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