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STAYING ALIVE IN AN INCOMPETENT ENVIRONMENT

la mesa overflow

I am a resident of Quezon City and my house is situated near La Mesa Dam.  As a child, every summer, I would hear regular complaints that the dam is nearing its critical low level and that should the water level recede further, there is danger of deficiency in the supply of potable water for several towns.  This however would go on for a specific period during the year.  When its rainy season on the other hand, the same people complaining of low level of water, would have shifted their complaints on the other possibility.  Their grievance would then be focused on monsoon rains.  Given a day of continuous rain would literally overfeed the streams and tributaries rendering the dam almost bursting at the seams.

This helpless moaning from government functionaries in charge of public works would go on for years on end, annually as a matter of fact.  An instance for want and in another of surfeit.  Years on end, I would hear the same explanation, the same grumble all over again.

I am now in my twilight years and the same gripe predominant airwaves on the matter of drought and floods.  It is as if I lived in a time frozen by inaction, stalled by ignorance and yes, disabled for competence.  Government seemed contented to employ manpower just for the heck and not for the work, just for the nonce and not for the performance.

While most countries in Southeast Asia have already addressed a simple solution to such simple problem, in this country it is as if the people are cursed to live with incompetency.  Some countries, like neighbouring Malaysia have impounded monsoon rains to their advantage.  Instead of wailing for the excess water nature’s fury has deposited on their shores, the government has built a multilayered infrastructure that can be used as express tunnel during dry season and an impounding water station for its nearby farms during rainy days.  Now, that is competence.

Down south, there is an area which is always buffeted by rain.  It is a geographical contour enclosed with mountain ranges and at the center is a strip of flat lands which are virtual pans on which trapped clouds would empty its evaporated water.  Rain showers are abundant all year round.  People in outlying locale would swear that there is already drought if no drizzle would happen in three days.  Because of this natural situation, the vicinity for a time was a virtual waste land, as a matter of fact the only land visible land was no land at all except for the color since the area was made of up of pure mud, a swampland, the depth of which is chest deep.  If there is agriculture to be introduced in the site, it could only be fit for a breeding ground of crocodiles and similar animals thriving in marshes.

When government issued a proclamation for people to use it and transform it into a communal farm, it was largely ignored until government deferred in offering the area further.  Government was also mocked by the people for such preposterous offer.  The area was left to its natural condition, as a stretch of estuary, unfit for agriculture.  It would just remain as a “no man’s land” and remained as a penal facility.

With the entry of private entrepreneurs, the area became a template of world class farm, the biggest banana farm in the planet.  The development not only contributed gross revenue to government, large scale employment in the region, the farm equally invited a host of shady characters egging government to distribute it to them in the name of land reform.

There are ways to improve the condition of the country.  People should never resign in desperation, into fits of silence, plunging into the abyss of ineptitude.  There is enough creativity that can transform environment if only maturity dawns on government service.

The previous generation had gone through so much.  Mine has seen enough.  The next might be the salvation.

 

HOW NATURE CAN RUIN A WELL LAID PLAN

typhoon glenda a

July 16, 2014 would have passed on as an ordinary day although there were announcements that a strong typhoon was already on its way.  There were even no tell -tale signs that an inclement weather was approaching since the sun was shining through and no dark clouds hovering up above.  Government had declared that classes were suspended, a signal for students to flock the nearest malls in the area.  The skies were clear anyway.

Time also to take down notes mostly jokes which I intend to share to my classmates in a mini reunion we planned a couple of weeks ago.  Time to reminisce and again take note of those instances I had with my classmates to add color and nostalgia.  Everything was prepared.  I never even allowed my government function to contribute wrinkles of apprehension on my face.  It must be flawless so that I would be able to project a stress free composure in front of my accomplished friends.  I even wrote on my Facebook timeline that I would be in my inspired poise in their presence.

I was very excited to see up close my childhood crushes!  It was some kind of “back to the future” thing, a time machine when I would experience an adventure almost similar with that which the star-crossed lovers encountered in the movie “Somewhere!”  I do not mean that the reunion implied a conference among romantics, but rather a congress of scholars poring over nostaligic matters.  I was recalling those days when I would volunteer to our adviser that my pretty classmates be spared from cleaning the room.  Their nice dresses and shoes should not be soiled by unnecessary movements, even by rough play.  I would plead our adviser that I would rather be assigned as permanent cleaner, one who will be perpetual scrubber of floor instead of the girls in the classroom.  I succeeded.  My classmates had stable days without sweat, in my case, I became the teacher’s pet with good grades because of industry even if I had never read the lesson for months.  Industry is a universal language in school.

