"Here's how jail congestion and other ills can be, once and for all, solved."
As a journalist for almost 70 years, I can say I have met them all—the greats and the near-greats, and personalities I cannot forget.
One of the unforgettable and interesting personalities, who in fact became one of my best friends, was Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, younger brother of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos and brother in law of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Kokoy was perhaps the most misunderstood personalities during the martial law regime. But I respected and admired him.
Did you know that not a single case has been filed against him despite all alleged abuses during martial law?
I followed the career of Kokoy as Philippine ambassador to the United States, Egypt and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and then as governor of the province of Leyte.
Many do not know that Kokoy was a regular at the 365 Club. Despite all the jokes that other regulars were hurling against the martial law regime, Kokoy did not utter a single defense in protest of them. Nor did he stop us. In fact, many times, he even laughed along with us!
What I liked about Kokoy was his demeanor during the martial law days. He was always friendly and down-to-earth.
When Marcos died in Honolulu, I went there to commiserate with Kokoy and the First Lady. In fact, I was with the group that brought the remains of Marcos back to the Philippines. President Fidel Ramos allowed it via Eva Air. It was Kokoy who took care of our group of newsmen.
When Kokoy died, I was the only journalist who attended his wake until his burial.
My wife became close to Kokoy. Her mother was from Tacloban, and her first cousin was married to the cousin of Kokoy’s wife.
* * *
The new director general of the Bureau of Corrections, Gerry Bantag, continues to undertake reforms at the bureau and the New Bilibid Prison in an attempt to end anomalies.
Bantag’s idea of reform is to replace all the security guards and BuCor officials, including corrupt doctors who sell hospital privileges to moneyed inmates.
The question is, how sure is Bantag that all these new faces will be less corrupt and more honorable than those they replaced?
The answer is obvious—he cannot. The lure of money will always be there.
Since there is already a plan to relocate the NBP together with the Correctional Institute for Women to Camp Laur, Nueva Ecija, why won’t Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra revive this plan? Remember, it had been approved in previous administrations. Three bidders had already pre-qualified, but former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II junked it. I wonder why.
The whole plan is there, and Guevarra just needs to implement it.
I do not see why President Duterte should not proceed. All that are needed are sincerity and political will.
* * *
The Palace should not play down the sickness of President Duterte called myasthenia gravis—a malfunctioning of the nerves causing neuro-muscular weakness.
Spokesman Salvador Panelo said that it was an ordinary disease. But doctors will tell you it is actually rare, and possibly fatal.
The billionaire Aristotle Onassis died of this disease.
Any ailment of the President is a national concern. There should be regular medical bulletins to keep the public informed.
* * *
Santa Banana, at the rate the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police are raiding suspected prostitution dens that cater to Chinese clients, one would think the Chinese have truly made the Philippines their playground. Prostitution, after all, is illegal in mainland China!
This is a double whammy for the Philippines since those offshore gaming operators are also illegal in China. Meanwhile, they are proliferating here.
So what is the Bureau of Immigration doing?
The Chinese prostitution trade is operated globally by syndicates. They are able to come here easily owing to the “visa upon arrival” scheme, made possible by President Duterte’s desire to attract Chinese tourists to the Philippines.
We can stop their entry by requiring them to secure their visa only through the Philippine Embassy in Beijing.
My gulay, if we Filipinos have to go through the rigmarole to secure visas to mainland China, why do we make it so easy for them to do the same in our country?
The Chinese must really think we are so hungry for their money.