Monthly Archives: May 2017
PG III Melencio S. Faustino and PG II Frederick Anthony E. Santos would be, a few weeks from now, full-fledged lawyers. Both passed the most difficult exams in the country and now they can carry the title Attorney or Atty. before their names are spelled and written. They can rightfully represent anyone of their choice in the Courts of Law, prosecute or defend anyone they wish. They can also serve as counsel or adviser to anyone seeking an enlightened view on what the law stands for, more so, as it would benefit their clientele.
How they became lawyers from where they came from is a storied epic of unimaginable proportion. But you must forgive their trespasses in the course of their academic struggles. Their stories are much, much more interesting than any Shakespearean novel which I intend to cover later.
It was indeed a hard personal climb although made light by encouragement and laughter; a difficult intellectual scuffle although made lighter by the habit of reading and consulting. Both of them hardly considered a career in the legal profession as they have been permanently and quite satisfactorily posted as custodial personnel in the national penitentiary.
They were contented to be referred to as Correctional Officers. Any other title, much as it entices one to be greater, had, in their estimation, no sense of entitlement yet. For them an inch higher in the supervisory chain was what they have in mind. A rank higher was possible nay reachable than an elite profession.
It was for them, initially, not a dream to be a lawyer. It was more of learning the law than becoming its advocate. Better know the mechanics of a car engine so that no mechanic could play around. Knowledge was better than conferment. And so, accepting the proposition to enroll in law was less of a challenge and more of a persuasion.
But somewhere along the way, they decided to accept it as a challenge, tough and harsh the struggle it may seem. The task, legal education, was daunting, fearsome enough yet it was presented as if it was just an ordinary meal. I was their mentor and my advice was wrapped in a hilarious way. They took it with a grain of hilarity.
When they began their seat work, I was there to make it smooth for them. My mantra was: The first and second year are the most difficult, only a couple of years of sacrifice. Just two. The third year is more on mock court and the fourth is review. That’s what the course on Law all about. Four years in all. It is still better and quicker, much more so, preferable than boot licking for 20 years in the organization.
I would point out to them that once they graduate and pass the Bar, they do not need an organization anymore. The organization needs them.
Their first year was perplexing. They were excited but I could already see signs of hitches. Their eyes were barely hanging on the sockets, their cheek bones beginning to appear and their shoulders a bit higher than the level of their throats. The assigned cases must have been than tricky. I know, I took the same route sometime ago but never took the last shot, the Bar, because my organization would push me out in far flung assignments whenever the Exams were about to take place.
I could see from their physique the hardship they were undergoing. I could even discern from their looks that they were into some form of punishment. Indeed, they have taken seriously the study of Law if only to project that they are into it. That they can survive and sustain the agony, the pain, the torment of memory work if only to stay within bantering distance.
I was there to push them, force and cajole if necessary, make everything light although deep in my heart it is never light at all. I have to make them believe, as I fervently believed in them, as I imbued on them the mindset , that there is nothing hard, nothing difficult because it is just a matter of time management. And time management is nothing but taking time to read. And for starters, I made them read Mario Fuzo’s novel “Fools Die” among several, tons maybe, of reading materials. They must pass for they are not fools and they both read almost every book I have read.
Quite a feat I was amazed to take note of. These guys knew everything I knew! I no longer have the monopoly of knowledge in the organization. I can fade or evaporate and nobody will notice that I am gone. And, still there will be people like them who can continue with what we have started.
Both knew however that studying Law was no walk in the park but when one is laughing through it, it might as well be an enjoyable one.
When they enrolled in Law School, they immediately knew that sacrifices would be for real. They knew that the law school is not for sissies, not for the faint of heart, not for dodos, and definitely, not for morons. Legal education unfortunately has been designed only for those with above average IQ. Pretenders are easily spotted since they flunk midway through. Only those who pass through the gauntlet and qualified to take the Bar are the real geniuses.
To pass the Bar is of course another. Those who do, become another specie.
For Mel and Iboy, there is nothing funny or impossible in pursuing a star, after all, they have realized that persistence is the very essence that makes a star a star.
There are prison guards who continued with their studies in law and after graduating, would take the Bar and eventually passing it. In my long and continued career in the prison service, although in quite a long interval, there were instances when we will be delighted with news of those who would pass State Examinations. Of course, there is the usual Civil Service Exams, both in its dated or walk-in phase.
There are State Board Exams too. The Criminology Board, the Penology Exams, the Accounting Board, the Engineering Board, the Nursing Board and the hard to hurdle Medical Board and the most difficult, the Bar Exams.
I remember a prison guard (Atty. Carlos Llaniguez) from Iwahig Penal Colony who passed the Bar Exams. He was feted and praised. Not only was he recognized by his peers in a celebratory matter, he was instantly assigned at the Office of the Director General. I met the fellow right there and prodded him to apply for the Penal Superintendent position. I did not stop there. I went to see the Director (General G. Pangilinan) and advised him to assign the newbie in the legal profession in a superintendent post.
I don’t know what happened next but I was lately informed that the fellow stuck in office work and paper pushing, resigned and went to another institution. That departure ended the possible entrance of a barrister into the command level in the field of correctional administration.
The agency, as it was, had to make do with non-lawyers. Well, it’s fine if there are no controversies but when the crunches come, the institution is in a tail spin. I could only watch the appointing the authority, the Director himself, babbling and nattering defensive lines on TV until he gets the ax.
Now, there is somehow a wind of change, some kind of wishful luck that behooves the Bureau of Corrections. Not only was there a lawyer as Director General , there are three prison personnel who passed the recent Bar Exams! Yes, three. As the saying goes “good things come in threes.” Nothing of this sort happened in the past; hence this could be new and maybe providential.
We now have the new lawyers, as organic as you can see, in our correctional institution: Prison Guard III Melencio Faustino, Prison Guard II Frederic Anthony Santos and Prison Guard Daisy Sevilla-Castillote.
It is time for prison administration to grab the opportunity to make not only history but a legacy at the same time. Hold on to these three Bar Passers. There are vacant Penal Superintendent positions. Require the Selection and Promotion Board to conduct a special deliberation and immediately require the three personnel to submit their application for the Superintendent position. Once taken up, once recommended and once appointed, three Superintendents posting would have been determined and to be manned by lawyers already.
That alone is a crowning glory for the Prison leadership. The promotion of the three personnel would not only inspire the rank and file, it would even spark a movement towards professionalization in the organization.
That could only mean not only a day, but a one fine historical period when Philippine Corrections gets a boost from well trained and State recognized officer corps.