by Manny Pinol
Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the colorful and controversial Mayor of Davao City, never dreamed of becoming a politician.
A former public prosecutor and a street parliamentarian who joined the movement against injustices in government during the Martial Law years, all that he wanted to be was to be a Sandiganbayan justice.
“To be a justice in the Anti-Graft court was my ultimate dream,”
Duterte told me when I asked him about his dreams when he was a young lawyer.
All that changed when after the EDSA Revolution of 1986, he was appointed as OIC Vice Mayor of Davao City, a position which was first offered to his fiery mother, Soledad Roa Duterte, who declined the appointment.
The lawyer’s keen sense of knowing right from wrong, however, has never left Duterte even when he waded into the world of politics where the only thing that mattered was winning elections at all cost.
Two weeks ago, when the story came out in the media about the corruption in the country’s national prisons, the New Bilibid Prison, in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, I picked Duterte’s mind on what he would do if he had the power to reform the country’s judicial and prison system.
The problem of corruption in the country’s judiciary and the prisons system is very serious, Duterte admitted adding that a total overhaul of the system is needed.
It is very serious indeed.
The horrifying Maguindanao Massacre where 57 people, including journalists, were killed which is still unresolved after four years and reports of the drug “shabu” being manufactured right inside the National Bilibid Prisons are grim proofs of the degree of corruption in the judiciary and the prisons.
Emphasizing that the fair dispensation of justice is the foundation of a strong and stable nation, Duterte said corruption in the judiciary could be addressed by making the tough decision of weeding out corrupt prosecutors and judges.
“When the poor lose out to the rich in the courts of law, we have a very serious problem because they either take the law into their hands or they go up to the hills to take up arms,” he said.
“There should be no second chance. At the first instance, the full force of the law should fall on them,” Duterte said.
“It is easy to know who they are,” he added, a statement which, coming from a former public prosecutor himself, is easy to believe.
Duterte, however, agrees that the campaign to cleanse the ranks of the judiciary of the misfits and the corrupt, however, could only be undertaken by a President with an iron will who has a deep understanding of the judicial system.
Duterte said corruption in the prisons, however, is a more complicated problem because it involves independent “kingdoms” where the warden or the prisons director is the king.
Duterte said the major reform in the prisons system could be achieved once the country adopts a Federal Parliamentary form of government.
“Each Federal Government will have its own federal prison while the State will establish a national penitentiary for the hardened criminals, terrorists and those who committed crimes against the State,” he said.
Reminded of the sad state of the Muntinlupa Prisons where moneyed prisoners bribe the guards to allow them to continue their criminal and drug operations, Duterte the national penitentiary should be moved out of its present location in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila where it occupies about 400 hectares of prime government property.
He said the State Prison should be located in an isolated island similar to the Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay in the United States of America.
“Let’s put them all in an island where only scheduled visits would be allowed and they would have no access to communications facilities,” he said.
“We should have our own Alcatraz where prison rules and regulations are applied to the fullest so that criminals will understand that in the Philippines crime does not pay,” the former public prosecutor added.
Duterte said that only when people begin to understand that they will suffer hardships and serious consequences when they violate the law, will criminality in the country be reduced.
“Today, if you have the money and you have the influence, you could make a mockery of the justice and prison system,” he said.
This, he said, must end.
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