Saturday, November 29, 2008


Last Thursday morning, on the occasion of the 76th birthday of my good friend and political initiator, Ninoy Aquino of heroic memory, my car radio was tuned in on Korina and Ted’s program over DZMM. They were eliciting reactions from Jun Lozada about the just-thrashed impeachment complaint against Romy Neri’s resident “evil” in Malacanang.

In pained, nay, anguished tone, Jun came up with a statement that struck me for its simple truth. “Our people must realize”, he said, that “democracy does not lead to prosperity. It is prosperity that leads to democracy”.

Yes, the people who have been protesting daily at Bangkok’s airports, and before that the Government House in the old city, are doing so because they have tasted enough prosperity that they do not want it robbed from them by corrupt politicians, and they are firmly exercising their democratic rights to fight off a political system corrupted by their elite robbers.

In Cambridge during the summer of 1981, Ninoy Aquino had two visitors from the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii. I was with Ninoy then in his small and sparse office at Harvard. Ninoy pensively asked his visitors: “What to your mind is Marcos’ greatest sin, both to the people and to history?”

The visitors both agreed that it was Marcos “trampling of the constitutional rights of our people”. Ninoy then turned to me, and asked, “Ikaw, Lito, ano sa palagay mo?”

My reply was this: “The institutionalization of corruption as a way of life, that is Marcos’ greatest sin”. I explained further --- “Halos lahat corrupted na, the military, the justice system, the governors and mayors, even the business sector”.

“Tama kayo pareho”, Ninoy reacted. “Beyond Marcos, we must fashion a system where government is truly responsive to the needs of the people, not by mere laws, but in actual practice. It is a system that must be harsh against corruption, because that is the issue our people understand most. Pera nila iyon --- pinaghirapan, tapos ninanakaw lamang”.

When Ninoy’s Cory assumed the presidency after the People Power Revolt of 1986, unfortunately, her obsession to re-install “democracy” merely led in time to the resurrection of the politics of old. Feudalism bandied about as the new democracy slowly began to take hold over the carcass of authoritarianism. And during her reign, and every reign thereafter, the traditional politicians and their cohorts in both government and business merely went their merry ways about, at the expense of the people’s money.
As Ping Lacson observed in a speech before the International College of Surgeons, Philippine Chapter, which I read for him last Saturday because he had just lain his father to eternal rest: “Public office has long ceased to be public service. Public office has become a business endeavour, an opportunity to misuse and abuse public funds for personal gain.”

Thus has the pernicious continuum of corruption debased the democracy we call, the democracy our forefathers in their time claimed our country to be cradle of. Sadly in our time, we have been robbed of that same democracy, by an electoral system that proclaims a cheat to the highest office, where she presides over an entire machinery of lying and stealing.

Bishop Soc Villegas, who has suffered in patience through these years, seeing that the government and the leader he once supported has become the antithesis of all that our Holy Mother Church taught us, fulminated thus:

“To steal is wrong. It is a crime. It is a sin. When stealing is done by those high up in power and authority, it carries a greater culpability. The corruption of the best is the worst. The social problem of graft and corruption in public life in our country has reached abominable and embarrassing proportions…Graft and corruption in our country (has become) systemic. It is rewarding. It hurts the poor the most.

“Graft and corruption is systemic and structural. It is not only individual or isolated persons who corrupt and get corrupted. The present system—the elected and the electors, the employers and the employees, the appointed and the appointing powers—has become so corrupt that what we do need is a radical, systemic, interior change. Changing personages through the electoral process or even through legal processes like impeachment and court suits will not necessarily result in reform unless there is a willingness to change from the heart and soul. Pinning our hopes on legal processes unaccompanied by conversion from within will lead us to nowhere but deeper frustrations.

“Graft and corruption is rewarding and rewarded. It is hardly punished. The politicization of the judiciary and the perennial rumours about rogues in robes are problems we need to address urgently. Vigilance is lacking. Political will is weak. Prosecution plays favourites. The penal system is flawed. Pardon and clemency is cheap. Among our people, there is an increasing level of tolerance for corrupt officials. Corruption does not seem to anger many of us anymore. We are not outraged enough by graft and corruption. Widespread graft has sadly numbed our morals.

“The public money that goes to graft is money stolen from the poor. Because of graft and corruption, schools buildings cannot be constructed and teachers are not paid; public hospitals cannot protect us from untimely death; soldiers are deprived of their just wages.”

In fine, when the five bishops led by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the CBCP president, said on October 28, that we need “change --- NOW”, they did not mean electoral change using the same corrupt system ran by crooked cheats, which would only mean “changing personages”, that “will lead us nowhere but deeper frustrations”. The “democracy” we have will not bring about any real level of prosperity to our people, except the corrupt, corrupted and corrupting few in the politico-economic elite. That “democracy” is nothing but an immoderately greedy feudal order obsessed with “tong-pats”.

Serendipitously, our friend Gerry Cunanan, an upright former bureaucrat during the time of Fidel V. Ramos, wrote in, as if to remind us all in these parlous times, various definitions of “democracy”.

First he quotes the preamble of the Philippine Constitution: “We, the sovereign people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution”.

Ponder over each and every word, each and every ideal, each and every purpose so stated. And ask yourselves if these exist in today’s system.

Gerry next quotes the Philippine Supreme Court in 1987, thus:” It is an inherent right of the people to cast out their rulers, change their policy, or effect radical reforms in their system of government…when the legal and constitutional methods of making change have proved inadequate or are so obstructed as to be available”.

Are the legal and constitutional methods of making change…”so obstructed as to be available”? In 2005, Romy Neri, then the DBM secretary, was beside GMA as she gave in to all the calls of congressmen for pork releases and more extra pork, just to ensure they will not vote for her removal. (Ask Romy, he had been telling everyone about his odious role as bookkeeper to the serial bribery where a hostaged cheat pulled all the stops just to remain in illegitimate power.) In 2006, the same rigmarole. In 2007, they elevated bribery to classy crass, right in the seat of power. They distributed bags filled with half a million pesos each in Malacanang. And just a few days back, an old man mercifully allowed to continue in existence by the Lord, perhaps so he will yet have time to repent for his family’s feudal ways in their politically-conquered feudal manor, likened his “queen” to the Lord himself before the Crucifixion. Judged, he intoned, by surveys, as the Christ was judged by the roar of the crowd. Surveys are numbers, and the same numbers are what his Congress used to throw out substance, not even listening to such, because substantive sums had been paid out, or promised. And in this case, even their re-incarnation of “Pontius Pilate”, a man named Defensor, whose son is their boss woman’s favourite, hastened to raise his hand along with the “crowd”, forgetting that a chair votes not, maybe with visions of a bigger bag of “substance” in mind.

Then let us quote the American Declaration of Independence, that written document by which democracy is most ubiquitously defined:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness --- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to Alter or Abolish it, and to institute New Government, laying its foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”.

For what is democracy, circa the reign of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but, in the definition of the present Congress, as described by my friend Gerry, “a system of government where the president and her favored allies and minions can commit any crime without having to face accountability, provided he/she shares his/her loot with the politicians and the leaders of so-called democratic institutions?

And cashiered Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, speaking his heart out for the soldiery of the Republic, who certainly in their heart of hearts salute him thus, states:

“GMA continues to inflict herself on our hapless people. In the process, scarce government resources are squandered to buy for her dubious loyalties, institutions are prostituted to project a sham imprimatur to an immoral governance, public service has evolved into a buffet of graft and corruption, and morals, values, accountability and responsibility have been reduced to mere flamboyant phrases. She destroyed the very concept of truth as the foundation of every act of government.”

