Why are Filipinos so shocked about prisoners with connections getting a get-out-of-jail pass? That’s just stock-standard garden-variety Filipino way-of-doing-things at work there. According to an “intel report” quoted by Senate President Tito Sotto, “buying of good conduct points inside the New Bilibid Prison exists.”
Sotto’s intel revealed Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials receive millions in exchange for Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) award to convicts as stated under Republic Act No. 10592 or the Revised Penal Code.
Shocking, right? Then again, is it really? That’s really no different to the wanton and incoherent way Filipinos manage most of their governance processes — from issuing drivers’ licenses and jeepney route franchises to releasing cargo from the docks and deciding on whether or not one gets disqualified for election rules violations. These are all processes with clear guidelines and clear criteria applied to the cases subject to these. It just so happens awarding GCTA happened to involve high-profile crook Calauan ex-mayor Antonio Sanchez. But before him, like all the crooked stuff happening within all these administrative processes, it comes down to who you know.
So, in the Philippines, whether or not you get a GCTA award or a ticket for a traffic violation has nothing to do with how well-crafted a law or set of guidelines is. It comes down to the all-too-familiar question:
Alam mo ba kung sino ako?
If we are going to get all shrill about this latest circus surrounding how people guilty of heinous unspeakable crimes somehow suddenly get “good conduct” passes out of jail, we need to be consisted with that shrillness. There are people too who get maimed or killed by drivers who paid their way through the drivers’ licensing process, people who die from a lifetime spent inhaling diesel fumes because the Land Transporation Office (LTO) allowed millions of smoke-belching vehicles to remain on the road, and people who spend the equivalent of a murderer’s prison sentence stuck in traffic because residential enclaves where “important” people live are above zoning and right-of-way rules.
Indeed, the whole character of Philippine society is a macrocosm of this latest Antonio Sanchez circus. Most disturbing of all, the way attention is paid to it and solutions about it discussed is subject to the news cycle and the whims of influencers’ personal “trendiness” radars. What the Philippines needs is a more modern, more systematic and more intelligent way of prioritising issues and the solutions needed to address these. We cannot keep relying on “trending hashtag” activism to do that prioritising for us.
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