Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two homecomings

Two VIP’s are expected to fly home this week. One is Eliseo de la Paz, retired comptroller of the Philippine National Police, who according to CSupt Nestor Bartolome, the agency’s spokesman, will “return to Manila (today) after being cleared by Russian customs authorities over the weekend”,

“Immediately upon his return, the Chief PNP, DG Jesus A. Versoza, expects to receive the liquidation report of expenses of the PNP delegation that attended the recent Interpol conference in Russia”, the PNP spokesman stated, adding that “as standard accounting and auditing procedure, all unused cash advances will be properly returned to the PNP’s general fund”

Ah, so des ne…now it’s official. The 120,000 or so euros, the equivalent of close to 8 million pesos found in the possession of retired PNP comptroller De la Paz, came from “cash advances” to be liquidated after the fact.

Questions now come to mind: Who made the cash advances? It should not be a retired or on-terminal-leave De la Paz; it must be the PNP Chief, mismo.

Was the huge amount advanced from the “commander’s reserve”? From other intelligence and discretionary funds? Or is the PNP system of accounting and disbursing of public money so loose that there are no limits, or unusually high limits, to how much its top officials can advance?

So they were not “contingency funds”, as the Napolcom chair and DILG Secretary, Herr Puno, claimed when news of the general’s detention at the Russian airport blew into these benighted parts?

What proper judgment on the part of the PNP leadership would dictate that a delegation of eight in a three-day Interpol conference would need 120,000 euros as slush fund for possible contingencies? Their airfare and hotel accommodations were pre-booked by the travel agent, so that’s 15,000 euros apiece more for “extras”, or €5,000 per day per officer-delegate, equivalent to 330,000 pesos per day! But wait, that’s what was left, what was being brought out of the airport, right?

So how much did the PNP delegates and the ladies with them spend to buy tins of caviar (it’s an acquired taste, and I don’t know if the PNP hotshots have tastes as expensive as Joker Arroyo’s), or babushka and matrushka dolls. Sure St. Petersburg beside the River Neva is one of the world’s most expensive cities, and a serving of borscht should make one poorer by fifteen euros (a thousand pesos for soup). There isn’t much to splurge on in this lovely city. How much to pay for a visit to the Armitage? Or a trip to the Tsar’s Summer Palace in the Gulf of Finland? Or even a choice seat to ballet performances of the Kirov or the Bolshoi, whichever is performing at what used to be Leningrad, named after the revered icon of Soviet communism, who for three generations of Russians, eclipsed Peter the Great, after whom the city was named as the seat of imperial power?

Questions, questions…but the most damning observation of the ways of life of Filipinos surviving under this regime is…nobody really cares. Beyond the media brouhaha of a week at most, people just accept the abuse of their money as a “given”.

* * *

Which is why nobody but media seems to be excited about the homecoming of the infamous Jocjoc of Capiz and Rotary International. His appeals before all the superior courts of Illinois have all dried up, and he is bound to be deported on or before December 6.

But some lawyer spotted Al Cusi of NAIA and Atty. Tony Zulueta, supposedly the lawyer of Jocjoc (and Iggy, a.k.a. Jose Pidal, kuno) and claims to have heard them discuss the “problem” of Jocjoc’s homecoming. The news spread like wildfire by text. Checks with sources in the US of A said that the usual practice for such high-profile deportees is to have Jocjoc escorted by a US marshall and turned over to authorities in Manila. Under usual practice, that means boarding him from O’Hare to Narita in a Northwest Airlines flight, with connection to Manila, right?
Neither Bush nor McCain would want to have the unnecessary embarrassment of a Jocjoc suddenly flying elsewhere with a faked passport under an assumed identity, right? Something some wise guy in the DFA could perhaps arrange for the First Family’s valuable “friend”?

So would Jocjoc be shanghaied off the airport by way of the tarmac? Ala-Ninoy or ala-Jun Lozada? Or would Al Cusi learn his lessons from the botched Lozada caper, and allow the “celebrity” balikbayan to face the legitimate press?

With the Ombudsman dilly-dallying on charges filed by my friend Frank Chavez years ago against Bolante, and Senate Agriculture Committee chair Ed Angara unwilling to re-open the investigation terminated by then chair, Sen. Jun Magsaysay, into the “bolantic” findings about fake liquid fertilizers overpriced a thousand or so times, and then distributed to concrete jungles in Metro Manila and other parts, where but for media will people learn the truth about Jocjoc and his reign of corruption in the Department of Agriculture?

Or, do people really care?

* * *

That people no longer care about corruption most gross, nor the mighty who perpetrate the same, is reflected in the conversations of a few congressmen at the Batasan Lounge days before their recess.

Overheard by another was the report one of their peers was making to a couple who failed to attend a meeting of the “most powerful” flag of political convemience in the country these days.

“Mukhang ipipilit pa rin ang cha-cha. Sabi ni bossing, e.”

But some said “na baka mahihirapan na. Gipit na sa panahon”. To which the “bossing” said, “hanggang first quarter, kakayanin pa”.

Someone asked about the situation in Mindanao, which triggered the reaction from the “bossing”, that even that could result in a “political emergency”. But, failing all that, another congressman asked, “sino ang manok natin sa 2010, si Villar?”

To which the “bossing” said, “Mukhang palabo nang palabo. Sabi nung mga senador na kakampi natin, mukhang maraming tinatagong milagro, and this C-5 double insertion is just the beginning”.

Anong tingin ninyo…kung ako na lang kaya?”, the “bossing” suddenly popped out. A moment of silence. Then someone had the temerity to say, “baka mahihirapan, sa totoo lang”.

“E kung si Noli?”, he asked. To which many said “Huwag naman.” None of the coven wanted Ping either, and were suspicious of Chiz. Nobody mentioned Loren, and Mar either. So sino?

“Alam ninyo, don’t be surprised. Baka kausapin ko na lang si Erap. Kesa diyan sa mga ibang kandidato, baka mas may pag-asa pa tayo kay Erap.”, their “bossing” said.

The only concern pervasive in the meeting was also over-riding, whether for the “bossing” or his “bosses”, and that is --- who will guarantee that after June 30, 2010, their backs will be sufficiently covered, from cases of corruption and abuse of power they committed in the long, benighted rule of their Gloria?

* * *

Jennifer Bedoya, alias Venancio Ladion, an OFW, was recently beheaded in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The family here might not even get to bury his remains.

“Wala kaming pera kaya pinabayaan na nila (government) ang kaso”, rued Bedoya’s father, a poor farmer from Zamboanga Sibugay.

We also received a letter from the Dammam Central Jail, from a Rodelio Celestino Lanuza, 34 years of age, who was sentenced to die in public execution through beheading, but implementation was delayed, while waiting for the aggrieved children of the man he killed to reach majority age.

“Anyone will do the same (thing) I have done in case of an unexpected evil attack”, wrote Lanuza, who swears that “his conscience is clean and God knows”.

How many more Lanuza’s are there in jails in the Kingdom, or elsewhere, awaiting a fate that would most likely be no different than Bedoya’s?

And how can government cope with all these problems? This is a major policy issue and a program implementation (if any) problem more important than the homecoming of a police general oozing with unexplainable euros.

And perhaps, precisely because public money is being wasted in useless junkets, or criminal undertakings by Jocjoc and his ilk whose numbers are legion in this government, we have no money to ensure that the “bagong bayani” are treated like VIP’s instead of the miserable lot they find themselves in when confronted with personal misfortunes in unforgiving lands.