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The Arab and his camel

by Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye

When I was young, my mother used to read to me children stories. One story I found quite entertaining was entitled “The Arab and His Camel”. The story went like this.

One day, an Arab was travelling in the desert, riding on his camel. As darkness fell, the Arab pitched his tent on the sand and tied his camel outside. Inside the tent, the Arab spread his blanket and prepared to rest. Before long, the Arab was snoring.

But the Arab was awakened by a gentle nudge from the camel.

“It’s cold outside. Can I just put my nose in?”asked the camel.

The desert might be sweltering during the daytime but the temperature can really drop at night.

The sleepy Arab reluctantly agreed. “Ok, but only your nose because this tent is too small and there is no room for two.”

The camel’s nose soon became warm but after a while the temperature dropped some more. The camel asked the Arab if he could put his forelegs inside the tent to keep them warm.

‘Only the forelegs, and no more,’ replied the very, very sleepy Arab.

An hour later, the camel asked if he could put in his hind legs, too, inside the tent because it was already freezing outside.

The Arab merely grunted. The camel took it as a ‘yes’ and dragged his hind legs inside the tent.

Came morning, the Arab woke up shivering. He was outside his own tent. The camel was snoring away inside.

“The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, “The Emperor Had No Clothes”, “The Monkey and The Turtle” and other children’s stories normally have moral lessons to impart to their young readers or listeners.

“The Arab and His Camel”carries warningseven to present-day national leaders, Philippine leaders to be more specific.

Moral of the story?

If we sleep on our rights, the Philippines, like the Arab in this bedtime story, will find itself, slowly but surely, eased out of the West Philippine Sea. But unlike in the story, the Chinese camel will not even bother to ask our consent to kick us out.

From PNP Chief to Head Jailer

In a short while, recently retired PNP Chief Bato de la Rosa will be taking over the helm of the Bureau of Corrections.

Without any doubt, Bato will be laser-focused on totally eradicating the drug trade which has continued to be controlled from inside the national penitentiary. It is a noble crusade and we really wish Bato well. We hope he succeeds where others before him have failed.

That said, I also hope, however, thatBucor Director Bato does not lose sight of the bigger picture. Bato should always be mindful of the primary objective of the correctional system.

When they changed the name of the institution – from Bureau of Prisons to Bureau of Corrections – our policy makers meant to signal the shift in focus in the treatment of offenders. Prisoners are people. Henceforth, the institution was supposed to concentrate less on punishment and more on rehabilitation. The institution was supposed to retrain and prepare prisoners for eventual re-entry into society.

Yes, they may have transgressed our society’s laws, but everyone under the new penology deserves a second chance.

But how can the rehabilitation of erstwhile offenders be achieved if prisoners are confined under sub-human conditions?

The conditions we recently saw in city jails (although not under the BUCOR, but under the BJMP) mirror what’s happening in the national prisons. Maybe evenworse.

Bato does not have to be a seasoned penologist to know what needs to be done.

All he has to do is to justimagine what would happen if, heaven forbid, a loved one gets confined in any of our present day jails.

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