“We find the country today in deep turmoil. Oppression, corruption and injustice rule the benighted land. Internecine struggles threaten to dismantle the Republic. Widespread poverty robs people of their dignity and drives many to prostitution and virtual slavery in foreign climes. Hunger incidence is at an all time high and the country’s human development index at an all time low. No wonder, an atmosphere of destitution pervades among our normally resilient and patient people. All of these were brought about by 8 years of unelected, hopelessly corrupt leadership and a slew of failed liberal economic and peace policies.

“Long starved of good governance, the Filipino people should now act to reclaim their dignity, remove the pretender from power, and steer the nation towards the path of greatness … (through) radical reforms and restructuring.”

Finally, quoting the Holy Bible, Corazon Aquino, despite a debilitating illness, called to all of us in this benighted land, “Be Not Afraid”.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

By Jesus!

A priest could not contain himself. In a letter, he sent me yesterday, right after he read the news online, Father Daniel said, “Why does (Pablo) Garcia compare our Lord Jesus Christ with the lying and cheating GMA? Nakakapangilabot na pati ang pangalan ng Diyos ay gamitin niya sa pagtanggol ng kabuktutan ng rehimeng Arroyo.”

“Could you please tell Garcia that he is already old, and he should not blaspheme and use the Holy Name of the Lord in his vain efforts to defend his crooked masters?”

I myself couldn’t comprehend why the octogenarian father of Gwen and Winston, the “king” regent of the Cebu political kingdom they have stolen from the Osmenas, had the effrontery to compare Christ with his president. (Wa ka kuyapi, Mano Pabling? Modagan pa gani si Winston para alcalde sa Cebu? Unsa na’y buhaton sa Senyor Santo Nino? Basin gaba-an mo, hala!) “Our Lord Jesus Christ lost in the survey and he was crucified and that’s how we’re going to judge (the) president?”, Garcia said adverting to how Pontius Pilate asked the mob to choose between Barabbas and The Christ.

But then, Father Daniel, do you recall what Garcia’s president said in a Time magazine interview, that “the Lord put me here”. Everyone shouted blasphemy too, but By Jesus, she’s still there! And Dureza, her press secretary has made a public incantation recently about staying “even beyond”. By Jesus!

I keep asking --- what sin has our race committed in the past that the Lord has deigned it worthy of such cruel and unusual punishment and inflicted this woman upon us? There she is, after being snubbed by the lame duck Dubya in the APEC leaders’ photo session in Lima, now sashaying in Colombia, the cocaine capital of the world, with Alvaro Uribe, Dubya’s fair-haired boy in Sud America. And poor esposo Mike is back home, taking care of her muchachos, los diputados en Congreso, and missed las bellas chicas de Bogota, que lastima!

* * *
Which brings me to how a friend of mine suspected the diarrhea drama in the skies above the Pacific as a Ludlumesque caper.

Here are his “facts”:

“In every presidential trip, whether foreign or local, there is always a doctor on board. In Erap’s case, it was the late Dr. Larry Jhocson. I don’t know what witch doctor accompanies the couple (tu eres muy salvaje, tu!), but certainly there is one. Surely that doctor knows the symptoms of diarrhea. Why even a comadrona would know that you don’t check the heart, you check the toilet.

“The chartered PAL plane (courtesy of Dr. Lucio or the taxpayers?) was four hours away from LAX (Los Angeles Airport) when the plane was ordered to land in Japan. (The plane landed in Osaka between 11 and midnight, Manila time, about seven hours after it left NAIA. PAL’s intrepid pilots fly Manila to California direct in 11 hours.) PAL executives say it took them two hours to backtrack to Osaka, whose Kansai airport is half-an-hour away from a hospital. Could not the doctor on board have kept a diarrhea patient stable enough for another two hours, and landed at LAX, thereby, not disrupting GMA’s flight schedule?”, my friend asked.

“Or was it a case of the presidential party being alerted by phone that someone among them was going to be picked up by FBI authorities upon landing at LAX, for money laundering activities? Remember that in the wake of Lehman, Merrill Lynch, AIG and so many other Wall Street corpses, the federal anti-money laundering task forces may have found the smoking gun documents about the financial capers of someone in the presidential party,” he suspects.

“That would have been a terrible embarrassment, and because no one else in the party aboard PAL Flight No. 001 was important enough to merit a reason to retreat and fly back except either the president or her husband, the latter had to feign illness.” (Talagang parang Robert Ludlum novel, salvaje tu eres.)

I asked, “would he do this for Rey David, or Vivian Yuchengco or Winston de Cebu, or whoever else have been rumoured to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in wrongly-placed investments in those “noble” houses of finance?”

My friend shot back quickly through the net --- “But whose millions did they invest?”, and continues with his fantastic, imagined novelette: “How come his doctors, including Juliet Cervantes’ escort, Jose Ledesma, who is not a doctor, were ready to fly as soon as possible, and Ramon Ang was so quick on the draw in the wee hours with a San Miguel plane to fly the doctors, including Mike Arroyo’s yaya, Juris Soliman, to Japan? They took off at about 2 a.m., landed in Osaka at about 6 a.m., got Mike out of the hospital because he was in no danger at all, and could easily fly another four hours without any mortal danger. Why, they landed in Manila at about 2 or 3 pm the same day, which means that the fetching party just had three hours in Osaka, enough time to have breakfast with Mike, and bundle him off back to Kansai airport, right?”

“If he was really sick, why not a night more in Osaka for observation? Why the immediate flight home? Huwag mong sabihing nagtitipid sila. (Oo nga naman, pwede rin ngang nagpa-diagnose muna sa heh, heh, heh … Osaka Iridology Clinic.) And then, he continues, “pagpasok sa St. Luke’s, labas kaagad. Diarrhea lang daw.”

“Hindi ba parang komedya, moro-moro lang lahat?” And then he segues once more to his money-laundering hypothesis. Like I said, he read everything from Ludlum to Trevanian to Grisham to Sheldon during the martial law years and beyond.

* * *

Cha-cha-cha fears have been stoked, and the undying embers have become a prairie fire. The day Jocjoc’s lies were unmasked in the Senate by his regional directors at the DA, mismo, Harry Roque and Neri Colmenares were in Congress. Harry looked tenaciously at the administration’s apologists --- Defensor, Lagman, Garcia, and that guy Barzaga who defeated pobrecito Gilbert Remulla of Cavite, as they perorated for their beloved Dona.

Neri (no not Romy, but) Colmenares, who happens to be the uncle of the adorable Angel Locsin (eat your hearts out, guys), cool as a cucumber, feigning respect for the dolts he faced in Congress, brought out his surprise --- HR 550, a resolution authored by Dodo Mandanas, the celibate (still?) from Batangas and Opus Dei, which calls for the extension of terms of congressmen and local officials by one year, from 30 June 2010 to 30 June 2011. Mirabile et merveilleuse! And therefore, sub-rosa, the hold-over of La Gloria y su Noli, ha, ha, ha…un ano mas de mas!

Constitutional Amendments chair Victor Ortega, of La Union, de origenes Castellano como los Arroyos, flatly declared that “term extension is merely talks (sic), rumours, chismis”, but was red-faced when cool Colmenares read to him the Rules Committee referral of Dodo’s monkey wrench upon 2010. And some lady assistant showed him the documents attesting so, with Colmenares adding that initial deliberations on August 12 had already been done by Ortega’s committee.

