SECTIONS
Saturday, January 19, 2019

Wenceslao: Corruption inside our jails

IN my previous columns, I asked who among the Cebuano lawmakers would at least make some noise in the current Congress after years of them being so-so. I know that the ‘80s, the so-called golden years of Cebu politics, have long passed us by. But I was hoping we could still produce leaders that could make a play outside of Cebu and, in Congress, not merely become members of the committee on silence.

A veteran Cebuano lawmaker, Cebu City south district Rep. Raul del Mar, is still in the House but he seems content in letting the younger ones do their thing. The remaining Cebuano veteran in the Senate, Sergio Osmeña III, lost in the May elections.

That is why I find the recent election of Cebu Province third district Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia as one of the Deputy Speakers in the House a welcome development. She followed the footsteps of her father, former congressman Pablo Garcia, who once occupied the same position years ago. Also getting some positions were first district Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas and fourth district Rep. Benhur Salimbangon.

National politics is now being dominated by Mindanaoans with Rodrigo Duterte from Davao City as Philippine president, Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte as House Speaker and Aquilino Pimentel III from Cagayan de Oro City as Senate President. This is good considering the long dominance of politicians from Luzon and sometimes from the Visayas of the country’s politics. Still, I wish Cebu could produce another charismatic national leader in the next elections.

***

When I was incarcerated in the ‘80s at the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center (BBRC), the old Cebu City jail in Barangay Apas, I heard this word of wisdom being said to us by the then resident ex-convict, the Muntinlupa veteran “Yolly Brown”: “Ang trabaho sa jail guard mao ang pagbantay aron dili ta makaikyas; ang ato sang trabaho mao ang pagpaninguha nga makaikyas.”

There were other things that wizened me up inside, of course. One is that some wardens and jail guards, more often than not, eventually succumb to the lure of corruption inside. At that time, BBRC was less congested and the method of making money less complicated and less daring. Jail personnel took cuts from funds for the daily food rations and from proceeds from gambling and sale of marijuana. (Shabu was not the vogue then.)

So to paraphrase Yolly Brown, “Ang trabaho sa ubang mga jail personnel mao ang pagpangita og makwartahan, ang sa piniriso mao ang paghatag nila og makwartahan samtang nangita sad og pangwarta.” Meaning that corruption inside our jails will always be a continuing struggle. The task of those having supervising authority on our jails is to pounce on these corrupt acts whenever these surface.

I was not surprised therefore that when law enforcers led by Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Chief Noli Taliño raided the Cebu City Jail and the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), they were exposed to the depth of corruption prevailing in the said facilities. The raid was, after all, the first honest attempt in years (or is it decades?) to uncover what was hidden inside the jails. The buildup wasn't overnight. It was years (or decades?) in the making.

I don't know how deep-seated will also be the reforms that would be undertaken inside these jails to prevent a recurrence of the malaise or a relapse. What I am sure, however, is that if authorities loosen up again, the problem would come back to haunt us. Jail personnel will succumb once more to the lure of corruption—sooner or later.

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @khanwens)
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