And then, it happened.  At around 2AM, shrieking of metal and lumber joints grew louder by the minute.  There was no longer electricity.  The eerie sound of wind bashing the roofing sheets, intermittent whipping of twigs dropping from each side, there were whooshing and whirring.  Winds packing more than 150 kilometer per hour continuously battering in circular motion.  I thought that I was already in the eye of a giant hurricane, a colossal tornado!

Nature’s fury was imminent at that time.  It had no respect for obstacle.  It proceeded where it was headed.  If an object was not aerodynamic, then it was goodbye.  Physics was everywhere.  It was the only law in operation.  I could no longer reach out to technology.  All my electronic gadgets went haywire.  There was no way I can get out of the fix.  I merely had only one option: to pack my things in plastic so that if worst should happen, as when the roof of my quarters would cave in or be blown out, my personal things would not be soaked in flood waters and damaged.  Meanwhile, I must find a good shelter to keep my fate from being challenged by the gods of calamity.  I tell you, it was never fun if one is half awake and in pitch darkness!

The thought of missing the reunion came to mind.  All the preparations, the notes, the excitement that went with it, would be kaput, would go pfffft.  Nobody messes around with nature, not even the best well laid plan.  Katrina in USA made its government look like a tribal flock.  Yolanda in the Visayas made mince meat out of government leaders.  Fukushima in Japan became virtually a ghost town amidst a challenging tsunami directed against technologically savvy Japan.

In seven hours, I have to endure nature’s fury.  After the period, the whole place, my place, was in total disarray.  I could only reflect on what happened on those areas hit by an equally devastating typhoon.  After an hour, there was total silence.  According to news bulletin:  “54 died, 100 wounded and P867 Million worth of infrastructure was damaged and P2 Billion agricultural crops were destroyed.”  If I will volunteer to submit my own estimation on what happened to my things, the amount might spike a little, but the ruin it brought into my commitment, to attend the mini reunion, spelled a disastrous content, if not a historical nightmare.

And then calls for rescue and meetings became a blaring invitation from my agency.  As a senior officer, I must get into the loop of action.  I must be there where the action is.  I must contribute whatever it is that should be conducted.  In other words, ignore the universe and concentrate on the world of prison.

That did it.  Days on end, I must be near the policy maker.  The curse of a high office.  Forget your person and act as if one is never troubled.

On the whole, I failed to see my classmates, and worst, I had a futile moment regaining an important segment in my life to have a fleeting instance with the prettiest classmates I had once upon a time!

 

 

“POLITICAL PORNOGRAPHY”

political porno

Philippine Daily Star columnist Alex Magno, in one of his progressive columns, spritely labelled the on-going quest for truth behind the PDAF and Malampaya controversy.  When a certain Janet Lim Napoles was held to account for it as a consequence of her relative’s revelation, she was wont to tell what she knew.  She kept quiet and projected innocence through a veneer of secrecy.  Her silence however disquieted a sector, the media and the intrigued people in particular, and they would rather force her to disclose what could have been the center piece of corruption in government.  Accordingly, she must show to the world and bare everything she knows to uncover the truth behind the allegation that she pocketed billions of people’s money in collaboration with fellow thieves in government service.

After a while, and it was during that period when she felt danger to her health and mayhap, her physical condition could turn worse and eventually become fatal, she was convinced to reveal what she knew.

Considering the fact that by revealing and baring people, mostly those coming from the legislative and executive woodwork of government, Napoles, after she consented, would be blamed for inducing what columnist Magno would term as “political pornography.”  And she submitted a list, various lists, that would detail her role and the participation of people she claimed to have transacted with in the course of using government funds for purposes considered illegal and illegitimate.  After her tell-all scene, the reverse of her former silent demeanour, she would find herself mired in deeper controversy.  Her previous silence made her a villain, her eventual cooperation made her a villain twice over.

