ANECDOTAL NOTES ON PRISON DIRECTOR GAUDENCIO S. PANGILINAN JR.
This early, newly appointed director of corrections Gaudencio S. Pangilinan Jr., is proving to be a different breed. Not unlike the prison leaders before him—with apologies for contrasting comparisons which is so apparent from the impressions given at an earlier time—who were unfortunately depicted because of mis-orientation or bias, and were seen as haughty and pompous. Although it can be said that they all share the same persuasion, similar world outlook and most probably a shared understanding on their responsibility—since traditionally, prison leaders were chosen from retired law enforcement agencies or the military, there were instances when their respective actions bespeak of some variation, a distinction if you may.
Consider the following instances.
Director Pangilinan , a week after assuming command, toured a satellite prison camp around New Bilibd Prison and was stunned upon seeing a uniform splayed on the barbed wire perimeter fence. He broke the convoy and alighted from his service vehicle. The security personnel ringed the director’s position. Everybody was standing on attention. The Director boomed and asked who the fellow who laundered and dangled the prison guard uniform on the fence. A prisoner was promptly ushered in front of the Director as tension mounted. Asked if he was the one who washed and hanged the clothes on the perimeter fence, the prisoner could only tearfully admit. At which instance, the Director pulled out his wallet and took out some bills, handing it to the prisoner with instructions to buy more hangers for the clothes. Had it been another Director, either the prison personnel is bawled out, or the prisoner is given a disciplinary reminder. Director Pangilinan this early showed the kind of person he is, a very understanding, a very matured leader.
In another occasion, as the Director marches towards the main gate of NBP administration building, several security personnel immediately stood at attention and gave their principal the mandatory salute—snappy, crisp and genial. All lined up and straight like candles. The Director however noticed one of those standing at attention wearing a different attire. The fellow was wearing fatigue military jacket over a white shirt and civilian pants. The Director whispered to the fellow if he was a Cafgu, to which the prison guard slowly bent his head in embarrassment. The Director left the formation and proceeded to walk through. The prison officer went back home and changed his outfit and came back in full uniform. Had it been another Director, the poor prison personnel would have gotten an instant tongue lashing if not out rightly whacked. Director Pangilinan is an ideal leader, considerate and sympathetic. He deserves not only loyalty but allegiance of a fledging organization.
In an organization like the prison service, where there are more intrigues than people, coming incessantly from prison personnel to prisoner, the presence of a new leader is an occasion to express sentiments and prejudice. There will be a multiplication of factions, each haggling for attention and partisanship. The prison service never lacked a period in the past when various sides would rig each other’s neck just to get a space near the ear of the leader. As a consequence, disorder is encouraged amidst order and deception becomes the order of the day. Director Pangilinan never played into the scheme nor had shown any vulnerable part in his armour of management. Had it been another Director, the entire organization would have been spinning wildly for speculation. Director Pangilinan showed the kind of superior training and upbringing he had with such candor and strength of character.
Once Director Pangilinan inspected the area inside the maximum security compound and while on tour, rain fell heavily. Guards and inmates scuttled and dashed to get umbrellas and immediately covered the prison official. Director Pangilinan noticing that most of those in the party were dripping wet, obliged the people to get rid of the umbrella as they would wade through the downpour as part of the inspection undertaking. Had it been another Director, the security detail would have been bawled out for not bringing an umbrella. Worst, I have never even seen any Director doing rounds even during inclement weather unlike the present Director.
I have had that rare opportunity to observe Director Pangilinan up close (only a handful of officers could stand the imposing intellectual presence of the man), capturing every detail of how his mind works. The man is definitely clean. He is damn honest. I never knew that there are such people employed in government. He hates graft and corruption like his battlefield enemies. He is disgusted with incompetence. He could not stand indifference in the public service. I was even thinking that the fellow grew up and was schooled in some monasteries. President Aquino, the appointing officer, could have pulled a master stroke in appointing Director Pangilinan at the helm of the Bureau of Corrections. While there were sceptics on how the military man would conduct himself, he has proven his worth. After only a few months, he succeeded in transforming the agency, cleaning the prison community and establishing one completed project after another as if he has been in the prison service for several decades already.
This is not propaganda. Director Pangilinan even shun, loathed and rejected any expression of bootlicking and subservience. I merely wanted to outline a better man, one whom I consider possessing the attributes of a person who can tame corrections, I, having been under several administrators since 1977. Director Pangilinan like former Director Meliton Goyena, both PMAers and Army man, exudes the confidence of competence,the bravura of a great warrior, an intellect above the ordinary, candid and upright well except for the fact that Goyena assumed command all by himself and without any coterie of advisers as confidential staff.
Director Pangilinan’s entry into the prison service has been greeted with doubts, opposition and protests. Accordingly, he still has a motion to defend himself with and to concentrate on. His appearance in media was met with so much condescension and grovelling. But the man cannot be annoyed and badgered. He has a full understanding of his responsibility and too matured to tackle petty issues. He has a grand plan in the prison service, his superiors at the Department of Justice are enthusiastic to resolve problems in prison with him at the helm and at the way he carries himself, the neutrality and sensibility, his conscientiousness and savvy, assiduousness and care, could only point to the direction that this leader will succeed where others could only offer suspense and trepidation.