Humingi ang Bucor sa Kongreso at sa Palasyo ng batas at ito ay binigay naman.  Parang humingi ng bagong behikulo sa kadahilanan na luma na ang sasakyang ginagamit, laging nasisira at mabagal tumakbo.  Nang mabigyan ng bagong sasakayan, nagrereklamo na naman kasi nga  walang marunong magmaneho nito. 

That is how government in the side of Criminal Justice Administration functions.  There is the belief that politics can make things happen although in reality things have stalled to a standstill.

Can RA 10575 get untangled from where it got stuck?  Don’t sulk.  It’s not even the end of the world.   Don’t even blame the stars, simply start renaming old items into new ones and everything will follow.

WHAT THE PRESIDENCY SHOULD DO TO MAKE THIS COUNTRY A LOVELY PLACE TO LIVE IN

president

There are four major promises made by PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES but thus far, they mainly deliver a message of status quo.  BINAY promised to use Makati as his template once elected.  DUTERTE promised to solve criminality after a semester in his tenure.  POE promised to fight a good fight.  ROXAS promised to continue Daang Matuwid.  What else is new?

We already heard those promises before and the country, much more so, the electorate, some have aged and others have gone, remained the same fledging, desperately crawling and still struggling constituency.  Campaign promises merely sent victors unto the perch of high position but once there, almost everything has been forgotten.

We deserve a Chief Executive who can make this country a lovely place to live in.  This he can do if he could just fulfill a single accomplishment amidst a plethora of bureaucratic considerations.

When PNoy was elected as President, there were high expectations.  Here was a guy who might fit the bill.  He spoke in the vernacular and damn honest.  Earlier on,I sent a letter suggesting that he devote his time and power to improve all airports in the country.  Concentrate on it so that once his term is through, there is one legacy his administration could crow about.  I do not know what happened to my letter but years later, the airport, well most airports and especially the airport named after his parent, went from bad to worse.

Election for the Presidency is again around the corner and here I am, instead of writing a letter and being ignored later, I intend to make it public by way of offering another suggestion.  Hoping that it is not late and maybe in the process lifted by any candidate for the Presidency.

I suggest that a LIAISON UNIT under the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT be organized in every City, Municipality or Province where the people could refer anything.  It is one agency where people would just present their concerns and said office will tackle and work on its completion up to the end.  It may partake of something like looking for a job, scholarship; submitting a complaint; seeking licenses, permits or clearances; paying taxes; transferring properties; anything under the sun where the government requires something from a person.

As it were, people are moving in several directions, some falling prey, duped or victimized by fixers of different hues and persuasions and in the end failing to get anything if not mulcted in the process.  Government should not be the Big Brorher watching every movement and penalizing those who err but should be right there to help, assist and protect his sibling from the time he sought his service.

That is where the Unit under the Office of the President counts.  It should be a permanent fixture in every Municipal, Provincial, Regional or National Office.  It is the principal office where all persons who needed government must come for assistance.  Said office, whatever concerns the citizen may want should immediately facilitate.  It is a “one-stop-shop” for everything where government is needed.  No way for the person to go from one office to another, from one part of the town to another, from one officer to another, from one procedure to another.  It is one office that will take care of a person’s needs.  No more referral, follow ups and follow throughs.  The office will take care of everything and the person will just wait for results.

If it cannot be done then to hell with government and to whoever is there.  If government cannot facilitate and help people, in the same way Raffy Tulfo is doing in his “Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo” program, in the same vein some media outfits with their public service platform are conducting, then it will forever be cursed with corruption, incompetence and threat for rebellion.

But whoever among the presidential candidates will pursue this program once elected will become not only the best leader the country ever have but will also leave a legacy of Love among his countrymen.

 

CANDIDATES SHOULD SUBMIT AN OMBUDSMAN CLEARANCE FIRST

ombudsman

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said it forthrightly “So many in government are corrupt.” And why not? Her office is recipient of various complaints, serious ones at that pertaining dubious deals and actions by those in government—be it local or national. And responding competently on each complaint is an adroit review and issuance of decision on several cases as if the agency has never knew what holiday is all about.

Looking at the direction of choosing leaders in the forthcoming election is one such exercise where the people will decide on their future. And over here, the Ombudsman has a critical role to play if only possible.

To start with, candidates for public office are screened by Comelec to determine their fitness and qualification to enter public office. And this should include as principal requirement if Comelec intends to level the field for the mandatory submission of a clearance by candidates from the office of the Ombudsman.