Everyone involved in the controversy and even those observers who wanted to peep into the submitted lists would rather have their own list.  As a result, there was a time when passing off a list became a national past time.  The list would include a ridiculously large entourage of personalities not only from the legislature but also in show business.  Suspicion grew that there were efforts to confuse the public and therefore lower the credibility of government in dealing with its own cleansing process.

And why not?  She was late in her offering.  She was forwarding information, muddled according to some analysts, which has already been surrendered by whistleblowers.  Stacks of documents, soft and hard copies have been surrendered yielding notes and references very critical in establishing where and how the offense of plunder was committed.  Even in the absence of a Napoles‘cooperation, a case can still proceed and could be pursued with evidences sealing the fate of those involved in the nefarious act.  The recent ruling of Ombudsman of Napoles’ and those who filed motions dismissed their very defence citing that their submissions were merely rehashed of previous motions which have already been decided.  That should pave the way for the indictment of those charged accordingly.

With a roomful of evidences, there is likelihood of conviction.  Never mind the dilatory tactics and the projection of technical niceties to delay the inevitable, the point is that the case should lead towards an end.  And it would definitely proceed to the distribution of penalty.  At the end of the day, it would be the lawyers who would win not the hopeless cases but the first half of what has been looted, they who kept their cash registers ringing one defence after another.

And at the further end, it would be the lowly inmates in the prison camp where these convicts would eventually land.  They who would accord special treatment, they who would confer safety from common threats, they who would pave the way for their smooth adjustment in a place where the scums and dregs of society converge.  In this place, the other half of what they squeezed from the coffers of the people’s pocket will be generously spent.

When everything has been said and done, when penalties have been served, they would all be lily clean, nude as it was, not only for paying society their debts through enforced social disability but whatever has been kept would have been splurge to keep their minds and soul together for a period up until they are released.  It would be back to basic.  Back to zero.

 

WHAT TO DO WITH THE NAPOLES LIST?

napoles

First, we must check the authenticity of the affidavit she submitted containing the list of people she dealt with in her illegal financial machinations of the people’s money.  According to Janet Lim-Napoles herself, it is everything she knew.  It included how she formulated plans to facilitate and squeeze funds from government.  This, according to her, did not pass through the rigors of ingenuity but was taught to her in a tutorial manner by government functionaries themselves.  If government is a bank, it was breached as a consequence of “inside job.”  This according to the fellow whose hand was caught in the cookie jar or more precisely, whose cohorts ratted on her running away with the cookie jar so to speak.

Let us review what went before.  There was this lady who was charged for maltreating her errand who happens to be her relative too.  The relative went further and disclosed the extent of her other criminal activities, the relative even admitting that he was a knowledgeable accomplice for the illegal activities.  The illegal detention case hardly made a roar but the disclosure of the other cases was a bomb, a controversy which would besmirched if not tarnish not only names of legislators and prominent personalities but the entire system of governance of the country.  The controversy would wreck havoc on the integrity of the country’s budgetary procedures especially on the matter of dispensing people’s money.  The cost was a staggering multi- billion peso loss pocketed and distributed among those involved.

If the countryside is reeling in poverty and those in urban areas still submerged in penury, it was because its liquidity is trapped on the personal coffers of a few.  The economic lifeblood of the people are filtered and secured by a few conspirators.  Politics was used to defraud the people.  And those handling sensitive posts in government were willing schemers in a game that would consign public service into a joke.

Second, we subject the Napoles affidavit to a test.  The lawyer of Napoles was of course behind the drafting of the affidavit and those with background in legal education would counsel their client that preparing a studied affidavit is not a way to disabuse information through allegations.  It is a legal truism that for every allegation made, it should be supported with references or evidences.  One of Napoles’ lawyers was even suggesting that the so-called Red Book (a compilation of records and receipts) be submitted also for the entire world to appreciate in lieu of the forwarded affidavit.  With this, Napoles can be assured of her significance in filing cases and charges against those involved.  From there it can be surmised that she can wiggle herself.  Such a persuasion made her disclosure questionable.  In her own estimation, she claimed that she came “from humble beginnings to being an ‘ordinary’ businesswoman; from scam player to ‘scapegoat’ of lawmakers.”  The fact remains that while can point at her mentors as mastermind, her dutiful participation made the financial charade whole through a conspiracy—that is, defrauding government is not a one-mind act but an orchestrated activity.  The crime of one is the crime of all.

