ONCE UPON A TIME, I was the voice of Philippine corrections. Anything that moves, anything that matters whether it was a controversy, a scandal, a legislative inquiry or a technical advocacy, I was always at the forefront. And it was fun. I get to know up close media personalities we see every day in news forum. Because of their persuasive style, they have achieved a certain degree of celebrity status. When they interview a person, that fellow becomes an overnight sensation too. He gets the proverbial 15 minute fame.
I was the “go to” guy whenever something materializes in the prison system. I was virtually a luminary during the death penalty execution days in the late 90s. Tri media covered the criminal justice event and my face was on every major channel, interviewed by The Noli de Castro, The Jesica Soho, The Ceres Doyo, The Randy David, The Kris Aquino, The Mike Enriquez, The Erwin Tulfo, Susan Enriquez, Pinky Webb, and lot more of well-known media personalities. It was a grand privilege pitting wits with them in public.
I was almost a permanent fixture of talk shows and a main interviewee during primetime news. Whenever something goes wrong in the penitentiary, even the prison leadership would push me to get into the front to explain everything. I never allowed media to proceed with their own spin. But media without any credible ideas lifted from interviews would merely submit their own respective spin and it usually is the cause for more controversies and indignities for those concerned.
It was my perception, my own spin and media loved it. More so, it’s deeper, well thought of and rational.
My statements were even given a prominent space in a major daily on quotable quotes. In malls for once, people stopped by as soon as they see me. School children who delight watching TV news with their elders would even shout upon seeing me in person. I could not eat alone in any food chain without being lynched with request for selfie. I was that known and recognizable as Mr. Prison or Mr. Executioner.
I was just waiting for some enterprises to make me a product endorser. I was already on that level. But as soon as I have explained the ruckus in prison, nothing follows. Media would just pack up and leave for another sensational news elsewhere. No more commercial break.
How fleeting time and the feelings were. I was like a meteor, bright and shiny, then in an instant, gone. I was an inch closer to stardom.
When the infamous exposure of prison innards went on air, I immediately asked the prison leadership to allow me to trouble shoot it. To my mind, the prison scandal could still be restored to normalcy. Even if for a while the privacy of the incarcerated humanity has been violated it could still be rectified with reasonable explanation and discussion. Of course, it’s water under the bridge already. I was not allowed officially to get into the act and hence, I filed my retirement as a consequence. I felt like Mercury who was banished from Olympus because the gods are afraid he might be worshipped more than the rest of the senior gods and goddesses.
I merely licked in one corner my injured name and reputation. Win some, lose some.
The correctional agency could have been saved from bashing had there been someone courageous enough to discuss all the issues promptly and competently. It was media spin that went ballistic and has exploded on all corners of the universe. It presumed that everything in prison is evil incarnate. The public was left answering issues which no one in prison wanted to explain fully save for some clarifications which were self-serving. Until one fine day, everyone seems to be jumping from a sinking correctional ship!
The national leadership had stepped in, the legislative branch of government had gotten into the picture, every Pablo, Juan and Pilar got an inside view on what ails the penal system and everyone in the agency were made as black as pot and as filthy as filth. The whole correctional system, its posture and integrity went all up in air. Not even a slice of honor was left. The agency and its warm bodies were all humbled and shamed.
I hastily published a novel “Muntinlupa” if only to contribute a figment of an idea (read: spin) into the legislative discussion to save my colleagues from further discomfiture but it came too little, too late. The correctional agency where I earned my spurs and feathers slowly smoldered and almost has turned into ashes.
I was petrified and almost inconsolable for quite some time. I have retired and unable to extend my influence.
I could only look back and review what has been done. The Bureau of Corrections is gradually getting up from where it tripped. But it is no longer the same agency. Its innocence gone, its uprightness remains in tatters. Until someone knowledgeable would step in and save the field called corrections.