NOW that the Duterte administration has officially taken over, pronouncements made take on the character of policy, not just plans.
One such plan is to effect much needed changes in the New Bilibid Prison, the state penitentiary in Muntinlupa.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has some ideas on whom could best act as director of the Bureau of Corrections. He also believes members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police should replace prison guards, albeit for a short period, to disrupt the culture of familiarity—and corruption—among the inmates and the officials tasked to rein them in.
We remember all too clearly the raids conducted by Justice Department officials on the prison compound during the previous administration. We were aghast that certain inmates enjoyed privileges—luxuries—despite their conviction and their final sentences. Some of the VIPs lived in their own “villas” and had access to communication devices, cash, weapons, drugs and women, among others. Some get special passes to leave the compound—negating the entire idea of corrective justice through deprivation of liberty.
In fact, the raids and the depravities unearthed in them were featured in a crime and law enforcement show that ran in Asia. Unfortunately, the impression left by the documentary was that order was restored and the privileges stopped after they were discovered.
We are aware, however, that after the initial surge of public disgust and token administrative changes, the culture seeped back into the prison system.
This brings us to where we are, now that President Rodrigo Duterte, nicknamed “The Punisher” by some news organizations, came to power. After assurances that he knew the bounds of his position—a fact not quite apparent before—Duterte and his team now have the rest of us anticipating his next moves in restoring order in a flawed system, even as he struggles to strike a balance between achieving his purpose and still upholding the rights of others.
We expect to see a corrected correctional system under this administration.