Third, the Napoles list is an instructive introduction on how to dupe government.  Her affidavit could be used as case template.  While it focused mainly on how little her guilt is in pushing the issue more against her fellow conspirator in government, it does not reduce the impact and gravity of the offense made against the people of the Philippines.

Fourth, the list should go down in history as testimony of how lowly elected leaders have consciously cheated  and desecrated their constituency to the point of sending the people’s future into the pits of hopeless paucity.

BROWN OUT

brownout

Sometime ago, the reference to the term is “black out.”  Meaning, there is no current available to light or energize any electrical device.  It was changed to “brown out” to soften the implication.  Nonetheless, the effect is the same:  people used to run their business, go about their daily routine, are disrupted and yes, almost unsettled.  Electricity has become a necessity which government must provide the people either through its initiative or through its policy in enjoining that sector providing such service to the people.

 

I once had a visitor from Japan last week who was surprised when lights went off as we were having our coffee.  There is no such thing, electrical failure that is, in Japan.  During the ancient times in Japan perhaps but at this point there is none.  Japan’s electric services also are cheap because they are using nuclear energy, the one which the Marcos regime built in Bataan but was mothballed as a political statement.  Almost all advanced and developed countries; especially neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia have addressed power failure.  It is only our country, like some remote barrios in Africa where energy matters are still uncontained.

 

A strong government faced with regular brown outs has no other recourse but take over the energy services.  During Marcos regime, it confiscated that firm which was distributing electricity erratically.  He even jailed the owner!  During Ramos presidency, he allowed the private sector to come in and de-monopolize the distribution of electric power.  Then legislation was introduced limiting this specific sector from engaging in generating power, limiting it only to the established sector, even at the cost of poorly engaging the requirements, the growing requirements of the business community.

 

As it were, the common man is left at the mercy of reliving the past, when electricity was just being introduced, when power was merely a figment of imagination.  The worker must hold down his performance, business should slow down, traffic must grind to a halt, hospitals must construct more chapels, schools must review their classroom exposures to the barest minimum.  Everyone must adjust.  Everyone must sacrifice.  This, while government is in the process of locating who and what to blame.  Meanwhile, we are back to Stone Age.

 

In my case, I have to dust off my good old typewriter and revisit the shelf in bookstores for the “touch and go” eraser and carbon paper.  I also would try to let go my gadgets which are heavily dependent on electricity—-like cell phones, laptop, ipod, aircon, tv, microwave, washing machine, CCTV etc.  If government cannot do anything about restoring power in a normal way, then I might as well forget it to ease tension and evade depression.

 

I will just cover my gadgets, properly pack it until such time government realizes its role, its powerful role, in governing a country and realizing the importance of electricity in putting the country back on the road of civilization.

 

Until such time, I have my matchsticks ready, with some candles and perhaps dynamites if push will come to shove.

 

(Note:  Mindanao is presently suffering from daily 6 hour brown out.  And it is not even in one sitting for the day.  The period is scattered all through out the 24 hour period.  I will not be surprised if one day, Mindanao will manifest its own destiny as another State since there is no organized and functional leadership concerned about rendering basic services to its provinces.  Sad.)

I FAILED TO CHANGE GOVERNMENT

barb wire

In 1977 when I graduated with two degrees, one from Letran College and another from the University of the Philippines, I thought that joining government service would give me a rebel’s chance to change the impression about the lackadaisical nature of government.  I even went to the extent of convincing my fellow graduates to give government a chance to improve itself through our sacrifices. For me, activism is not challenging or insulting government service, it is not lambasting the people running it, it is not criticizing the system, it is not even attacking the entire bureaucracy.  Personally, getting into the service, penetrating the innards of the system, effecting change in whatever form means genuine  and unpretentious activism.

I tried my best.  I must admit I was in a way too imposing and at the same too trusting.  I tried to be consistent in all my undertakings.  One day, I was the one giving direction, in another day I am situated at the end of receiving line for instructions.  Short of even being called a straw or sipsip, I pursued programs through dint of ingenuity.    Initiative after another however never created a significant mark. If at all something is introduced, it is more out of audacity of those benefited rather than an institutional recognition. Worst, all my efforts afforded the system to have a way to discard me in the process.

