Sunday, August 17, 2008


The lower House is all agog about positions with lofty titles signifying little. Honorifics, that’s what they are going ga-ga about.

The perpetually compromising and quintessential trapo, Jose de Venecia, will always accommodate what his "natives" demand. After all, he is "the" power in the lower, and all he gives are titles to nothing. Speaker for the fifth time, he now has five deputy speakers. They take turns at presiding over their peers, most of whom do not bother to listen, and give it a few more weeks, do not bother to attend sessions even.

Until JDV, if memory serves me right, our House had one Speaker and one Speaker pro-tempore. To give honorifics to those who were left out in the assignment of committee chairmanships, JDV makes them his deputies. So, there are two deputies from Luzon, one for the Visayas, and another for Mindanao. Then, at the instance of the ladies of the House, who constitute more than a fifth of the membership, he has created another position of deputy speaker. And named Amelita Villarosa of Mindoro Occidental, whose husband, once governor of their poor fiefdom, is now serving prison time for murder.

As wags say, soon there should be a deputy speaker for the third sex. Tell you what, in a future Congress, we’ll have 16 deputy speakers, one for each administrative region.


Our officials have such an empty, literal notion of "self-respect" that they think a lofty title buys them such. Go to Mandaluyong, or most any city or town in Metro-Manila, and you will see signs or arches proclaiming territorial distinction for every barangay. And conspicuously painted are the names of the barangay chairman and his kagawads. Prefixed over their names is "Hon.", meaning honorable.

A town councilor is always addressed as "honorable". A municipal trial court likewise. Almost every government functionary preens over being "honorable". They festoon the shingles of their office with cheap acrylic, sometimes a tad more expensive "brass" sign that proclaims to all and sundry their entitlement to being "honorable". Atop their tawdry desks is a nameplate, in Romblon marble or anodized aluminum made to look like brass, or again, cheap acrylic, proclaiming their name, their position, and, never to ever forget, "Hon."

Never mind if honor is so foreign to their character or their money-making proclivities. Basta’t "honorable", and never ever forget that.


When one gets appointed to a government position, a friend or even "sipsip" functionary gifts you with a table nameplate, made of either Romblon marble that looks like a tombstone, or cheap acrylic or cheap-looking ":brass". You are supposed to emblazon that atop your desk. The first time I entered government, as postmaster-general, I was too embarrassed to throw away what was gifted to me, because the giver was a division chief who would always see his "lofty" gift. Trying to be politically correct, as in dyahe naman kung itatapon, I placed it on the working desk at my back.

The point is – any visitor wanting to see me had reason for seeking a face-to-face meeting, "audience" these reverential nincompoops in government label a meeting with a government official, and surely your name and your position is known to the visitor. Why the hell proclaim it?

Ah, but that’s not being "Pinoy".


A lady undersecretary who was a guest at an affair where I was the main speaker was asked to give the opening remarks. She tried to be cute by saying that the reason she preferred her position more than mine, although the salary grade was the same, was because my position as general manager of the Philippine Tourism Authority only carried the title "Mr.", while as undersecretary, she was "honorable". As if she preferred honorific title to the perks and power of the department’s most coveted post other than secretary. Perhaps she did.


Seriously, the presidential management staff (who’s on top of it, by the way?) should craft a protocol on titles and honorifics, which Malacañang could then distribute to the entire bureaucracy. That protocol should define who is addressed "honorable" and who should not. And how to address the president of the land, as in how do you say "excellency" in Pilipino. Many sipsips use "Ang kanyang kamahalan" which is the same introduction given to kings and queens. Do we have "majesties" in this benighted land? On second thought, some people think they are.

My own feeling is that nobody unelected, save only for the magistrates of the Supreme Court, should be addressed as "honorable". And then, nobody lower than a governor or city mayor, should be addressed as "honorable" either. Let everybody else be happy with a "Mister" or a "Madam".


Which brings me to the subject of my friend Romy Neri, who has been "demoted" from being the NEDA director-general and sent to "trouble-shoot" in the Commission on Higher Education. It was really Malacañang’s way of showing petulant displeasure over Romy’s candor in describing "glowing" statistics as damn dirty "numbers", and conveniently too, so he would make no further noises about the ZTE broadband deal.

Romy "gladly" accepted, like a perfectly good soldier, without checking that the CHED high commissioner needed to be a Ph.D. holder (academically-earned, not an honorific). And Malacañang was either guilty of incompetent oversight, or an evil genius in situ purposely did it.

The person questioning Romy’s academic credentials is Gonz Duque, who presides over the association of universities and diploma mills. He also happens to be the older brother of the health secretary, Francisco Duque II of Aguilar and Dagupan in Pangasinan. Their father was the health secretary of the father of "ang kanyang kamahalan".

Really, Romy, just quit "her" government. You don’t deserve to be treated this way.


And now a funny postscript:

Senator Erap approached his friend and colleague, Senator Orly Mercado, in the Senate Lounge while the latter was having merienda with me, several Congresses ago.

"Orly, hindi ba nag-du-doctorate ka?", asked Erap.

"Oo, sa UP", Orly replied.

"Mauunahan pa kita. Sa makalawa magiging "Doctor" na ako, Erap preened. "Sa UP", he added.

Orly was incredulous. How could his beloved alma mater, the State University, do this to him, he thought. Senador din naman siya, at No. 3 pa nung eleksyon, lubhang mataas ang boto kaysa kay Erap, Majority floor leader pa mandin.

"University of Pangasinan!", Erap explained, and all of us broke into hilarious laughter.

The person who made Senator Joseph Estrada an honorary doctor was Gonzalo Duque, no less.

Eat you heart out, Romy.

Malaya, August 17, 2008