“It’s already on the agenda. That means they can already vote on it, even today or perhaps tomorrow. This proves that all previous assurances that there are no proposals for term extension being considered were misleading”, Neri warned.

Like I said last Tuesday, “le chat is out of le sac”. The cat is out of the bag. Will it be a ferocious tiger, or would we be able to tame it to Siamese cat proportions? Would it roar, or would it mew?

* * *

Meanwhile, the AFP warns that per intelligence reports, terrorists might sow mayhem in the urban capitals of the country, Metro Manila especially. Now is that “intelligence” report from Romeo Prestoza’s ISAFP, or was it cleared with sober CSAFP Alexander Yano?

Is that laying the predicate for something, or is that legitimate warning? In this country where intelligence is often unintelligent, where the intelligence community is used for political rather than national security interests, one never knows.

Why did the NICA director General Garcia resign abruptly months before? Is it true that he told intimates when asked that “my responsibility is to keep GMA in office until her term expires in 2010, not beyond that”. Garcia is well respected, even if he has an in-law who is not.

Bueno, vamos a ver. The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer. It is that season of our lives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Even if he's nuts

A friend of mine sent this by e-mail. I thought I'd share it with all our readers. It shows a picture of the American actor-comedian, Robin Williams, wearing a T-shirt on which is emblazoned "I love New York", with the usual red heart instead of the letters "love", and the rest, in Arabic characters.

"You gotta love Robin Williams.even if he's nuts! Leave it to him to come up with the perfect plan. What we need now is for our UN Ambassador to stand up and repeat this message."

This is Robin Williams' plan (Hard to argue with this logic.):

"I see a lot of people yelling for peace but I have not heard of a plan for peace. So, here's one plan:

"The United States will apologize to the world for our "interference in their affairs, past and present. You know - Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those good 'ole boys. We will never interfere again.

"We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting with Germany, South Korea, the Middle East and the Philippines. They don't want us there. (Oh no, Gloria and Gen. Allaga want all your GI Joes and more.) We would station troops at our borders. No one allowed sneaking through holes in the fence.

"All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave. We will give them a free trip home. After 90 days, the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are. They're illegal! France will welcome them.

"All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days (stay) unless given a special permit. No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and don't hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone (Even if inside a jail like Joc Joc? Paano na si Mike?) We don't need any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers. (In 1981, when I was residing in the Washington D.C. suburbs, I had a friend who introduced me to a very refined young Ethiopian gentleman who spoke English fluently, plus French. He was in the US, along with his parents, on political asylum. He claimed to be one of the hundreds of grandchildren of deposed and later killed, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, "descendant of the Ammharric gods". And yes, he was driving a cab in the streets of the nation's capital.)

"No foreign students over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don't attend classes, they get a "D" and it's back home, baby."

"The US will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy-wise. This will include developing non-polluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while. (Sarah Palin would love that.)

"Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries ten dollars a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else. They can sell their production somewhere else too. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough).

"If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe anywhere in the world, we will not interfere. They can pray to Allah or whomever - for seeds, for rain, or cement, whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given to the army, and the people who need it most get very little, if anything.

"Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island some place. (We can apply. Cebu's Gwen Garcia would love that.) We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lock-up for illegal aliens.

Finally, "all Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us "Ugly Americans" any longer. The language we speak is English - learn it or leave.

"Now isn't that a winner of a Plan?

Williams has a postscript. "The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling, "You want a piece of me?"

Funny. What if the red Indians tire of running casinos in their protected areas, and yell the same to Williams and 298 million other non-native Americans?


Back to the yarn (or yarns) woven by the euro generals.

Why were General De la Paz, his wife and Mrs. Versoza in Moscow, and not the rest of the Interpol delegates among the other police generals? The Interpol conference was over just the day before, but De la Paz and company were already in Moscow two days before, eh? They didn't really care about the conference. They were gallivanting in Moscow, perhaps to buy matrioshka dolls for pasalubong, right? And since Moscow is not a Filipina's type of shopping paradise, and the prices too atrocious for even the most filthy rich, there were plenty of euros left for Warsaw and Praha, and Budapest, of course, Wien? Maybe a side trip to Paris for the ladies before flying back? The winter collection at the fashion houses along the Faubourg St. Honore should be enticing enough, and if too pricey for their matronly tastes, well, there are the Galleries Lafayette, or Printemps close to the Opera. You really need a hundred thousand or so euros.

If intelligence funds were used, as claimed by then comptroller De la Paz, and affirmed by PNP chief Jesus Versoza, why was the director for intelligence operations not asked to certify the need for the funds? Kanya nga "intelligence" funds, 'di ba?

Oh well. Ask Ronnie Puno kung paano lulusot. He is the master of the game. He can hire the best public relations men for you, provided PNP intelligence funds, or what's left of it, or the commander's reserve, will answer for the bill.

After all, Ronnie the Tree made you, right, General Jess? And Geary Barias, who tried to get the post through the most powerful in-laws in town, couldn't.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We told you so

Archbishop Oscar Cruz said so. “Those who are thinking about elections in 2010 had better stop…as soon as Congress re-opens on November 10, they will start cha-cha all over again”, he said during the open forum that followed the October 28 pronunciamento of the five bishops led by CBCP President Angel Lagdameo.

The Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) warned about it as early as September this year. Gloria is bent to extend her stay in her beloved stinking palace by the stinking river.

I have been telling you so in this space, months and months before too---there won’t be elections the way we thought it would be in --- 2010.

Last Tuesday, in the cabinet meeting, Jesus Dureza let our a Freudian slip, in prayer at that. And his Boss Woman, surprised at the effrontery (audacity to her though) of Dureza, was, if you watched the facial English, “kilig to the bones!” as a former cabinet official of hers observed.

Now, le chat is out of le sac! As of 3 p.m. Thursday, 163 signatures had been collected by El Hijo --- Mikey. Only 16 to go. Followed by the appearance in their “rump” constituent assembly of two or three senators, to give rump a patina of legitimacy. Then the other senators run to the Supreme Court, where the vote, if held today, could likely be 9-6 in favour of a “joint” assembly voting as “one”. Ah, the scenario painted by Ronnie the Tree, with Ed Ermita secretly assenting, even if he’s mad that it was Ronnie and not he who first thought of it. And of course, the Tatlong Itlog, the hallelujah chorus of Cerge Remonde, Jess Dureza and Dodie Limcaoco singing, “And she shall rule…forever and ever!”

Tom Alcanatara tells the very few who care to listen to him yet --- “No, she just doesn’t want to be treated like a lame duck…that’s the reason for all this”. Lokohin mo si Romy Neri.

* * *

As this is a weekend column, let me segue to an e-mailed letter, complete with a re-worded Platters (remember them?) song, from reader Ding Generoso:

“First, she took the name of the Lord in vain when she proclaimed before the whole world in a TIME interview, “The Lord put me here”.

Now comes her press secretary and chief spokesman, someone ironically named “Jesus”, praying before television cameras for God to “bless the President, so she will have the forbearance, good health, tolerance (such choice of words…tinitiis pala ni Gloria ang trabaho niya?) to lead this nation up to 2010, and perhaps who knows, even beyond”.
“Jesus!!! What grave a sin, for Dureza’s sake, have Filipinos committees to deserve nine and a half years of Gloria’s misrule, and a factotum wishing us more?

“What can you expect from Dureza? He simply took seriously Gloria’s self-proclamation about being God’s anointed like the kings and emperors of old did.”

“Dureza’s prayer was supposed to be “off the record”, according to Arroyo. That’s probably because in secret, Gloria has been praying:

Composed by the Cha-Cha Plotters (with apologies to the real Platters)

When the Senate is gone and my House reps are singing,
When the Supreme Court is mine, joy comes into my heart.
And in my Palace I will stay … while I pray.