Whatever it is that glistened whenever I hear “serve the people” suddenly evaporated in the mist of routine.  Work in government seems to be a long stretch of time, an 8 hour grind to fulfill what could have been completed in an hour’s time.  The rest of the period would just be an occasion to think of sidelines and rackets; to ruminate on matters to make money; to make something out of well, nothingness.

Work in government is almost everything covered in black and white.  Even in areas where operations are concerned, it must be supported by reports, reams of endorsements, handful of attachments.  Never mind how work has been done as long as the report beautifully would capture the concept, essence and manner of the mission.  The effect is not necessarily of import, it is how it explained that matters.  After all, government would rather listen than look.  This has been the milieu on which I have virtually subsisted for the last three decades of my career in public service.

In my mind, what is important on the other hand are the clientele.  In my case, the prisoners.  I could live through without recognition, although I have my own approach in getting one through promotion, but my primary concern is the prison community.  It is the universe of my career.  It is not about how comfortable I am in my work area; it is not about how much increase I would be receiving in terms of salary and allowances; it is not about the number of seminars I would attend so that I could enhance my curriculum vitae and improve my credentials; it is not about how influential and power I could be in the prison service; it is not about me that I am concerned about.  It is the prisoners.  The prisoner in particular, the subject of my career, the basis why I work in the prison service in the first place.

I have literally circumnavigated all penal colonies, the big ones, under the Bureau of Corrections.  I have been the top gun in New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City (four times), Davao Prison and Penal Farm (four times), Iwahig Penal Colony (twice), San Ramon Prison in Zamboaga city.  In the course of my stint in Davao, I was one of those who pioneered the establishment of another corrective facility for women in Mindanao.

I have as yet to fulfill much changes through advices and active participation in the administration and handling of prisoners.  I have as yet to see whether the prison service I entered in 1977 has changed through some works I have contributed at present time 38 years later.  In my estimation, much as I wanted to offer more, I have done little.

If it is an exam that I participated in, my personal rating would be low.  In the academe, it is more pronounced if one gets a low mark.  It means that I failed.

DO WE NEED A NEW PRESIDENT?

leadership

 

What must a person possess to qualify for the highest post in the land?  A pedigree? An excellent educational  background?  A heroic streak?  A principled mind?  A radical advocacy perhaps?  A successful business career?  Or enough money and resources?

Anything goes as a matter of fact.  Before, a government post was a career that has a period of gestation.  It is not just a matter of luck, of being at the right time and right place, nor is it something hereditary or something to be won by chance as in gambling.   There is a foundation, a learning immersion in the art of politics; on the finer art of negotiation, transactions and public relations.  It is a knack for projecting the correct posture.  It is giving breath to integrity, honesty and commitment.  It is like giving life to a principle.  Well, an evolution however happened along some historical paths.

There were mutations.  There were marked changes, some transformations, alterations although there were traces of back tracking along monarchical lines.

The reality has grown apart from what is ideal.  One who wanted to engage his fate by running for the highest post in the land must have a war chest almost equivalent to a lifetime of savings ready to be splurged and invested in the course of electoral campaign.   One must be prepared to be pauper.  One invites penury if he has limited resources.  And the humiliation that goes with losing.   The cost is not only terrible but appalling to say the least.

And after all these computations on potential expenditures, threats to life and overcoming strains of sacrifices, what does one gets in the process?  A dreaded post?  A reserve seat in the pantheon of history?  A legacy perhaps?

National leadership is a calling.  It requires a mental faculty made of steel.  It demands full time.  It is a profession that requires a highly organized mind.  The role would not fit that of a sissy or a bum although they share a similar stripe.  It is only perfected for those who have achieved a fully developed  and matured world view.

And where are we going to rank our present leadership and perhaps assess those who came before him in this scale?  Before we speculate, let us see the present socio political condition of our country first.  Is government responsive to the needs, demands and desires for good governance?  Are we better off if not at par with other neighbouring countries in Asia?  Can we safely say that the State is fulfilling what is prayed for in the Preamble of our Constitution?

Now let us analyse.

