RECALLING OUR DAYS DURING PRISON DIRECTOR VINARAO’S ADMINISTRATION
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.