Relocate the national penitentiary

"What happened to that sound plan?"


In my almost seven decades as a journalist, I have received awards for my work both in print and broadcast media. But my most memorable award was my conferment as a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa in March 2006 by the Angeles University Foundation.

It was an honor I least expected. I am very proud of it because it came at the apex of my journalism career, which is more than a profession to me. It's a calling.

Here is what AUF said about my conferment:

“Having displayed a deep sense of social responsibility as a lawyer, journalist and political analyst for more than five decades now, and having distinguished himself as a fearless advocate of press freedom and human rights for which he was cited as Journalist of the Year and Best Television Commentator in 1957, Best Radio Commentator in 1967, awardee for Best Talk Show and Public Service Program on Television, Lifetime Awardee as a journalist for over 50 years and Lifetime Awardee as founder and first president of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas; and

“Having demonstrated sterling leadership qualities in the print and broadcast media which culminated in his recent election as Chairman Emeritus of the Manila Overseas Press Club, the country's oldest media organization established by foreign correspondents based in Manila after World War II, and having assumed important positions in business, education and professional organizations, which provided him the opportunity to serve and share his professional expertise and management acumen...”

They say that for anybody to be conferred a doctorate degree, honoris causa in whatever profession he or she is in, it's the culmination of one's career.

I now have the right to call myself “Doctor” as a prefix to my name, like many of the greats and near-greats. But I won't do that, since I am also a lawyer. I would rather call myself Atty.

* * *

In an interview, Senator Bong Go said that newly appointed Bureau of Corrections Director Gerald Bantag said 95 percent of the bureau's officials and personnel are corrupt. Bantag wants to replace them, wholesale.

Bantag also wants to have some Bureau of Jail Management and Penology officials he could trust to join him, so he could revamp the BuCor.

I wonder: Will the replacement of the corrupt 95 percent clean up the bureau?

I don't think so. The problem is the system itself, which makes people in the agency prone to corruption. A system that allows for human discretion and intervention breeds corruption. At the BuCor, this comes in the form of people who compute for Good Conduct Time Allowance, among others.

This is exactly why some 1,914 individuals convicted of heinous crimes were given their freedom. This was the Pandora's Box that showed how rotten the bureau is.

Bantag may overhaul the entire BuCor and install new people there, but so long as human discretion and intervention is present in the implementation of policies, corruption will remain.

When I say that the system breeds corruption, any government agency for that matter will have this problem, because humans will always have feet of clay.

Still, corruption can be minimized. For one thing, the determination of GCTA can be automated. Prison hospitals should also be overhauled so that inmates cannot just avail themselves of “hospital rest” when they want.

Prison guards should also be prevented from colluding with cops who recycle illegal drugs.

These can be minimized if the New Bilibid Prison is relocated to a new facility, preferably in Nueva Ecija.

The NBP is already heavily congested. It was built for 2,400 inmates, but now there are 24,000!

It is unfortunate that former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre scrapped the proposed P50-billion facility in Laur even after three conglomerates—San Miguel, DMCI and Megawide—had already been pre-qualified.

* * *

Santa Banana, after all the ridiculous proposals to solve the Edsa traffic nightmare, finally we now have a workable proposal to build an elevated expressway.

This unsolicited proposal comes from San Miguel conglomerate president and COO Ramon S. Ang, a visionary.

Ang plans to build a 10-lane expressway over Edsa. It will start from Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City to Samson Road in Caloocan.

Former Metro Manila Development Authority chairman and now Senator Francis Tolentino has endorsed the plan.

The Department of Transportation should have no problem approving Ang's plan, knowing his background in infrastructure building. 

Topics: Manila Overseas Press Club , Edsa traffic , Department of Transportation , Metro Manila Development Authority , Bong Go , Gerald Bantag , New Bilibid Prison
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