Davao Penal Colony: History and Prospects

DAVAO PENAL COLONY
A View of Prison Rehab from the Prism of Corporate Farming and other concerns

Davao Penal Colony was established in 1931 and has since been the hub of correctional upheaval and violent struggles to sustain the incarcerated humanity for decades to follow. It was a period of turmoil. It was a remote jungle carved from the rain forest north of undivided Davao Province, eastern side of Mindanao. It was founded during the Commonwealth era, administered by General Paulino Santos, its first Penal Superintendent, on whose respectable name a province southern most of Mindanao would be named in his stead, Gensan. Stability came into a reality subsequently only after a viable prison training and work program had been determined.

The penal colony had an aggregate land size of 29,000 hectares composed mainly of undulating forest cover, highly vegetated by hard wood and almost a complete jungle. To reach the place circa in the early 30s, one must navigate the distance through boat, by foot and bamboo sledges. Prison facilities were patches of thatched dormitories and makeshift houses and the only sign that it was an operating institution was the massive lumber-built security offices around the fledging campsite. At that time, there were only a hundred prisoners housed in the camp, mostly farmers and incorrigibles from Manila Old Bilibid.

To date, the prison reservation is about 8,000 hectares and the prison camp houses around 6,700 male prisoners and 200 female prisoners. Most of the area formerly farmed by prisoners and became worthy as farm sites were distributed through a series of Presidential Proclamations—from President Quezon, President Magsaysay and President Garcia. What were left for the penal colony administration to explore were mostly swampy and muddy patches. What was left was pure estuary where only a patch of land appears every kilometer for whatever plants may be introduced, mostly cash crops. The phenomenal rainfall in this part of the area of Davao even makes the entire area submissive to regular flooding and mudflow. No farmer or farming group from nearby proclaimed farm areas would even dare get through. The impression then was that the area would be a useless portion and better undeveloped because of the murky and treacherous terrain.

The prison administration of Davao Penal Colony however would not be disheartened by the challenge of making that which was left as idle. They built a series of irrigated plots until a portion became viable for abaca plantation. This became the network of productive pursuits sustained slowly by prison colonists but hastened through the assistance of the private sector engaging their products for purposes of decortications for hemp production. This was the first joint venture with a pioneering and budding private agency, the Tagum Agricultural Development Company or Tadeco. This institutional relationship would continue up to the early 60s until synthetic cord or nylon pushed abaca hemp away in the market. The seed of the Joint Venture from thereon would sustain the introduction of banana as a staple farm project. Tadeco would pursue what non-government organization would decline to pursue, the training of prisoners on farm education and other agricultural planting techniques. Thereupon, the venture on farming would bear an agreement which later would be formalized into a Joint Venture Agreement with the prison agency and Tadeco. The Agreement would also be concurred by the Department of Justice.

Prison land would be developed through the technology and application of mechanized approaches of farming with prisoners being taught hand-in-hand on courses in farm education. Prison administration’s role would be enhanced with the formal entrance of corporate reinforcement by way of technical assistance.

Years later, the partnership would grow into a government-private sector collaboration showcasing a world class farming community with production output and quality produce competing with the best in global benchmarked fruit commerce and marketing. The revenues from the production effort would also benefit the premiere correctional institution of the country.

It has been a successful venture which would become a template for similar ventures contemplated by the correctional system to be replicated in its regional establishments around the country. The successful program likewise attracted not only rave reviews but land speculators as well.

As of last count, there are 15 claimants and petitioners (although there are six which are very active and sustained by supporters from underground sources) seeking to work for the land distribution of Davao prison reservation, the site of the Joint Venture Program. The area has been so maintained and properly cultivated that it has literally become a magnet also for scam artists using as invitation the land distribution crusade and recruit farmers from as far as Cotabato and Maguindanao to petition the area for their occupancy. The list seems to expand as more recruits are lured into the promise of glib and smooth operators. They include the following:

