You would think that given the public outrage over the discovery that certain inmates have converted the Muntinlupa penitentiary into a genteel vacation retreat, retribution for those accountable for the sorry state of affairs would be swift and sure.
But no, there is as of now no immediate will to change or reverse the losing situation. The nation must bear a few more indignities:
First, like all Administration appointees who stubbornly cling to office despite scandal and public demands for their heads, Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayu, who is directly responsible for Muntinlupa administration, is in no hurry to pack up and go home. He has brashly told the media that he is willing to relinquish his post, but only if he is ordered to do so. “I serve at the pleasure of the justice secretary,” he said.
Public office as a matter of pleasure
Second, “Serving at the pleasure” is one of the most enduring clichés of the Aquino Administration. It is code for clinging to office, no matter what. It is a signal to President Aquino and any appointing authority to tough it out and stay your dismissal.
The cliché absurdly turns public office into a matter of pleasure for the appointing authority. It has nothing to do with pleasing the sovereign in our political system — the people in whose service every public servant serves.
Perversely, the cliché has been turned on its head by the appointing powers into a tool to gall the public and prove how powerful they are. I believe it is this furtive pleasure that prevents President Aquino from firing people outright and accepting their resignations. In addition to his personal belief that their departure would be an admission of failure by his leadership.
De Lima covets senatorial slot
Third, the catch in Bucayu’s case – his ace in the hole, as it were — is that the appointing authority is none other than the “mistress of hyperbole” herself – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
As many will remember from another scandal, de Lima is the one who bragged about having “truckloads of evidence” to prove the crimes of graft and plunder against opposition senators and pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. She followed up that extravagance with the claim that the cases were “a slam dunk” – alluding to the most spectacular and emphatic move in basketball. But now that the cases are in the Sandiganbayan for trial, the truckloads are turning out to be pedicabs. The prosecutors have no guns that will fire. The lawyers for the defense are scoring all the points.
De Lima ordered the raid on New Bilibid by the NBI, and she reaped the early plaudits for the exposure of the illegal activities in the penitentiary.
But she has adamantly refused to fire Bucayu, Not surprisingly, Bucayu has claimed total ignorance about what was going on in Muntinlupa.
He declared that he did not know the Himig Pagbabago Studio and Music Academy had been built at the maximum-security compound by convicted robbery gang leader Herbart Colangco and had recorded there an album.
Bucayu knew nothing about luxury villas, the guns, drugs, sex toys, millions of pesos in cash, a jacuzzi and other amenities that were being enjoyed by the privileged inmates.
The man absolutely refused to accept responsibility for the situation at the penitentiary.
The most that he conceded was a willingness to quit his post – a check which he knows will never be cashed by de Lima, who is eying a senatorial slot in 2016 and will milk this issue for every ounce of publicity.
Policies of other countries
To foreign observers, the very idea that prisoners are living it up in Muntinlupa is incredible. They thought they had seen the height of Filipino penal ingenuity when scores of inmates in Cebu transformed themselves into dancing wizards, ala Michael Jackson.
Except in banana republics, they tell me that responsible officials suffer any of the following deserts in other countries:
Being thrown under the bus — In the US, if they are close allies of the powers-that-be, they are “thrown under the bus”, meaning that they are sacrificed, for the greater good of the party and the administration.
Death by execution – in some totalitarian societies, like North Korea, offenders are summarily executed or fed to the dogs. In China, there is the added penalty today that one’s relatives are also made to suffer.
Long prison sentences — In most modern democracies, offenders are put on trial and sentenced to long prison terms.
Turning around a losing situation
How do you turn around a situation as dysfunctional as this? Is there a way back?
In the finest book I’ve read on the subject, Confidence, How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter discusses persuasively how an organization – a corporation, government, or non-profit organization — can turn a losing situation around.
There’s no quick fix, but there are some essential steps that must be taken.
The first stone or first step is “face facts and reinforce responsibility.”
Kanter writes: “Accountability is the first cornerstone of confidence. When accountability crumbles – when troubles provoke denial, or people cover their own mistakes, or find an enemy to blame – winning streaks end….
“To shift the cycle from losing to winning, leaders must develop accountability – the discipline and responsibility of the best teams.”
Kanter cites five key elements in unwinding denial and setting accountability in place:
Straight talk about problems and expectations; The courage to admit responsibility for problems; Open dialogue and widespread communication; Clear priorities and attention to details;
Performance feedback – the mirror of accountability.
Kanter’s book reads like an analysis and diagnosis of the Aquino administration and its shortcomings.
Our national situation today is not inevitable. We can stop and reverse the slide.
The important thing is to begin at once. Now na.