The poverty line in the country remains the same.  We are still a far cry from New Zealand.  In NZ no one is situated below this line.  As a matter of fact, there is no sector considered poor in that country.  But let us not fret about it.  There are still other economies we can still compete.  Although to a certain extent, a war ravaged country in the 70s, Vietnam has begun to climb higher than what appears to be our record development profile already.  Malaysia and Singapore, China and India, Thailand and HongKong are players we could no longer overtake.  They have resources like oil which they can tap to jumpstart a progressive economy.  We are left to fend our resolve, this time, in relation only to Cambodia and some islands in Micronesia.  While the country’s resources are depleting, the flight of workers in other foreign  lands would shore up the economy and keep it buoyant for some time.  But that has nothing to do with stately affairs and good government.

At least for the moment, our economy is seen as consistently above average despite the influx of disasters and controversies.  A temporary relief and wish fulfilment.

On the local front however, national leadership is confronted with monstrous challenges coming from the ranks of government officialdom.  Corruption has taken a new tact, attacking from inside.  A picture perfect scenario on what can be referred to as “inside job.”  Government service if left on its own without the progressive leadership would eventually implode.

Several presidents since the country has declared nationhood underwent a series of transformed political postures as soon as they get the real picture of where the country is going.  There were pressures from international agencies, from partisan peers, from personal connections.  For those at the top, every minute is like crossing the river using the thread.  There are several occasions when one must issue a resolve on borderline problems where one receives a tap and expression “damn if you do, damn if you don’t.”

There is a measure of goodness in what national leadership should exude.  For the doubting others, everything seem based on evil.  Finally, the team comprising national leadership would have nothing to express except that they were there as necessary evil.

The present leadership exemplified by Aquino is a struggle of men of principles belonging to different sectors.  The bad news is that there is confusion in the ranks of stakeholders in government.  But there is a silver lining, a streak of good news.  Corruption is addressed head on.  If only because there is honesty displayed at the top, the rudder of administration is firmly handled.

It is still a far cry for people to accept their role, to realize that political power grows out from their growls.  A few more summers may be devoted to learning such realization.  It began in 1986 People Power and it is still a dormant authority ready to explode.  Filipinos by nature are never given to rage except when personally challenged.  They smile even in adversity.  A number of them even sell their votes to the highest bidder.

On the whole however there is need for a visionary whether they like it or not.  Fate would decree that there should be one leading the people to their deserved destination.

 

PAG ASA: ANG BUHAY AY WEDER-WEDER LANG

weather forecasting

There is brain drain in one government agency named as Hope or Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag asa) as one editorial points it.  Of course, the agency concerned would deny it even if their superiors were on leave or in places somewhere on lecture circuit.  Indeed, there is no prosperity in predicting weather unless one gets a commission for procuring gadgets, tools and what-have-you.

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But is it prudent to have a government unit in charge of the weather?  What is it for when merely tuning in on cable TV, specifically on CNN, one gets a complete update of the weather; and, not just the weather of the country but the weather in the entire planet.

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Government maintains an agency, which tries to predict with accuracy that which defies precision.  Nature can only be tentatively analyzed in terms of its obvious manifestation but cannot be tamed to be understood.  So why waste government resources when we could farm it to some other services where it is needed most like in education, medical research and related social work programs.  The weather bureau or Pagasa is already an anachronism to be kind about it.  Unlike any other kind of persuasion where the result of performance can be gauged from the effect of their direct intervention, weather forecasting is like, well, an expensive way of guessing; or, an activity which government spends funds just to be informed of guesswork.

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Further on, the extent of Internet linkages could immediately share accurate meteorological findings from countries with advanced equipment.  One gets an update on the weather locally and internationally at a click of the mouse, why wait for a government-sustained agency that likewise depend on obsolete gadgets and rely more on Internet too for fresh notes.  Sayang lang ang official posturing.  The agency ought to be absorbed in the academe where geophysical science can prepare scholars to be trained for emergency and rescue operations during calamities.

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Whenever there are storms, which Pagasa would fail to relay, it is the head of the agency that gets the brunt as if kicking out the officer would restore the balance of the weather condition.  The common man knows exactly how his environment behaves.  Barrio folks likewise know when calamity is to occur.  Local government units have records and historical documents on how their area is affected whenever there are natural disasters.