My prayer is to stay in power
At the end of my term, and beyond 2010…

My prayer is a new ten-year term
As your Prime Minister, and for life if I can.

Tonight while the nation’s asleep,
Oh tell me the words that I'm longing to know

My prayer, and the answer you give
May I always be Prez, for as long as I live…

That I will still be here at the end of ma..haayy… term.

“I’m sure”, Ding perorates, “the Lord has a sense of humour and my prayer was in that context” he quotes Dureza, who later told media that he was “just kidding”. But while to me, he sounded more like mocking than joking”. After all, the bishops seem to have taken his twisted sense of humour with a quiet smile” (Hindi naman lahat, si Rosales at Vidal, Villena at Talamayan, De Pueblos at Capalla…oops, parami nang parami!)

“But if Pontius Pilate were around, he would have ordered Dureza crucified at the altar of Malacanang to serve as a lesson to those who, in their prayers, wish the nation ill”.

“ On the other hand, if the real Jesus were still around and had not been impaled, He would have prayed, “Forgive my tokayo, Lord, for he knows not what he says.”

“As for me, I’d just paraphrase Dureza and ask God: “Bless the Filipino people so they will have the forbearance and tolerance to endure Gloria and Dureza—and not rise up in arms—until noon of June 30 2010. And, Lord, I’m not kidding.”

Amen, amen…hallelujah…Amen!

* * *

My parents had a quandary about my name when I was born, on Christmas day. They were thinking of “Jesus”, but my Lola said, “What happens when you get angry at the boy, you might blaspheme”. And it was she who chose “Angelito”. Trouble is, they wrote that in the birth certificate, instead of “Angel”, so even at my age, I have to be a “little angel”.

So my mom thinks nothing of blasphemy when she raged against naughty me.

* * *

The last word comes from Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who is always lyrically eloquent: “The question is whther the Lord is listening to his (Dureza’s) prayer”.

Laudamus Te!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The morning after

Speculations and spins always fly whenever something takes everyone by surprise. Thus did the Senate “coup” which replaced Manuel Villar as its president with 84-year old Juan Ponce Enrile come to most everyone.

One paper bannered an Erap hand in the coup, banking only on the supposed membership of Enrile in the latter’s party, and the perceived “closeness” of the two, which isn’t exactly true. They are friends, but they are not close. Even when only the two of them survived the Cory juggernaut in the first elections under the 1987 Constitution that re-installed a two-chamber Congress, they were not that close. Estrada, who tries to be friendly with everybody, and forgives anyone and everyone at the drop of a tear, fake or feigned, knew the political value of the wise Ponce Enrile, so that even if the latter did not support his presidential run in 1998, he reached out. He needed the cooperation of the Senate, and so politically, he bedded even with other unlikely political “friends” as Miriam Defensor Santiago. That paper cited an “administration senator” as its source, but the guy, who can easily be identified by any political observer, was also just speculating.

Truth is, Erap never knew until the night before, when his son Jinggoy told him. Did he inform his friend Manny V, the guy he made speaker, also the guy who impeached him with one dramatic bang of his speaker’s gavel? Obviously not.

Our friend and colleague Ellen Tordesillas probably had the closest narration of the events that led to Villar’s fall from the Senate presidency. Even speculations about cha-cha, and Villar’s supposed hand in Jocjoc’s arrest are all drivel, insofar as they are related to the latest Senate golpe.

Uneasy lies the crown, always, of the Senate presidency’s head. My friend Caloy Padilla remembers history when he cites Manuel Roxas’ ouster from the speakership and his quote “fell from the rostrum into the arms of the people”. My friend Caloy insults the memory of Mar’s lolo by making such odious comparison. Manuel Roxas was far more eloquent (the late Speaker Pepito Laurel, Caloy’s mentor as much as mine, described him as such a “great and fiery orator” and a sharp mind) than the head of the Nacionalista Party now. And no historian has ever attributed “conflict of interest” or “self-dealing” or some other such pecuniary peccadilloes to the first elected president of the Republic. Neither his son, Gerardo, who also became a highly respected senator of the realm. And Mar of the third generation does not self-deal either, nor has he ever been accused of dipping his fingers into the “kaban ng bayan”.

With stealth and cunning purpose did Manuel Villar deal with the administration caboodle in the Senate immediately after he was re-elected to the Senate as an adopted candidate of the Genuine Opposition a year and six months ago. He refused to sit down with his GO team-mates, Lacson and Legarda, nor oppositionists Roxas, Madrigal, Biazon, Aquino and Pimentel to discuss the politics of a chamber where they had an inch of a majority, assuming he and fellow “independent” Kiko Pangilinan, and Alan Peter Cayetano’s sister, would go on board. Even after Nene Pimentel, the initial candidate of the oppositionists, was no longer in the running. He chose his boys --- Alan Peter and Chiz Escudero, and bedded them with his Wednesday Group led by Joker Arroyo, then talked turkey with JPE, Angara, and Gordon. Then they presented their combination of disparate forces to the stinking palace beside the stinking river, and got imprimatur, along with which came the votes of Lapid, Revilla, Zubiri and Miriam. All along of course, he was briefing Erap, and promised the prestigious if useless role of “President Pro-tempore” to son Jinggoy. It was a brilliant political move --- leaving out his perceived presidential competitors out in the cold.

So don’t give the public any of that drivel, Gilbert Remulla, (spokesman of Manny Villar), about your boss’ order of arrest for Jocjoc, and the resumption of the fertilizer scam hearings. Your boss tarried and tarried in doing all these, and only when his indecision became obvious, and some other senators in caucus started challenging such indecision, did he act. Ask your Joker. He knows.

Going back to my friend Caloy’s recollection of the first Manuel A. Roxas, he eventually became Senate President as an ally of Manuel Luis Quezon, president of the Commonwealth when the Pacific war broke out. After the war and a brief interregnum before the elections that pitted him against MLQ’s successor, the taciturn Sergio Osmena Sr. of Cebu, Roxas was yet technically the Senate President. So was the great MLQ when he was elected president. So was Ferdinand Marcos, who stole the senate presidency from Amang Rodriguez past an unsuspecting Diosdado Macapagal, and from that perch, challenged the latter and won. But someone who fell from his perch, Senate President Jose Avelino of Samar and Bulacan, challenged his president, Elpidio Quirino, put up his own Avelino wing of the Liberal Party, and lost miserably in 1949. Why did Avelino place a miserable third, after Quirino and Laurel of the Nacionalistas, even if he was representing the Roxas loyalists of the Liberal Party, as he claimed? “What are we in power for?”, his famous quote. In truth, even Avelino did not do anything the likes of which Manny Villar is accused of these days. His only fault was political candor, spoken in Castillian, “Para que estamos en poder?” to party-mates, but an intrepid journalist scooped him. And in those days, you couldn’t buy reporters off.

The presidency of the Senate was no longer as important a vantage point from which to aim at the presidency after Cory Aquino was installed by people power. Salonga fell from his rostrum, and a year later, also lost his presidential bid. Maceda lost his senate crown, and later lost his bid for the mayoralty of Manila. Angara, who also lost the senate presidency, likewise lost his vice-presidential bid to then Sen. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Truth is, the senators compared Villar with his immediate predecessor, Frank Drilon, who steered the chamber in far better manner. Villar’s leadership begins and ends in a caucus, eschewing floor debates, very boardroom, very “tayo-tayo”. And the minority, as well as those in the majority with whom he was not too hunky-dory, always felt left out. The resentments already seethed in the second quarter of 2008.

