BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
During the 20th annual assembly of the Iloilo Provincial Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc. (coop, in short), at Punta Villa, Iloilo City March 18, yours truly stumbled into a round table discussion with provincial guards who had endless tales to tell.
Uncertainty faces them as they would cease in three years working at the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC), recently renamed Iloilo Provincial Integrated Jail (IPIJ) which will be fully taken over by the Bureau of Penology and Jail Management (BJMP) of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Iloilo Gov. Arthur D. Defensor, Sr., promised that the different offices of the Iloilo Provincial Government would absorb the displaced guards who throughout their employment in the provincial government have been used to the routine of rendering 48 straight hours jail duty and a rest of 48 hours, part of which they spent to escort inmates to the courts where they earned extra P300 in per diem.
Defensor and the DILG signed last year a memorandum of agreement for a three-year transition period, after which the IPIJ will be fully turned over to the BJMP.
In the interim, the IPIJ will be jointly managed by the province and the BJMP, the former shouldering the expenses of maintaining the facility including the allowances of BJMP personnel.
Provincial guards for the meantime, stay put and continue their services in the detention facility and escorting inmates to the courts for trials and medical check ups.
The road to the transition is fraught with irritants though. Defensor lately warned he would rescind the MOA should he hear again reports that drugs, alcohol, bladed weapons and cell phones were slipped into the cells of inmates, which IPIJ warden J/Supt. Joel Superficial denied.
The more serious problem is the unrest among provincial guards. They used to run the facility but now they have been reduced to the level a little higher than inmates.
Before, they enjoyed the use of bathrooms, lockers, sleeping quarters and mess hall.
During our drinking session, the guards told yours truly that they were no longer allowed to get into places which used to be “theirs”. They had been reduced to, which PNP personnel joke about, as “PSG”, not the elite Presidential Security Group, but “pulis sa gate”.
“Kami pa nga tagbalay amo pa ang nadulaan,” they chorused of the irony of the house-owner being evicted by a new comer.
They still retain their escort duty but while at work at the detention facility, they are only allowed to stay at the premises, at the entrance and external perimeters, they rue. The new managers of the facility, the BJMP people, restrict their use of bathrooms, restrooms, dining hall, kitchen, and sleeping quarters.
Two provincial guards narrated an incident where they were logged by the officer-in-charge (OIC) “left station”, meaning, absent, when to the contrary, both were present. They just got the ire of the OIC who suspected them to have leaked to the media about alcoholic drinks being smuggled into the cells and sold to inmates at exorbitant prices. The news was followed by another tidbit of one BJMP officer seen driving off from jail with sacks of empty bottles for sale to the scrap collector.
Recent development. Forty-five of the guards signed a petition to Gov. Defensor complaining against their superior Atty. Sotelo Gardoce.
“We expect him to defend us but we could not because he is always absent,” rued one guard. “Where else can we turn to but the governor?”
Gardoce has been doing well as Iloilo provincial warden since 2008 until the MOA signing that paved for the entry of BJMP personnel. His experience as a jail warden before he retired from the BJMP translated into improvements in the management of the provincial jail.
However, after the MOA signing, he was de facto demoted as inferior to J/Supt. Superficial, his junior back in his BJMP days, and the latter’s assistant, J/Ins. Jimmy Britanico.
The grumbling jail guards guess that Gardoce might have been confused on which to side with. He has long “pinagsamahan” with the BJMP people who now run the show. He has also pinagsamahan with the grumbling jail guards because of their common employer.
Gardoce avoids that dilemma by not showing his face around, in effect, leaving his guards “orphaned