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In China, there is a university where a small zoo is organized so that behavior of animals is observed meticulously in relation to the weather condition.  Animals have great, unsullied and sensitive senses; it can appreciate a forthcoming natural aberration like earthquakes, volcanic eruption, storm and other natural occurrence with some kind of precision.  In Western countries, they used satellite feeds to determine a specific astronomical movement secondary to homeland defense and other military preparation.  On the whole, almost all countries in the world rely on history to situate their preparation and in understanding the concept of survival.

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In our country, we have history, we have records, we have clippings and testimonies on calamities that have visited us frequently.  We must therefore be wise in understanding its onslaught and effect.  We have a working idea on when storms are to occur.  We knew where the next flood would happen.  We are also aware that cutting down forests would spell flash floods and landslides.  Inability to plan urban areas necessitate aggravation of unnatural catastrophes.

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The problem however with history is that it is easily forgotten.   Kaya heto tayo ngayon, ang buhay ay weder-weder na lang!

REPUBLIC ACT 10575 (Otherwise known as “The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013”)

bucor law

This Act is a consolidation of House Bill 6887 and Senate Bill 3335 and was approved by the President on May 24, 2013.   It has become a law known as RA 10575.   As such, it is described as an act strengthening the Bureau of Corrections and providing funds therefor.  Accordingly, the “State shall provide for the modernization, professionalization and restructuring of the Bureau of Corrections 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.”

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The IRR to be formulated should not only conform with the intention of the law but it should likewise address what has been operative as principles previously considered in the Prison Law of 1917, Presidential Decrees during Martial Law and the provisions of the 1987 Administrative Code.  

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Note that under Prison Law of 1917, the foundation of penal institutions were highlighted including the powers and jurisdiction of prison administration.  Presidential Decrees were likewise issued determining the status and organization of penal colonies into regular prisons.  The 1987 Administrative Code went overboard with the renaming of the Bureau of Prisons into Bureau of Corrections.

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Note further that Corrections is a field that comprises institutional and non-institutional approaches.  Institutional Corrections includes Prisons, Jails, Locks ups, Detention Centers, Custodial Camps.  Non-institutional Corrections includes Probation, Parole and those within Conditional Pardon.  All these are subsumed under Corrections.  Hence, when there are incidents pertaining matters of corrective importance or significance, immediately the agency concerned is the Bureau of Corrections—as the name suggest.  In reality however, it is not how it was defined.  The Bureau of Corrections is only concerned about Prisons.  Jails fall under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, an agency directly under the Department of Interior and Local Government.  Provincial Jails are under the Provincial Governors.  Lock ups under the Philippine National Police.  Detention Centers under law enforcement agencies like NBI, BI, and DSWD.  Custodial camps under AFP.  Probation and Parole is supervised by the Probation and Parole Administration, another agency under the Department of Justice.

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Then, finally, a law on correctional reforms was issued.  Contemplated in newly signed RA 10575 is the safekeeping and reformation of national inmates—those sentenced to more than three years.  Not included are those who are unsentenced yet and those who were released through legal intervention.  In other words, what is intended to be strengthened is the agency involved in the maintenance and management of prisons only.

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RA 10575 intends to restructure the agency, Bureau of Corrections, into a uniformed bureau.  As such, personnel will retire at the age of 56.  And its mandate is to be pursued through directorial structure:  The Directorate for Reception and Diagnostics, Directorate for External Relations and Administrative Directorates.  Specific provisions in the law deliberate the strengthening process through training (establishment of Philippine Correctional Academy), upgrading of qualification for those designated in managerial positions in penal colonies, requirements for promotion, standardization of base pay and benefits and annual reporting system.

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RA 10575 is a step towards a progressive direction to improve the criminal justice administration through a segment of the corrective service.

MASONIC CONFESSION

masonic emblem

I used to spend all my afternoon break in Fort Santiago when I was still a student of Letran College.  It was just a 10 minute walk from my school.   I would appreciate those mementoes of Dr. Joe Rizal specially his belt, a number of talismans, books, shirt and pants among others.  As for his sartorial taste, I thought that those were my clothing too.  Rizal was about my size and I could relate how he stood from ground up. Actually I am taller by a couple of inches.   And then there was this compilation of his letters to his priest confessor requiring him to retract and surrender his beliefs and membership from masonry.  That was my first appreciation of the word masonry aside from its operative meaning.  Furthermore, I learned that almost all of Rizal’s colleagues in the Propaganda Movement were all masons.