Then the C-5 double insertion came up, which Ping Lacson thought was a DBM trick to impound savings for the Dona and/or Andaya to toy with. It turned out to be a smoking gun that led to the mystery of the road called C-5. When Jamby Madrigal got hold of documents from the DPWH, the mystery unravelled, and out came Villar’s self-dealing. In the wake of such devious manipulations, the Republic lost at least 1.2 billion pesos in consummated road right-of-way payments to Bro. Mike Velarde , because Manny Villar wanted the C-5 re-routed to another longer, more snake-like thoroughfare, each bend designed to pass through his corporation’s properties. And got paid for it too, again from the kaban ng bayan, more than another legislator, Ompong Plaza of Agusan del Sur, whose family properties were paid 4,000 per square meter versus 15,000 for Villar’s. And who negotiated with the DPWH, for and in behalf of the other property owners? Why, according to the documents, Manny Villar and his spouse, Cynthia, congresswoman of Las Pinas!

At that point, Villar’s numbers started to cave in. A senator from his side observed to a cabinet member in the Senate when the JPEPA was ratified after waiting for Jamby Madrigal’s expose in a privilege speech --- “open and shut”. To which the cabinet member replied, “Masyadong reckless”. (I heard it. This is a first person account. And they didn’t mind sharing their conversation with me in the gallery.)

“C-5 at Taga” was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It gave reason to the senators increasingly disenchanted with Villar’s “leadership” style to plot and count numbers. The wonder of it all is how they managed to keep it a secret from Manny Villar and his staunch allies until the last minute. Probably that explains why the numbers were deliberately kept at just nine senators when the Senate resumed session on November 10. And after the bolantic encounter last week, the nine senators started to talk in earnest to the “soft-core” supporters of Villar, treading very carefully, practicing the same stealth with which Villar blacked them out in June of 2007.

Which is why Erap found out last. And the last 13th vote was ascertained only in the morning of the putsch. Lito Lapid was never “consulted”. Baka malaman pa ng Malacanang, and a monkey wrench is thrown. Kanya pala bumoto muna kay JPE, tapos binawi. Tulak nang puso, kabig ng Malacanang?

Now Villar’s media friends ascribe baser motives to the new majority. Par for the course. Squabbling daw over committee chairs. Perhaps a little wrangling here and there, because unlike in 2007, where the administration-opposition coalition was cobbled by Villar through chair-dealing, this was not, because there was a common purpose, and there was a need for absolute secrecy. Naturally, the spoils come after. In 2007, the spoils were partitioned before the presidency. Note that Allan Peter Cayetano was given the Blue Ribbon, plus education. Wow! And Pia Cayetano had Health, plus Environment, plus Accounts, plus Ethics. Wow again!

The political pot boils. Some are boiled, some are merely scalded.

* * *

The morning after, Manny Villar pushed through with a campaign stump. He invited the barangay chairpersons of the City of Manila to an eatery called Tramway in Quezon City. (One barangay chairman from the third district refused to go --- “Bakit, wala bang kainan sa Maynila?”, asked he.) Of Manila’s 900 barangay chairs, some 370 came, but the place overflowed with former barangay chairmen and kagawads who made sabit to their chairmen. In all, there must have been 800, packing the place, and many had to leave because the place had become an oven. Cynthia sobbed, recounting the fall of her husband from the Senate presidency. But Manny forced a smile, and preened about his latest survey numbers.

The chairmen chatted throughout, and favourite topic was C-5 at Taga! In the end, they waited for the envelope, but none was forthcoming. I guess that’s the problem when you’re filthy rich. Everyone comes expecting --- the envelope please!

O tempora, O mores!, the Romans would have rued. Such is the Philippine political system. No money, no honey, as the GI Joe’s would say. Ah, but Manny has plenty.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Keystone Kops or La Cosa Nostra?

A few hours after you listened to the hearing of the Senate where Eliseo de la Paz and his confederates in the police organization were testifying (under oath, by the way), you either wanted to cry, or you wanted to gnash your teeth in anger.

Oh sure, "Ely" or "Sir Ely", as his watch fancier and Bible-reading associate in some born-again Christian organization, Tyrone Ng Arejola called him, looked contrite enough. In fact, from the very beginning, he owned up to everything. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

He was sorry for himself. He looked it. He was sorry for the anguish and pain the Sheremetyevo Airport incident in far-away Moscow caused his family. Dapat lang. And he was sorry for the damage he inflicted to the institution he has served for close to four decades with dedication and honesty, or words to that effect.

But the institution he was apologizing for, the institution he wanted to spare from the onus of his self-admitted folly, or at least its leadership, was not supportive. They had decided to leave Eliseo de la Paz to his fate – that of a fall guy. Perhaps later, when the heat has cooled off (and in this country of a people with abjectly short memories, that is always the case, ne c’est pas?), Jesus Versoza and Ronaldo Puno, and of course, La Señora Gloria y su esposo will take care of him. There’s always good old reliable Merceditas the ever-merciful (though merciless to the likes of Tet Garcia – buti nga), who can always be relied upon to sit on poor Sir Ely’s case, and when the irrepressible Harry Roque and the unforgetting Frank Chavez remember and start making kulit, then her office would prosecute half-heartedly before an equally half-hearted Sandiganbayan.

"Haba-habaan mo lang ang pasensya mo, Ely. Aayusin natin ito", Ronaldo Puno and/or his protégé Jesus Versoza must have conveyed. And so, Eliseo de la Paz agreed to play the role of scapegoat.

A friend called after Loren Legarda marvelled repeatedly at Sir Ely’s ignorance of the Central Bank’s restrictions on the exit of foreign currency, as well as currency restrictions all over the world.

"P…i! Anong klaseng mga pulis generals ito? Maski ordinaryong OFW, alam ang currency restrictions…sino ang niloloko nila," he exasperatedly observed.

As I was inside the car when he called, and the radio was reporting the hearing live, even my driver butted in, with mocking laughter – "Kapag hinuli ka ng pulis, magdahilan ka man na hindi mo nakita ang road sign, sasagutin ka ng, "Bata, ang batas dapat sundin, at hindi pwedeng dahilan ang hindi mo alam." I could almost picture in my mind Fred Lim, another former policeman, declaring "The law is for all or none at all." And perhaps Mamang Pulis, Sonny Razon, who will run for hizzoner of Manila, against Lim and come-backing Lito Atienza in 2010, saying, "Ignorance of the law excuses no one".

My friend said, "Keystone Kops talaga ang mga kapulisan natin". Well…not really.

In the case of Jocelyn the Bolantic in last Thursday’s hearing, nagtanga-tangahan. Bistadong-bistado ang pagsisinungaling. Truly a hard-boiled liar. But on Saturday in the Senate, hindi naman kasing bolantic sina De la Paz, et al. Nagkandabuhul-buhol nga.

Dick Gordon suggested that it might be the military culture still ingrained in the now-civilianized police force. The "mistah" culture, some call it. And Versoza agreed, saying they’re still trying to be less militaristic. Frankly, that is an insult to the military establishment. Unlike the police, soldiers are not into kotong; they do not receive intelihensya from jueteng lords. They suffer deprivation while putting their lives on the line, and many do not become corrupt until they wear stars on their shoulders. The police get more practice, so that when they become generals, they become more rapacious and immoderately greedy. Remember that guy Mosqueda, the general who swore Iggy Arroyo was Jose Pidal, later promoted to Bicolandia’s regional director, there to wallow in jueteng? The guy made a fool of himself in the Senate a few years ago, but look where he is now — the fools of Estancia in Iloilo, where they probably counted buwad or dried fish as voters, elected him their mayor.

