When a Director of Corrections “Falls”


Edsa Revolution spelled a positive effect in the prison service, although it came a year later.  The forgettable administration of the first Cory appointee, a certain Col Edmundo Cea, was replaced by an exceptional PC bright boy, Gen Meliton Goyena.  Cea’s administration had so much gaping holes and irreversible abuses principal of which was his penchant for violence and later in grossly twisting prison rules.  He even allowed the reclassification of those in death row into minimum security status, a category applied for prisoners about to be released in a year’s time.  The presence of maximum security prisoners outside the camp raised alarms.  Worst, these prisoners were brazen enough to extend their criminal activities in the free community.  Crimes were committed by these reclassified felons in such crowded areas like Luneta and other tourist spots in Metropolitan Manila.  It was his administration that also gave birth to the first prison staff association, as their activism was awakened by his disrespect to time honored prison rules.  His regime was to be terminated after 6 months.

Gen Meliton Goyena’s administration would usher in a period of fairness and competence.  But his strict disposition would not allow certain consideration.  That attribute would form into a monstrous tumor that would gnaw at his accomplishments and later on would swallow whole his integrity as the best prison director in the annals of the prison service.

The officious travail of Goyena administration began in an innocently issuance of an ordinary security order normally given by a prison superintendent but in that case by his office.  It has been said that the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa is one of the seven prisons and penal farm in the country and ideally should be governed by a Superintendent.  Considering the fact that the Office of the Director is also in the same site as the Office of the Prison Superintendent, the latter’s role is eclipsed by the Director of Prison and subordinated accordingly.  The Superintendent would virtually act only as commander of guard and the Director acting also as Superintendent.  When this happen, it is the neck of the Director which is at stake on the chopping block.

Sometime in the late 80s, a notorious (as far as US embassy is concerned) but for most of those he has assisted, resourceful, offender was admitted in the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa.  The front line facility for the reception of national prisoners is the Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC) —where newly received prisoners are examined, subjected to a battery of tests, observed and eventually, classified.  After 60 days, the inmate is sent to serve time in a regular prison facility.  A convoy of seven brand new coasters led by a limousine, and backed by several police cars and military truck with loads of police and soldiers arrived at the RDC grounds.  Top notch lawyer and book author Atty. Antonio Coronel came out of the lead vehicle and went straight up to see the Chief of the RDC facility.  He was closely followed by a slim youthful looking person, trimmed moustache and a healthy crop of straight hair.  The fellow was in hand cuff and accosted by a group of policemen and a number of armed civilians were trailing closely.  The prisoner was Nonoy Bala, the so called legendary forger, the alleged virtual golden arm, the man behind several successful migration pursuits at a time when the country has banned its citizens from migration to foreign lands. Accordingly, Nonoy can whip up a document which can take anyone, anywhere in the world.  But the long arm of the law, well US law for that matter, caught up with him and he was charged and later convicted to serve time equivalent to one’s youthful period under maximum security category.  Nonoy Bala had countless of friends; mostly relatives of those he helped obtain passports and related requirements for a successful foreign residency.  One of them is Dr. Avelina Alcantara, retired Chief of the National Penitentiaries Hospital.  Dra. Alcantara is related to the Chief of the Prison Reception and Diagnostic Center, then Chief Ven Jo Tesoro.

Ideally, a prisoner cannot extend his stint at RDC for more than 60 days unless the chief of the division would retain the person under his custodial supervision.  Tesoro, upon the request of his aunt, Dra. Alcantara did just that.  Nonoy Bala was retained at the RDC facility.  But intrigues would play a bad game on Nonoy and would even exert its malicious overture up to the office of the Director of Prisons, until one day, the latter would issue an order to the Chief, RDC for inmate Bala to be transferred to the feared maximum security compound of the penitentiary.  A specific order for a specific inmate.  Quite an exceptional turn of events because normally, the Director only supervises through issuances of command policies and orders to his officers but never to micro manage prison administration.  Then NBP Superintendent Totaan getting advice from one of his lieutenants, then security officer Juanito Leopando, reported to the Director that inmate Bala had overstayed at RDC already and should have been transferred to the maximum wing.  The catch here was that once inmate Bala is transferred, his resources could be squeezed and it would be a lucrative period for the custodial officers in the area.