Contemplating on Masonry

After graduation, I thought of inquiring about it.  My father was mum about the organization; my mother was even against it.  Since they could not answer the why, I persevered to know more about the fraternity.  My first and last stop was the Grand Masonic Lodge in San Marcelino St., Taft Avenue, Manila.  It was a very imposing and a vintage edifice with a number of ancient looking sculptures.  It looked impressive as it projected quite a number of symbols from vines, to flowery shrubs to mean looking artworks.  I stopped short however from entering the massive entrance door made of solid acacia and thought that it would not served my youthful and inquisitive mind.  I would rather enter it later if I would have the stomach for such intellectual adventure.  Meanwhile, I would merely coast along some fraternal orders composed of my peers in college.

Masonic membership

Membership in Freemasonry never left my mind though.  But I had no idea how to join it.  Until one day, several years later, a friend would accompany me to a Masonic lodge.  I would be impressed on how they would deal with applicants.  First, the candidate must be a confirmed man, without defects and with a clear state of mind.  He must act and apply on his own without any reference from members.  The aspirant however is required to adhere in just one principle in his application, a belief in a Supreme Being.  There is no space in the organization for atheism.

How a Mason becomes one

What made me fulfill my application as a hopeful member was how those who took up my cause deliberated on the form I submitted.  I was informed that in the adjacent room where members assess the contender, there is a hypothetical scenario to be offered among them.  Accordingly, the assessor has a beautiful wife and three lovely daughters.  The assessor must leave for abroad for three months.  The question is:  Will you, as that assessor, allow and trust the applicant to take care of your house, where your wife and kids are staying, while you are away for a duration of time?  After the question is thrown, two small marble stones are handed over to the assessors, a black and a white one.  A box is circulated and with complete secrecy, the individual assessor must slip into the compartment either one of the stones.  A white one signifies trust and the black one means distrust.  As soon as the box has been filled, the presiding assessor empties the box in front of them all.  A single black marble coming out from the box means that the applicant is rejected.  His name will be sent to all lodges here and abroad indicating that his application has been denied.  It indicates that he is barred from entering the craft anywhere.  That is where the idiomatic expression of being black balled came from.

Masonic profile

I thought that it was a nice way of recruiting.  No wonder, whenever a mason sees another, he felt that he is always with his brother; that he is with someone whom he can fully trust.

My application was approved and I was initiated as an Entered Apprentice into the fraternal order (Andres Bonifacio Lodge, District  # 199, Capitol Masonic Lodge, Kalayaan Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City).   From there, I took note of all the reading materials and read everything that pertains the brotherhood; from its ancient history to its current symbolical summation.  I was some kind of a Dan Brown (of the Da Vinci Code fame) already before the novelist started his literary exposition on the Craft.

Masonic views

Masonic literature is rich with allegorical contents.  Its central perspective is on wisdom.   It has its own interpretation of sensitive philosophical issues.  It is almost a religion although during conferences, no member is allowed to discuss religion and politics because of its divisive considerations.  One specific religious understanding which turned off the Church is the Masonic view of Jesus Christ.  The Church subscribe to the belief that Jesus is God who became a man.  The Craft looks at Christ as man who became God.  From there, the Church had misgivings about masons.  And why not take the latter explanation as feasible.  It is respectable for a laborer to finally become a manager, than for a manager to become eventually a laborer.  Anyway, the schism in terms of understanding was carried into a historical battle to the point that masons are not even allowed to be buried in the hallowed grounds for Catholics.

During the Commonwealth period, President Manuel L. Quezon, a mason himself, chose his cabinet according to their respective proficiency and qualification—they also must be masons.  Result:  Quezon’s administration was the most respected, revered and competent in the history of government service.  Quezon would even be emboldened to quip, “I would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than by foreigners!”  After his term, ironically, unqualified leaders came one after another and eventually, government became hell.  But that is another story.

For me, Freemasonry is about limitations.  One must have a personal compass on which he would be able to determine his own capabilities.  And a square, so that from there he must carry on with confidence accomplishing all his concerns in a straight and proper way.  At the center of these two precious jewels is his belief in the Almighty.  Having these points in his mind, the mason proceeds to spend the rest of his life in brotherly love, relief (charity) and truth.

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