Panfilo Lacson was a very rare exception, though. He did not accept reward money from grateful families of kidnap victims. He refused jueteng payola. He downloaded intelligence funds to the field operating units. Why, he even disobeyed his commander-in-chief who wanted him to go slow against Kumpareng Chavit, and Kumpareng Bong, and their ka-cosa. But those were the days; nine years ago seems to be such a long and forgotten era.

Loren should have asked De la Paz if he had ever come across Carlos F. Garcia, whose son tried to purloin a hundred thousand dollars into the US of A, and when apprehended by US Customs, an indignant wife came up to say that the money was peanuts…they were used to more…the suppliers give much, much more." In fact, only during their umpteenth "puslit" of the family enterprise did one of them get caught.

But General Garcia was probably the role model Puno and Versoza suggested to De la Paz. "Bata, akuin mo na. Tingnan mo nga si General Garcia, pa-house arrest house-arrest lang. Nakalimutan na ng tao." So Sir Ely took the rap, willingly, albeit with countenance so dolorous you wish he would break down.

Dodging all the procedures of public funds accounting, a certain Chief Supt. Tomas Rentoy, custodian of the safe where millions of lump-sum approved intelligence funds were kept, simply gave retiring comptroller Eliseo de la Paz seven million pesos on mere say-so. De la Paz signed a memorandum receipt for the cold cash, then proceeded to a money changer who, voila, had 105,000 euros handy. Hah! Even Hong Kong and Shanghai or Citibank would require a few days to amass that kind of unusual demand, never mind if Sir Ely wanted greenbacks instead.

The more plausible story would have been that they got dollars, then exchanged the same in Hongkong for euros, before they boarded the plane to Moscow. Likelier still, the euros were waiting for them in Hong Kong, given by someone who looked like Tyrone Ng whatever, "pang-gastos, bossing!", and then made a certain request from his friend Sir Ely. "Paki-bayaran naman yung limited edition Roger Dubuis bi-retro na in-order ko sa Vienna. Eto ang 45,000 euros pa, sir – sobra na ‘yan, keep the change". "Kung kakapusin, pwede na rin yung IWC from Schaffhausen", Tyrone said. (I bought an IWC in Zurich thirty years ago, on my first sojourn to Europe, and didn’t know I now own the equivalent of a house. Well, bottom of the line lang siguro.)

Mar Roxas pried the secret liaison between Tyrone and Sir Ely. The expensive watch-fancier with impeccably good taste (otherwise Rolex lang ang alam) was a supplier pala of civil disturbance equipment (wail, Jamby, wail…and Satur and Teddy likewise and all you street protesters) to the PNP. He was trading by the millions, although he was dissembling about the actual amount of his contracts. Really big-time, this Tyrone, he couldn’t even remember the figures well enough…kunwari nag-e-estimate lang. Who does he think he is, a Henry Sy or a Gokongwei? Why those guys, even at their age, would remember such "deals" in exact figures. But at least, he opened up a flank, unlike the impenetrable, imperturbably bolantic Joc Joc. That guy from Capiz, as I wrote last, is sui generis. Maski nasa harap na ni San Pedro, magsisinungaling pa. Tyrone and his Sir Ely are mercifully, not yet beyond redemption.

But the seven-hour ordeal televiewers went through last Saturday, after a nine-hour ordeal last Thursday, left one asking in utmost bewilderment how the police generals in front of the senators got to be promoted to where they are. They didn’t even know the provisions kuno of the General Appropriations Act, which disallows personnel with less than one year from retirement to be sent on foreign trips at government expense. Of course they knew, but then, by golly, they are the police. They are the law. And if you are the law, why follow it? "Para que estamos en poder," as Senate President Peping Avelino used to say.

There is no law for Joc Joc. There is no law for police generals like Sir Ely and Rentoy and Pestano and Rodriguez, of course Versoza and his Puno. Lahat, todo-pasa. Basta’t may lusot, ilulusot.

They treat the intelligence fund as one slush fund, to be used for personal purposes, basta’t may go-signal kay "bossing." And who is the "bossing"?

In the case of the bolantic Joc Joc, clearly it was not Cito Lorenzo. Clearly, as Miriam herself said, it was "somebody in Malacañang." In the case of Sir Ely and his Rentoy, "bossing" meant the PNP chief, what with him as personal valet and his wife as yaya to Mrs. Chief in Viajes Europa? As for the chief PNP, hindi pwedeng gibain, kasi protégé ni Ronnie the Tree, pinuno ng mga kampion, hepe ng mga ka-Kampi, ni Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It’s really, as Ping Lacson always says, "a criminal syndicate masquerading as government".

Sir Ely let another cat out of the bag. Hindi talaga kasing dulas ni Joc Joc, the insurance salesman turned fertilizer chemist. He confessed to the senators that he and his wife, along with Mrs. Versoza, were set to visit Warsaw in Poland, Prague in the Czech Republic (perhaps with a side trip to Karlovy Vary, where the hot spa is truly rejuvenating), Budapest in Hungary (Szentendre too, for a bowl of heavenly goulash?), and farther down the Danube into merry Vienna where the Roger Dubuis, and the nights at Grinzing were waiting. Did De la Paz miss some other place? A brief train ride away was Zurich in the Swiss Alps, as Senadora Miriam herself remembered.

Kanya pala may €105,000 na baon. He, he, he.

Galing ba talaga sa intelligence funds? Sir Ely is now in a fine kettle of hot water, because he was both disbursing officer and recipient of funds which by law could not, could never be used for travel expenses.

So…what is the provenance of the mysterious 7 million pesos? If Sir Ely tells the truth, he would be breaking the vow of omerta, which his ka-Cosas can never forgive. Just take the rap, Sir Ely. The Cosa Nostra will take care of you. Konting tiis lang.

Moral of the story, as if morals existed in this benighted land cursed by the seven years of GMA, almost eight?

Eliseo de la Paz’ surname is not uncommon. There are Panga-sinense’s, Pampango’s, Bula-keno’s, Manileno’s who sport the surname. Most prominent, of course are those from Marikina, a very reputable old rich surname in Bayani and Marides’ exemplary fiefdom. So Sir Ely’s grandchildren will need not carry the stigma. After all, clearly he is just a fall guy for others in his Cosa Nostra. People will likely forget.

But Bolante? How many carry that surname? When Joc Joc’s grandchildren start going to school, if they aren’t yet, will classmates not ask … apo ka ni Joc Joc? Kung sabagay, pakapalan lang ‘yan.


Tragedy befell the family of detained Lt. Ervin Divinagracia of the Scout Rangers Regiment. His wife Marlyn died so quickly after she was diagnosed at St. Luke’s for leukemia. My deepest sympathies. Marlyn was only 32 years old, and leaves two young children. With Ervin in Capinpin, who now takes care of these young kids?

Life can be so unfair. Ervin, like the others similarly situated, were, according to Esperon and Tolentino, the loyal Kempeitai generals, now part of the cabinet of the spouses Arroyo, mutinied against her illegitimate rule.

How much longer will the good Lord sleep?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


What did the Senate expect? A conversion similar to Paul of Tarsus? Did they expect Jocelyn "Joc Joc" Bolante to suddenly tell the truth, chastened by two years of confinement in a Kenosha County jail, followed by two weeks of soul-searching in a St. Luke’s hospital suite?