Ironically, retirees in government service cannot fulfill the requirements of their application unless Ombudsman has cleared them from any criminal or administrative cases. And, to think that retirees are already bidding public service good-bye and moving onwards to a life of privacy. Government and the public in general have nothing to do with them anymore. They are out already but not without an Ombudsman clearance first.

On the other hand, we have these candidates applying for public office. They wanted to be an active part, on top comparatively, of the social ladder as administrators, formulators and guide of society. All the more, government should be vigilant and stricter about their entry. If the Constitution has allowed any citizen and resident, notwithstanding lack of scholarly credentials, to run for public office, COMELEC, as a Constitutional vanguard, should as a matter of grave import require the submission of an Ombudsman Clearance from candidate-applicants to help the people in determining those whom they intend to vote. With this requirement, government has initially separated the chaff from the grain so to speak. And the people will never be derided for electing someone who will just exploit them.

As it were, there are no controls yet. Parang baliktad ang dating.

What we have right now is a bunch of candidates whose names glisten on the pages of documents bearing the imprint of Napoles’ transactions and related scams. There are political personalities also whose questionable participation in irregularities border on plunders and pillage. And there are more if we would include those charged for misusing PDAF and DAF whatever it is.

Worst, government, COMELEC to say the least, has never made a categorical stand on these shady people who are charged in Ombudsman that would disqualify or at least, defer them from running. Even judicial bodies seem stymied because of technicalities in issuing warrants or instant decision that could help Comelec in the vetting process.

What we have is even more sinister. Malamang pababayaan na lang tumakbo mga kandidato at bahala na ang taong bayan pumili. Palibhasa wala naman iba pang pagpipilian kundi yung mga may record at nakahabla sa Ombudsman, chances are those who will be elected are those questionable ones. Tapos ang sisisihin ay taong bayan dahil sila bumoto sa ganung mga tao.

Let us cut the crap and let government do its principal duty to help the people in their decision-making. Pull out those charged with administrative and/or criminal cases. Better, require, while it is not late, the submission of an Ombudsman clearance as the first step to and as a protective measure for a corrupt free governance.

With this, hindi na masisisi ang mga mamamayan.

MINDSET VERSUS REALITY

swat

Whoever suggested that the police (read SAF) will be used to arrest fugitive terrorist Marwan in the jungle of Mindanao must be conscience stricken by now, or probably petrified at the time when 44 young policemen were being massacred.

Besides that, there is war going on in the area, hence the struggle to grab some kind of truce, like exploring political avenues, BBL and all.

No matter how astounding they would dress up the police officers and make them soldier look-like, they simply do not fit the bill. Policemen are trained in urban complications and never in jungle combat situations.

Let us accept it. Only those in the Army, okay, the Marines are trained to conduct warfare in the jungles or elsewhere within the same condition. They can live off the cultured land, stay for months deep into an unforgiving and treacherous woodland and subsist on anything the forest could offer.

The police never had such comprehensive jungle survival training, well, except rolling in muddy streams for a day or two during drills.

Policemen needed civilisation to function competently. They needed people in the same way that people needs them. Their job is to prevent crime, protect people from the sophistication of offensive acts and promote order.

Giving them orders to penetrate the wilderness is like commanding them to get into the bottom of the sea after a sleepless night.

The confusion on which agency should get into action given a sensitive undertaking can be traced back since Martial Law days. PMA graduates, those trained in soldierly missions, were given ranks in the field of law enforcement. In no time, PMAers were given star position more than those trained in advanced civilian courses. They did not only introduce a culture of warfare in the field of police work, they even initiated a change in their mandated outlook. Hence, policemen would project the persona of a warrior, one brandishing outlandish caliber of firearms, a bandolier of ammunition and would even request that they be given tanks rather than patrol cars.

On the streets, they were virtually in search of enemies to take down. And the civilians are in awe looking at the police looking more like a combatant. And the police would lap it up. In the process, the law enforcement agency would organize a troop that would quack like a soldier too, the so called Special Forces. This group would simulate combat readiness as if they will be sent on a mission to bring down enemies of the State. But there is something lacking in their system; they are not soldiers whose orientation is to take no prisoner. They are oriented foremost with engaging criminal elements and bringing them to court as prisoners.

The mindset of the police and the military are a world apart. Even if they are thrown into different serious challenges, it is their basic orientation that will manifest. It is in dealing with reality that they will prove their respective worth or otherwise.

How come the families of the massacred policemen were wailing and complaining? But of course, their loved ones were given mission outside of their competence. Their complaints should sound as reminder for government to be assiduous in determining which assignment should go to what group.

Ineptitude is always fatal.

 

 

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