The Laoag City jail has bagged the 2013 City Jail of the Year national award for its distinguished and extraordinary achievements that made it the top choice by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology during its 22nd anniversary celebration last September 23.
his year’s theme was “Makabago at Makataong Piitan, Kaagapay sa Matuwid na Daan.”
The awarding ceremony took place at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City with His Excellency President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III as the invited Guest of Honor and Speaker. However, the President failed to grace the affair as he was personally handling the crisis in Zamboanga City. Atty. Rafael Antonio M. Santos, DILG Undersecretary for Operations and Public Safety, proxied him.
The accolade is a source of great pride for the whole BJMP Laoag City Jail community especially City Jail Warden J/SINSP HERMINIGILDO B RIVERA who has been relentless in his pursuit of making a difference and setting a good example of how jails in the country should be managed through his numerous initiatives for the welfare of the entire jail, its personnel and residents.
Warden Rivera has emphasized five significant factors why the Laoag City Jail bested 100 other city jails in the country which vied for this most coveted unit award. These accomplishments have impressed the members of the National Program on Awards and Incentives for Service Excellence (PRAISE) Committee to unanimously choose Laoag City Jail as the Best City Jail in the entire Philippines. The basis in the selection for the said award include the significant accomplishments of the unit which is being submitted to higher offices every quarter, tracking of various reports and other compliances, and a write-up detailing the accomplishments of the unit covering the period beginning the 3rd quarter of 2012 until the end of 2nd quarter of this year. After the evaluation, a team from the National Headquarters personally visited the jail for its validation.
According to the team of evaluators, it was indubitable that Laoag City Jail truly deserves the recognition based on the following significant areas: On top of the list is the overall performance of the unit. With regards to the attainment of the goals and objectives of the JAILS First Program which is the main thrust of the Jail Bureau in realizing its vision, mission and mandate, LCJ has not only met its targets but surpassed them as well. Unlike any other jails that have only complied with what was required, LCJ personnel through the dynamic leadership of its warden have gone beyond their day to day functions by exerting an extra mile of effort in everything they did earning them the honor of being accredited as a model jail in the entire Philippines even before the award was given. In addition to this, the warden initiated various reforms in the management and operations of Laoag City Jail to increase efficiency and ensure effectiveness thereby producing the best quality of outputs and excellence in service.
Secondly, under his stint, the warden has intensified the implementation of the Therapeutic Community Modality Program which is the main backbone program in the implementation of various Inmates Welfare and Development activities. The TC model is a behavioral shaping tool which aims to change the perception of offenders towards the culture inside detention facilities such as LCJ. The program also incorporates other IWD activities like livelihood and skills training, cultural, sports and recreation, literacy, guidance and counseling, provision of basic needs, health and sanitation, paralegal assistance, and religious/interfaith activities among others. These programs and activities aim to safeguard the welfare and improve the living conditions of the residents, ensure total rehabilitation and development, uplift their self-esteem, promote social acceptance and prepare them for their eventual reintegration into the mainstream of society. As a manifestation of this accomplishment, Laoag City Jail was the first to be accredited by the BJMP National Headquarters as a TC Model Jail in the entire country.
The third factor was the physical set-up of the jail. During his first few months as the new warden of Laoag City Jail, Warden Rivera has launched the “My LCJ: A Home Away from Home” program.This program was aimed at promoting the jail not just as an ordinary penal institution but as a possible tourist attraction or destination. It was also aimed at creating a homey atmosphere inside and outside the jail premises through the implementation of various landscaping, painting and beautification projects such as tiling of various areas within the jail. With the implementation of the program, LCJ has been converted from what was once a typical jail set-up into a mini park and a more appealing and friendly environment thereby making the jail a conducive place for various non-government organizations, civic-oriented groups, generous private individuals and other stakeholders to conduct various outreach programs like feeding and medical/dental mission. Moreover, with the new setup, the negative impression of the public towards the jail had been turned into something more acceptable and has created an ideal environment which is favorable for the rehabilitation and holistic development of our residents.
Furthermore, the warden has strengthened its ties with the city government through constant coordination with the city mayor and other city officials. All the efforts of the warden have been successful because it was through the support of the city government that LCJ was able to accomplish numerous projects from the smallest to the bigger ones for the sustained modernization and improvement of jail facilities. Among these projects and accomplishments include the following: construction of a new female dormitory; improvement of the overall security of the facility through the installation of additional cyclone/barbed wires, additional control gates and control fence within the jail premises, and construction of a sally port entrance; disaster preparedness through the acquisition of fire extinguisher; operational and administrative efficiency and effectiveness through the acquisition of a new set of desktop computer, facsimile machine, VHF handheld radios with base, sound system, and air conditioning units. These among other logistical and construction projects have contributed to the total transformation and upgrade of jail facilities. Moreover, the warden was able to get the nod of the city mayor and other city officials for the increase in the annual support of the city government to the jail from Php 300,000.00 in the previous year to Php 400,000.00 for the year 2013. The annual support given by the city government provides for water, electricity, telephone and internet including gasoline, oil, lubricants, office supplies and other operational and administrative expenditures of the jail.
Lastly, no other warden in the history of Laoag City Jail had given so much attention and zeal in strengthening the Community Relations Service Unit of the jail. Under his leadership, Warden Rivera has intensified the CRS program of the jail by initiating various projects such as the launching of LAWAG, the official publication of LCJ and actively participating in numerous community-related programs and activities, local and national celebrations and partnering with the academe and other non-government organizations. It is worth mentioning also that the National Greening Program of the government is on top of the CRS agenda of the jail. With this, the LCJ was able to raise the level of public awareness and consciousness towards the jail and promote the Jail Bureau not just as an ordinary penal institution but as an organization similarly concerned with the interest of the public. The result of this undertaking has been very positive due to the great impact it has created in the community.
Warden Rivera expressed his gratitude to the city government especially to the leadership of the former city mayor and now city vice mayor, Hon. Michael V. Fariñas for his untiring and selfless contributions to Laoag City Jail. He also acknowledged the support of the personnel and the cooperation of the residents for without their collective contributions, the award is farfetched.
Meanwhile, apart from the national award, Laoag City Jail was also recently awarded as the Best City Jail in Region 1 during awarding ceremonies held at Hotel Ariana in Bauang, La Union last September 27.
With all its achievements, Laoag City Jail is indeed worthy of emulation by other jails in the country. The award comes with bigger challenges and greater responsibilities but with the right leadership on the right track, the jail will continue to strive harder to sustain the momentum by gearing towards a new dimension, going farther and further until Laoag City Jail becomes the standard and embodiment of the best jail service one could ever imagine.