Joc Joc Bolante was at his "bolantic" best last Thursday, as he dead-panned innocence before the senators of the realm. He was just a disbursing officer, said he. There was a program…er, funding pala. It was a practice even in previous administrations to assist farmers with inputs. Except that GMA was suddenly extremely generous in 2004 – 728 million pesos, and even more. So generous that Joc Joc got his request for a DBM release of funds within 24 hours. The budget of 2004 was a re-enacted budget, made so by collusion between Congress and the executive, so GMA could treat it as one entire discretionary fund, except for personal services, otherwise called salaries and wages by laymen.

Even the bombastic Miriam was no match to the bolantic liar. He was simply unflappable. Tony Zulueta coached him well. The atmosphere at St. Luke’s was conducive to non-conversion. The Holy Spirit could not move Joc Joc from his bolantic obfuscations and prevarications. Force of habit. As Mar Roxas quipped, "Pulos bola." Maybe the aswangs of Capiz, and not the Holy Spirit, moved the guy.

Jun Magsaysay had already established the facts of the caper.

First, Joc Joc released funds for fertilizers during the harvest season, not the planting season.

Second, there was no public bidding. If the funds were downloaded during the harvest season, there was ample time to bid out a tender for fertilizers in time for the planting season, right? But no, the funds had to be spent as soon as they were downloaded. Fertilize the harvest, baka mag-miracle rice!

Third, the huge money was a first in DA practice. It was also the last. Which means, pang-eleksyon lang, hindi ba?

Fourth, there was no criterion utilized in apportioning the funds to various provinces, districts and cities. Hating kapatid. So much so that even urbanites Cynthia Villar and Teddy Boy Locsin and Alan Peter Cayetano, then a congressman, were listed as a proponent and recipient. Umiinom na ng fertilizer ang mga itik para mangitlog ng balut?

Fifth, it was supposedly to increase palay and corn production, under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice and corn program. But they bought foliar fertilizer, diluted with more water, used for orchids. He, he, he. If you don’t have rice, why not eat flowers? Bourbonic becomes bolantic.

Sixth, overpricing. Isang kutsaritang urea, tinunaw sa isang litrong tubig (distilled naman siguro), 1,500 pesos each! Kung may pera sa basura ang mga mayor, may pera sa tubig na kulay ihi si Bolante.

Seventh, ghost suppliers – Feshan, Akame, produced hastily by Bolante and his "runners".

And eighth, ghost recipients pa! Per the Commission on Audit, of the 13 non-government organizations listed as beneficiaries, only five had legitimate addresses.

But the senators came unprepared, or perhaps they thought he had been exorcised from the influence of the aswangs transported from Capiz to St. Luke’s upon the hill. They could just shake their heads in disbelief, with Miriam bellowing sighs that sounded like guttural noises at the brazenness of Bolante’s tales of denial. She should have just picked her pistol and shot the witness right between the eyes. She is a sure shot after all, ‘di bala? The people would even make her a heroine.

Through it all, in absolute calm, never raising his voice, never losing his cool, Jocelyn Bolante simply denied everything. GMA had nothing to do with it. 728 million, hindi alam ni GMA, Mar gushed? "Napaka-poderoso" mo naman! Siyempre, ma-swerti talaga si Joc Joc. He did not know anything about suppliers; he was just a disbursing officer. All the other senators just twitted him, but the guy remained denial king to the end…well, almost.

Even his appointment as undersecretary was just happenstance. The Presidential Management Staff called him, and voila, the insurance executive was transported into the realm of agriculture, one of the first quiet appointments of the newly-proclaimed president by act of usurpation. El esposo grande had nothing to do with it.

Everyone and his mother in the Department of Agriculture would soon know him as the most powerful undersecretary ever in its long history. All roads led to his office, not to Secretary Leonardo Montemayor, nor Secretary Cito Lorenzo, but Bolante told the Senate he was just a mere disbursing officer.

Pushed later to the wall when Panfilo Lacson got his turn in the evening, he tossed the ball to the undersecretaries for operation. And Alan Peter Cayetano identified Arthur Yap, then NFA administrator, as one of the undersecretaries. But Lacson produced a memorandum signed by Bolante, addressed to a regional director of the DA in the Visayas, where he authorized them to negotiate with NGO’s and PO’s in the distribution of the diluted fake fertilizers. Only at that point was the unflappable Bolante discom-bobulated. He quibbled something about LGU’s, not NGO’s, but his act was clearly upset. Because earlier he maintained stoic innocence about the how’s and the what’s of implementation. Now he was forced to own up to the memorandum. He was into operations, pala!

My sources at the DA told me that this "Farm Inputs/Farm Implements" was not a banner program, not even a regular program of the department. It was a "special" program devised by bolantic genius, disbursed by bolantic genius, and supervised with devious bolantism.

Cito Lorenzo could not touch Joc Joc. Neither the other undersecretaries, Usecs Sana, Martinez, even Yap who was designated by Lorenzo to help out for a few months could dare interfere with the omni-powerful Joc Joc, who conscripted Asecs Belinda Gonzales and Pliquit to his enterprise. See where they are now – both have been promoted to undersecretary. Courtesy of the PMS and "search" committee too?

Ma-swerti lang si JocJoc, because Lacson asked late. The senator came to the session hall at 9 sharp, but by then, other senators had already gotten their staff to place their nameplates ahead. And he had to leave for a university symposium in the afternoon, thus forfeiting his time slot until the second round of questions. By then it was almost seven in the evening. The fact that Joc Joc was still up and about, after almost nine hours of the hearing, cool and composed, merely showed he was just malingering at St. Luke’s, Lacson observed.

Round one clearly was Joc Joc’s, because the senators who grilled him did not have enough fire in their bellies, aside from not doing their homework. Or they just preened before the live cameras – nagpa-pogi, nagpa-beauty. Only Lacson did research, but his turn came late. Mar and Chiz were eloquent, but Joc Joc simply remained bolantic. Bolantic was how we described the shamelessness of his caper before; bolantic is how we describe his act before the Senate last Thursday.

Jocelyn "Joc Joc" Bolante the Rotarian is sui generis. Napakagaling mam-bola. Napakagaling mag-isip kung paano gumawa ng pera. Bagay na bagay sila ng kanyang mga amo. Congratulations – PMS and GMA’s "search" committee. You hit the jackpot. What a "great" guy!


Postscript: At one point in the hearing, someone tried to pry details about his health condition. After perorating about the "findings" of his cardiologist, Joc Joc quipped that "at least, they found that I have a heart".

Jinggoy Estrada laughed. He should have shot back – what about soul? What about conscience?

Clearly none.

Somebody else was detained inside a cell in the US of A after Doña Gloria gave the go-signal for his extradition, because he knew too much, and could prove to be an embarrassment for the 2004 elections. Remember MJ?

He came back claiming to have been "touched" by the Holy Spirit. He has now slinked into oblivion.

Joc Joc Bolante went through another US jail. He came back, unchanged…rather, hardened. In fact, more bolantic than ever.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Short shrift

This one is for the books --- The Office of the Ombudsman, citing lack of evidence in absolving former agriculture undersecretary Jocjoc Bolante for misusing 432 million pesos in fertilizer funds in a 2003 case, said: “We based it on the merits of the case.”

Since when has the Ombudsman done so?

* * *

Months before, the same Office of the Ombudman filed charges against an incumbent city mayor, a former city mayor, DPWH officials, and private suppliers and contractors over the stinking Cebu lampposts scandal. Remember this case?