Inmate Bala was informed on the Director’s order and was warned that in the maximum security camp, he would literally be shaken down, frisked of his resources and bled for more.  That he should not heed every request if he wanted to prolong not only his sanity but also his hope of getting released someday.  Inmate Bala took the order of Director Goyena as a personal affront, a vendetta, and a form of harassment.  Such would even merit vengeance from Bala’s end as the story would unfold later.

Bracing for more pressures, inmate Bala sent his sympathizers to pawn everything he owned so that he could arm himself with so much resources.  He would try to buy off gangs and if need be anyone who can loyally play for him whatever he wants.  He wanted to attack Director Goyena from behind, in the same fashion, he experienced.  He would pay handsomely anyone who would risk charging the Director and there were lots of volunteers.  Complaints were flowing, cascading from one sector to another.  There were charges coming from media, from politicians, from church people, from non-government organization, etc.  Bala would underwrite everything to exact the proverbial pound of flesh.

Over at the Director’s Quarters where female prisoners were designated as house helpers, a certain inmate Thelma Villanueva (whose husband was her co-accused and also serving time in the Penitentiary), was suspended from the assigned task at the Director’s Quarters and was sent to the Board of Discipline for theft.  When she was returned to the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong, her fellow inmates would jeer her up for the misdeeds when her assignment was the most desired by every female inmate in the camp.  Thelma, in response and in protecting her integrity, confided that she never committed theft but it was just that the Director had already grown tired of her from being a sex slave for months.  Her confession reached all the corners of the female ward until it landed on the awareness of her husband in Muntinlupa.  The husband, Rudy Villanueva, swore that he would challenge and assault the Director if given a chance.  During this period, the runners of Bala were quick to grab the situation.  Villanueva was asked to have a conference with Bala, so that the former could exact vengeance for his wife.  Bala was offering Villanueva to take care of everything until Director Goyena could be prosecuted.  Villanueva was hesitant since he might be rubbed off considering the fact that the Director is the most powerful person in the entire prison community.  At this instance, Villanueva went to see Msgr Ernesto Esperidion for guidance.

Msgr Esperidion took note of the inmate’s problem and went straight up the see the Director to get the reaction and response.  The priest had been a repository of complaints, gripes and grievances coming as it were from the thousands of prisoners, in that Villanueva’s confession could have been one of the cases which could be settled by way of counseling.  But the other sector must have to be informed so that the other side could also be heard.  When Msgr Esperidion took the case to the attention of Gen Goyena, it was misinterpreted as over emphasizing.  That the Prison Chaplain was only being used by prisoners to glorify and invent yarn of tales and lies against the person of the Director.  Msgr thereafter, went to see the inmate and after confronting the inmate on the facts, dismissed the charges out rightly.  Inmate Villanueva repaired back to his barracks convinced that he was no longer sure of what he was fighting for.

But the gang where Bala’s support and sympathy rested would never take Villanueva’s retreat a good ending.  Gang members persisted in courting Villanueva, even offering him protection, money and privileges.  Villanueva, who is himself an active gang recruit, glared at the prospects of receiving oodles of money and perks, went along the plan to charge the Director of Prisons.  Bala’s gang retained a lawyer to assist Villanueva.  But when Director Goyena got wind of the possible assistance that Bala extended to a potential complainant, Villanueva (Remember that it was Msgr Espiridion who brought to light the involvement of Villanueva against the Director), inmate Bala promptly grabbed the opportunity to have an audience with the Director.

Bala got the nod of the Director when he offered to intercede for the resolution of the case which Villanueva wanted to pursue.  It took some time to twist incidents.  Villanueva must project that it was Mgsr. Espiridion who goaded him to fight Goyena so that inmate Bala could appear as an angel.  Villanueva had so much silver coins for the effort courtesy of his gang.  (And like Judas Iscariot, he would eventually recant for his act, but this would take years.  After he was released several years later, he would die by hanging.)  It was then that Msgr. Esperidion got involved at the receiving end of a twisted impression.  While he was trying to patch things up and even successfully subdued Villanueva from charging Director Goyena, he was at that instance being suspected as the principal fellow of fanning the flame of Villanueva’s anger.  Bala was even rewarded for his concern.  Bala was reclassified into minimum security status and allowed to build a spanking bungalow at the nearby lagoon of the prison reservation.  He even volunteered to act as henchman of the Director on his effort to get back at his enemies.  And at that time, Msgr. Esperidion was virtually seen as the suspect.

