The Need for a Second Look at the Philippine Prisons

The Need for a Second Look

at the Philippine Prisons

by Apolinario Villalobos


It cannot be denied that the Philippine penitentiary facilities are crammed to the rafters. This is not an exaggerated description of the state of prisons in the Philippines, especially, in Manila. It is purported that in some facilities, the inmates have to maintain a schedule so that everybody can have a chance to lie down when it is their turn to sleep, while those waiting for theirs have to stand or sit it out the whole night or whole day. There are facilities with tolerable occupancy, which means that though cramped, there is no scheduled lie-down sleep.


The need to look at the country’s penitentiaries should not only be confined in their condition, but also the records that must be reviewed. The penitentiary facilities are supposed to reform criminals, unfortunately, there are some who found their way inside as a result of miscarried justice, so, what is there to reform? The victims are usually those who cannot afford lawyers to fight for their rights. Ironically, some of those who are guilty are saved by their money. In fact, there are stories about victims of this injustice who are able to breathe again the air of freedom, after wasted long years of languishing behind bars.


 And, there’s the overall system. Some influential prisoners who are serving their sentence seem to be just spending vacation, as they can still use cellphones discreetly and enjoy the luxury of electric fan. Some stories about drug lords going on with their business, though already inside the facility, sometimes find their way on pages of tabloids. Some can even leave the facilities as what the once detained former Governor Leviste of Batangas did.


If the Commission on Human Rights  can be so discerning about criminals caught in the act and who are shot when they fought back, hence, question the  lack of discretion in the ranks of the police, why can’t it take a hard look at the squalid state  and tainted system of the country’s penitentiary facilities to cleanse their image?





The Colonial Mentality

The “Colonial” Mentality

By Apolinario Villalobos



When before, imported goods that proliferated in the Philippines came from the United States of America and Europe, today, those coming from the mainland China have practically flooded all sales outlets in the country – from the wet market to shopping malls, and items that range from toothpick to signature apparel and gadgets.  To a certain degree, this phenomenon today may be attributed to the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO), among the signatory members of which is the Philippines. But even before the WTO made its appearance as a coercive factor in the lives of the Filipinos, the inclination for anything imported is already present.


This attitude can be observed in the way Filipinos flaunt goods that came from abroad. In this regard, overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) who come home would take pains in stuffing their luggage with gifts for family and friends even if they would mean additional expense for the excess weight. Some of these homecoming Filipinos however, have learned to be practical by buying gifts upon arrival, at the duty free shops of the airport terminal or reputable shopping malls where a section is devoted to imported goods.


This kind of mentality, however, may sometimes result to funny surprises. A friend, for instance, who works in London, and who had a limited time to pack gifts, practically, just hurriedly picked up shirts and shoes that caught his fancy in a mall.  At their home in Manila, when the recipients checked their gifts, some found that theirs are with “made in Manila” beautifully stiched on the brand tag! Another friend who went to mainland China to avail of a cheap group tour package, brought home candies that were bought by bulk from one of the souvenir shops of The Great Wall. When checked at home later, candied tamarind and jackfruit wrappers were marked in fine prints with “Bulacan, Philippines”.


Homecoming Filipinos who would pack their luggage with gifts justify their act by citing the “cheap price” – almost give away. Yes, that is true, because they hold on the foreign currency, but once the figures are converted into local currency, the same prohibitive peso equivalent will come out. Add to that the effort factor and the excess weight that have to be paid, and still, the same excess weight to be paid in local currency if they are taking connecting flights to their provinces. There is a big difference, if they just hold on to their money and splurge them in their provinces where currently, big international malls are already operating.


An interesting story is about a relative whom I  advised to buy gifts when she comes home. She did not listen, but instead, filled one of her luggage with chocolates, candies and canned goods. She had four checked-in luggage but upon arrival in Manila, she failed to claim the one with the gifts. She was told that it was misrouted so she was asked to allow at least two days until it has been traced. She went on with her connecting flight to our province. After four days, she was able to claim the luggage with almost melted chocolate bars and candies that got lumped together due to the warm temperature, and canned good with dents. She learned her lesson.

Ang Pagmamagandang Loob

  • Pagmamagandang Loob

    Ni Apolinario Villalobos



    Likas na sa Pilipino ang pagkakaroon ng magandang kalooban, isa sa mga katangiang nagpakilala ng lahing Pilipino sa buong mundo. Kaya nga ang sinasabi ng iba, maski umabot sa puntong uutang, gagawing ng Pilipino upang hindi lang mapahiya sa bisita. Lutang na lutang ang ganitong ugali lalo na tuwing sasapit ang pista. Ang nakasanayang ugali kasi ay ang pangungutang ng iba para lang makapaghanda sa pista at bubunuin naman ang pagbayad ng utang sa loob ng isang taon o bago sumapit na naman ang pista. Ang madalas na marinig na dahilan ay “minsan lang naman sa isang taon kung magkaroon ng pista”.


    Ang ugaling ito ng Pilipino ay madalas ding abusuhin, maski ng kapwa Pilipino, kaibigan man o kamag-anak. Isang halimbawa ang ginagawang pagbisita ng mga galing pa sa ibang bayan o probinsiya, at ang pagtigil ng kung ilang araw sa bahay. Wala sanang problema kung ang binibisita ay mayaman at hindi humahabol sa budget. At, sana ay nakapagsabi rin ang bisita ng talagang pakay para malaman ang tagal ng pagtigil, nang sa ganoon ay makagawa ng paraan ang maybahay sa paghanap ng perang padagdag sa budget.


    Dahil napapanahon na naman ang bakasyon, may mga maaaring gawin ang mga bisita upang hindi naman masyadong makabigat sa bibisitahin. Ang isa ay ang pagdala ng mga “pasalubong”  tulad ng bigas, gulay o kung anong maaaring makabawas sa gastusin ng maybahay. Kung walang madalang pasalubong, ang bisita ay maaaring magkusang magdagdag ng pamalengke o siya na rin mismo ang mamalengke kahit minsan lang.  At sa unang araw pa lang, dapat sabihin na rin sa may-ari ng bahay ang tagal na ilalagi.


    Isa na ang pagmamagandang loob ang pinakamaganda sa mga katangian ng Pilipino. Malaking bagay ito sa ating kultura kung mailagay lamang sa tamang ayos ng nagpapatupad at ng nakikinabang. Ibig sabihin, huwag magmalabis sa pagpakita kung hindi kaya dahil ito ay nangangahulugan na ng pagyayabang, at huwag abusuhin ng nakikinabang, upang makaulit pa sa ibang darating na panahon. Sa simpleng paalala: huwag mayabang…huwag umabuso.