I – DASAI / SSLAI – ELSA GUTIERREZ

DASAI is composed of the Maguad (SSLAI claiming 500 hectares) and Mansenido (Lope Mansenido group claiming 2, 464 hectares) families and another clan who were occupants of DAPECOL when it was still one large piece of wilderness or forest.
With the establishment of the DAPECOL reservation as a penal farm for the South, they were ejected from their lots but were relocated to and given some portion of the DAPECOL reservations itself.
DASAI’s petition to DAR had been an on-and-off appeal which crops up with every change in Administration.
DASAI / SSLAI, thru Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano pushed House Resolution No. 1033, “Directing The Committee On Agrarian Reform To Conduct An Investigation On The Policy Wisdom Of The Renewal Of The Contract Between The Department Of Justice/Bureau Of Corrections And The Tagum Development Corporation In As Much As It Deprives Farmers And Farm Workers Within Davao Penal Colony Of Their Right To Land Contrary To The Constitutionally Mandated Public Policy Of Implementing An Agrarian Reform Driven By Land Distribution.”

II – STO. TOMAS BAGONG-BUHAY ASSOCIATION, INC (STBBAI) – PABLO DEUNA

PETITION: A petition for the CARP coverage of the 203-hectare portion of certain lands, which are purportedly subject of a Deed of Transfer executed by the Bureau of Corrections in favor of the Department of Agrarian Reform (now Department of Land Reform)

III – Lower Bobongon CAR Beneficiaries Multi-purpose Cooperative (LBCBMC) – PACIFICO BALINTACULO

PETITION: Petitioned the Office of the President to intervene for the Execution of a Deed of Transfer in favor of DAR over the remaining 436.3859 hectares of land located at Bobongon, Sto. Tomas.

IV – Lupang Pangako – DAMIAN DOMINGO / MERLYN RAMIREZ

A certain Merlyn Domingo-Ramirez claimed to be the heir of a certain Damian Domingo. Allegedly, late Damian Domingo developed what is now known as Lot 4710, CAD 276 (portion). Ramirez claimed for 1, 675.0025 hectares which may probably fall within Proclamation No. 341 dated September 3, 1956. According to Ramirez, the property was mistakenly included in the estate of BUCOR/DPPF and leased to TADECO. Ramirez even sought the assistance of late Datu Ibrahim “Toto” Pendatun Paglas III.

THE SCAM:

 Merlyn Ramirez-Domingo went to Land Registration Authority and secured a copy of the Certificate of Title No. (0-3984) 0-1739 issued in the name of DAMIAN DOMINGO. This was later declared by the same office as spurious after verification with the vault keeper and the record officer.
 Accordingly, the spurious document was feloniously inserted in the vault of the Registry of Deeds.
 Atty. John Paul Devilleres, Registry of Deeds III, Tagum City, issued a memorandum addressed to PARO Nicasio Lemente nullifying the certified true copy issued to Merlyn Ramirez-Domingo.
 He further informed PARO that the real owner of said title is a certain Antonio Amoguis, and that actual location of the property is in Asuncion, Davao del Norte and contains an area of 64,782 square meters, more or less.

V – Solidarity of Landless Workers in Davao (SOLAWORD) – Samuel Y. Cardenio

 SOLAWORD members of more or less 3,000 are active employees of TADECO who are actual tillers of the petitioned land. They are actually and physically living within their petitioned area for 25 to 30 plus years.
 The creation of SOLAWORD was prompted by the emergence of group of petitioners of DAPECOL lands which posed threat to their employment and possession of the land that they are working on.
 From among the groups of petitioners, SOLAWORD is the only one which shows effort in cooperating with the management.

VI – DAPECOL Workers ARB Association Inc. (DAWARBAI) / UNORKA

 DAWARBAI has not filed any formal petition before any government offices.
 During the time when the core leaders were recruiting members to organize but failed to go further.
 The organization is under the umbrella of UNORKA.

Notwithstanding the threats and intimidation posed by speculators, prison authorities and their counterparts in Tadeco are undaunted. They would still continue to formulate plans that redound to the benefit of the prison community. Recent developments in the field prove encouraging and worthy as benchmark in corrective service as the Joint Venture program attempts to absorb released prisoners into the mainstream of regular corporate manpower. This in effect would usher in an advancement in criminal justice administration under the policy of after care program for released prisoners or simply put, post imprisonment welfare services. A pilot scheme which may prove as a program landmark not only in Philippine correctional administration but in Southeast Asia as well.

ooo0ooo

By: P/Supt IV Venancio J. Tesoro
July 3, 2010

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About Ven J. Tesoro

writer, artist, dreamer, educator
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