(ON THE BOOK “STORIES WORTH TELLING FRIENDS”)
The book “Stories worth telling friends” written by Gen Meliton D. Goyena is a mixture of autobiographical essays, self-healing as it were and more of a confessional book. It is not about praises but it is more sentimental. It waxes a historical period where he made his presence felt and it provides opinions on issues at it touches a lot of his concerns, both personal and social.
At the end of the book, the chapter “Downfall at the Bureau of Corrections”, author Goyena wanted to make a clean breast as he spells out details on his appointment at the top of the corrective service. (Since he was Director of Corrections for five years, it was already a term worthy of a good leader.) And, how he restored competence in an otherwise mismanaged agency of government—which was then the Bureau of Prisons (now Bureau of Corrections). He single handedly laid down the premise of good governance, well, literally, since he assumed office all alone without the trappings of a proud presidential appointee. Among all prison directors, Gen. Goyena came in without hangers-on, without any coterie of kibitzers, without anyone even assisting him. He drove his car all by himself and went straight up to the office of the Director and served his appointment papers to the current director whom he intends to replace. After a few official bantering, he was there reviewing documents as the man at the helm. His strength as a leader was already appreciated on day one.
It is unfortunate that author Goyena would describe his stint in the corrective service in a chapter “Downfall at the Bureau of Corrections”, but for those who worked closely with him, it was never a downfall at all. It was even a rennaisance for the prison service! He took over an agency which has been ailing, maligned and abused. The fledging agency on his assumption as administrator has been ignored and neglected for years by the entire bureaucracy. He brought life and prestige into the organization. Gen Goyena rode on the crest of Edsa revolution and he was the symbol of change which Cory government wanted to impose. And impose he did notwithstanding the fact that an earlier Cory appointee was a big frustration and a gross disappointment. He saved the day for Cory government (which at that time had been at the receiving end of deplorable criticisms) and the agency subsequently under his supervison became a standout among offices under the Department of Justice.
There were trivial moments and irritating incidents in the course of reforming an agency and those were minute and grouchy edges in government service. One cannot please everyone specially so when one must have to practically overhaul a graft-ridden institution. Gen Goyena had his shares of intrigues and complications and had to dodge a lot of machinations and numerous plots. He was savy and well kept, gentlemanly and well, a ladies man. The way to pull a person with such sterling qualities must use Machivelian techniques. Gen Goyena was not administrator to a seminary or an academe of gifted individuals, he was managing a community of serial offenders, pure predators and social outcasts. He must have to overcome the regular pains enveloping the facilities and rehabilitate the incarcerated humanity. Falling short would mean failure, succeeding however would mean victory for the career but a sacrifice for one’s peace of mind.
Author Goyena pointedly reflected in his memoirs the villains of his career in the prison service but was silent on the true manipulators, his real enemies. (The real enemies actually are behind a façade, very anonymous and hidden in secret conclaves within the gang controlled prison cells.) The prison community is such an exclusive club, mafiosi in orientation and shrewdness, the core of its existence. If a good leader takes over the reign, the gangs are apprehensive, the underworld from within is disturbed. The gang bosses must concoct a strategy to displace anyone with an honorable persuasion. Gen Goyena as prison director has been placed at the cross hair of this mission. The strategy is to identify players who can take on roles to actively destroy the leader. Deception, which has become an expertise in a community subsisting on lies, must have to be applied. Gen Goyena was projecting himself as a no non-sense figure, must therefore be pulled down and as a matter of course, his reputation must, by all means, be dismantled. A successful Goyena would mean the deterioration of gangs and eventually, syndicates would face extinction—a costly situation and an unfortunate proposition for the underworld. The gangs through its network in the religious unit operated on full time until finally, they have recruited a number of sympathizers into their fold, principal among them was a progressive chaplain, Msgr. Ernesto Esperidion including a number of religious pastors. The stage has been defined and the cause of action determined.
Most of those characters which author Goyena mentioned have linkages in the prison community, either as prisoners serving time or those who have served time already. These were the pawns used clandestinely by gangs out to impair the competence of Gen Goyena, the prison director. The gangs have extensive networks and political influences not to mention the fact that they employ a good number of supporters in and out of government. With resources at hand, they can wreck anyone they pleases to. They rejoiced at the sight when prison officials collide and would grab each other’s neck. It was a spectacle enough to blur attention on their illicit trade inside prison. At a time when Gen Goyena was having a hard time confronting trivial charges, amplified by media and other sectors, the drug trade, illegal machinations and prison rule defiance were at its height. It was a difficult period for the agency then. That would even trigger the resignation of Gen Goyena as director.
If I may propose to the good author of the book and a little amendment must be done, not necessarily on the level of proof-reading, because there are tenses, syntax and spelling violated also which I would attribute to excitement in publication, the chapter DOWNFALL AT THE BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS should be changed into DOWNFALL OF THE BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS. It is not Gen Goyena who lost but it was government that lost him. The Bureau had it share of leaders later, all came from different persuasion in the police and military but all of them have to scour the field, sink their teeth into prison affairs and feel the pulse, a set back of six months on the average, before they could launch whatever programs they intend to pursue. (Gen Goyena started correctly on day one, an exceptional feat for a new comer). This is an exacting period which means that the hidden minds in the prison community have already gained the edge. It is not surprising to find that the real force running the affairs in prison is not the one appointed Director of Corrections but those inside the prison community itself—the gangs and its efficient network!
The day Gen Goyena resigned as Director was also the day the downfall OF the Bureau of Corrections began.
By Ven Jo Tesoro , currently Superintendent of Davao Prison and Penal Farm
(NOTE: VJ Tesoro was promoted to Penal Superintendent IV by Director MD Goyena in his final year in the Bureau of Corrections, 1991 and was designated NBP Superintendent. Supt Tesoro knew that syndicates operated which as a consequence, successfully alienated Director Goyena. While handling NBP, Supt. Tesoro moved towards the abolition of gangs but the succeeding administration instead of following the prescription, relieved him instead. No one bothers to rock the boat of gangs anymore. For those at the helm, It is not only imprudent but lucrative; at best, it is also not strenous on the career. It is worthy of note that in Davao Prison and Penal Farm where Supt. Tesoro is presently assigned, there is no such thing as gangs.)
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