Then Assistant Director Jess Villanueva (no relation to the earlier named inmate Rodolfo Villanueva who was principal complainant) also wanted to ingratiate himself to Director Goyena, instead of straightening the matters, merely flowed with how the gangs strategized everything, or he may have been conscripted to by playing roles in the scheme.  As a surprise move, Assistant Director Villanueva informed the Director that an anonymous report (coming from conservative religious sector which Asst Director’s wife had numerous friends) pointed to a certain Edna Gundayao as Msgr. Experidion’s mysterious lady.  That the lady once awarded or threatened may spill the beans on her relationship, scandalous relationship with the priest.  Director Goyena did not bite it.  For him, the belief that his secretary, Lanie Bascos, was what the priest was aiming for and not another.  It was jealousy that pushed the priest to use a prisoner to get back at him and claim the secretary as reward.

Nonetheless, inmate Bala has to show off.  He must have to perform and accumulate points for Director Goyena.  He must have to cement his ties with the top official.  He went to the office of the Director and relayed the information shared by the Assistant Director.  In that, inmate Bala has already talked with the concerned lady and that she was willing to be interviewed by media on her illicit affairs with the priest.  Inmate Bala, in addition to paying off the lady also volunteered to the Director that he could likewise buy the couple (prisoner husband and prisoner wife) off to achieve peace and harmony.  That made inmate Bala an important ally of the Director.  It goes without saying that Bala became untouchable and could enjoy the perks and privileges while serving time.  (Inmate Bala, after a few more years, had completed his sentence and would be released spending the rest of his prison term in style.)

On the other hand, Msgr. Esperidion found himself at the end of media scandal, after one front page news after another featuring him in various poses as he was hugging the tabloids for days. Accordingly, a separated woman was charging Msgr Esperidion of abusing her trust.  This was news; a staple for gossip and one that oftentimes get premium media treatment.  Naturally, the priest was scandalized and was called by his superior to explain.  When the lady after being used was already junked by her backer, she went to the priest to confess and shared her mercenary past against him.  The priest learned that an inmate was used to spread lies against him and that the inmate, accordingly to the lady, was doing it to repay the Director of Prisons.  Upon learning the true account, Msgr Esperidion spent no time analyzing but went straight to the Bishop’s Palace and reported everything that has happened to him and his “fight” in the Bureau.  Since the Church has been dragged into the scripted scandal, the Cardinal phoned the President to consult the matter for appropriate action.

The prison gangs were all excited. What they were all waiting to see was a real showdown.  Their efforts finally paid off.   It was the prison chief vs. the chief chaplain!  It was the battle of good vs. good!  Leader vs. leader!  Prison officer vs. prison officer.  There was nothing in the equation that would pit good vs. evil, it was good vs. good.  Evil was nowhere, evil was nonexistent.  That was the genius of gangs; they could push war without being involved.  And worst, they could play around with characters as if they are master puppeteers!  The prison community was very vibrant witnessing two brilliant young executives (Director Goyena and Mgsr Espiridion) throwing everything in their respective directions everything that stinks!  It was a Punch and Judy show, one after the other.  It was a comedy with tragic ends, where there were no villains only laughter in the end.  It was a zanier version of Dolphy and Panchito, of Pugo and Tugo, of Tim and Hardy.  And the gangs were the show’s producer!

Gen Goyena resigned.  Mgsr Esperidion went on leave.  And the prison gangs had reasserted its power and strength not only in the prison community but all throughout the entire prison administration.

For others, it was referred to as a slapstick comedy.  For Director Goyena, it was for him a fall.  For Mgsr. Espiridion a spiritual renewal.  For the Bureau of Corrections, it was back to board A.


About Ven J. Tesoro

writer, prison officer, artist
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1 Response to When a Director of Corrections “Falls”

  1. gem buenaventura says:

    sir, can you write something on how you’ve known – supt. gregorio g. agalo-os?

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