Two years ago, the City of Cebu hosted the Asean summit, and the whole metropolis went overboard in trying to put its best foot forward. There was the overpriced and hastily built (a la Imelda) convention centre fronting the reclaimed wharf, along with landscaping galore that made Cebu look like a recreated Aalsmeer, except that weeks after the big bash, the flowers and the plants wilted, money down the drain --- as usual in this benighted land. But more jarring to good sense and everybody’s sensibilities, including the whole nation’s, were ubiquitous China-made lampposts installed so close to each other which gave little actual illumination. What’s more, they were priced so scandalously high, as in immoderately greedy “tongpats” of more than ten times the actual cost.

As usual, the small fry got fried, while the big guys went scot-free, or soon to be. Lapu-lapu city mayor Artemio Radaza, who “won” re-election despite the scandal, for one, now asks the Ombudsman to totally dismiss the charges against him (go to Lapu-lapu and see for yourself) because “the evidence is insufficient”.
So how did they do it this time?
First, let the issue cool off. That’s the usual tactic of the Ombudsman. Patulugin ang kaso, and the classic example is Jocjoc Bolante. Only when his return from exile was imminent did they go through the motions of reviving the case. The Cebu lampposts anomaly went through the same “wringer”.
The defendants were then able to buy time to claim that a number of import documents submitted as evidence in the cases were “spurious” and of “doubtful authenticity”. Aayusin ‘yung supplier.
Now, like a striptease, the defendants are getting off the hook, because “it would be very difficult to prove that the said contract…was indeed manifestly and grossly disadvantageous…based on evidence at hand”.
Same, same. As it was in Bolante, so it is in Radaza, Lala, Ouano, et al. Imagine short and ugly lampposts with different ugly designs uglifying Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-lapu from the international airport to the convention center complex, overpriced more than ten times their actual cost, now being whitewashed. What used to be an open and shut case, has become shut, period. And the taxpayers go hang, thanks to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Lapu-lapu city mayor Artemio Radaza, who is on his third term, even wants to gerrymander the district so he could run for congressman, and then impose his wife Paz, a barangay kapitana, to be the new mayor of his “kingdom” by the sea.

And Roberto Lala, the DPWH regional director during this construction frenzy in Cebu, has since become the regional director of the National Capital Region! Wow!

Don’t blame Lala though for those ugly lampposts now uglifying Manila, Pasay and Paranaque all the way to the airport and the Coastal Road. Those are mayor’s “rackets”. He,he,he.

May pera na sa basura, may pera pa sa pangit na ilaw. No wonder the bishops say corruption is all over. It is, and it stinks, all over the corners of this globe. Why do you think everyone and his mother has adjudged ours among the most corrupt nations on earth?

* * *

Don’t look now. In the Comelec, two “controversial” post-proclamation cases have stealthily been “cooked”. One involves the vice-gubernatorial race in Batangas, where the proclaimed incumbent won by some 19,000 votes over his opponent. But his opponent is no ordinary person. He is the son of the Dona’s executive secretary.

During the revision of ballots, crooked Comelec employees (aren’t they all?) switched “fake and spurious” ballots (which they themselves supplied), in place of the real, authentic ballots in the towns where the young vice-governor won handily in the 2007 elections. Thus, the lawyer of the protestant can claim that the vice-governor was proclaimed on the basis of “spurious” and “manufactured” votes.

No, they did not write the name of the executive secretary’s son in the fake ballots. It’s still the winner’s name written in the now “fake” ballots. When the commissioners appreciated the ballots, they now had reason to disregard the “fake”, not knowing, (or even if they were into the conspiracy) that the ballots had been switched earlier. The lead of the vice-governor thus gets whittled down.

Comelec insiders are wondering why a certain commissioner appointed last year and by-passed by the Commission on Appointments twice, suddenly found himself dis-appointed this time. Wasn’t he “cooperative” enough? And who causes and transmits the re-appointments of by-passed commissioners and other officials? Why, the Executive Secretary, of course.

* * *

But that’s not the end of it. Another local official will soon be given “short” shrift. Same modus operandi. Same election lawyer for the protestant, who is a former governor, and a former cabinet member of Dona Gloria. He was roundly defeated by the incumbent governor of this province immediately north of Metro Manila in the 2007 elections.

Real ballots with the name of the incumbent governor were simply changed with “spurious” ballots, his name likewise written in. So, when the commissioners “appreciated” the ballots, these were disregarded. The “smart” lawyer in both cases is a favourite of Garci, but of course.

Who is the hapless governor who will sooner find himself declared a “cheat” by the Commission on Electoral Cheating, the timing postponed because of the noise created by Jocjoc and De la Paz? Masyadong mainit?

Remember him as the one who, together with Among Ed, “embarrassed” Malacanang by publicizing their receipt of the mysterious gift bag with 500,000 pesos inside. Lintik lang ang walang ganti.

* * *

You see, whether in the constitutional office called the Office of the Ombudsman, or the constitutional office called the Commission on Elections, all tenets of law, justice and fair play are given short shrift, whenever the powerful so ordain, or whenever their money talks, better both.

There is no justice in this land benighted by so much “evil”. And there will never be, until and unless we as a people summon the collective courage to throw the rascals out, and vow “never again”!

* * *

As Filipinos, we should be indignant when our president is snubbed by a president-elect of another country, no matter if he happens to be the “emperor of the world” in waiting. But why do most of us take perverse delight in seeing her twist in the wind, unable to seek his audience, unable to hear even his voice?

We are gratified with the realization that while we could not summon the courage to banish this abomination from our piece of earth, the aides of the new emperor gave her “short” shrift. Oh yes, it’s very Filipino. We like others doing the job for us.

These aides of Obama, now hailed as the smartest political tacticians in the US of A, were the ones who refused, politely or not, to hand over the phone to their principal when Dona Gloria came a-calling, not once, but twice.

Why did they give her “short” shrift --- this “iron lady” who presides over the fate of their country’s once-outpost of democracy in Asia, their supinely willing ally, while returning the calls of more than a dozen others, including the Polish president? Never mind Gordy Brown of Britain and Nicky Sarkozy of France and Taro Aso of Japan, even Berlusconi of Italy. But Poland, Pakistan, South Korea, Mexico, and not Her Excellency, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines? Lese majeste!

Those Fil-Ams in California, and yes, Chicago, might go to the streets to protest shabby treatment of their “presidenta”.

But then, that’s what smart aides are for. They screen the unwanted. They vet the credentials of those who seek audience. And smart as they are, they realize that millions and millions of Filipinos, in America or elsewhere, will cheer them for what they did, which is give their illegitimate president “short” shrift. Surely they have read about the corruption, the duplicitous foreign practices of this dubious ally, and the tale of the Garci tapes. Why, the guy she cheated was half-American white, (the poor man died with a broken heart) just like their principal. Why give her then Obama’s time of day? Let her fall in line come APEC in next year’s fall.

These guys, who whipped a frenzy for upstart John Edwards in 2004 when he sought to be the Democratic challenger against the Dubya, settling instead to be the vice-presidential teammate of the almost-won John Kerry, are now basking in the afterglow of historic victory. It is a victory cheered both at home and abroad. The first black man to enter the White House, as POTUS.

Why should their boss suffer someone called Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? Whose interior secretary and prime political adviser was cavorting with the aides of John McCain and those Republican “losers” in the bars of Georgetown last spring? He bet on the wrong horse, so now it’s time to give his principal her deserved come-uppance.

Washington DC, their nation’s capital, and the political capital of the world, is really such a small town. Everybody knows everybody.

I really cared very little if America voted for Obama or McCain. I am not a “little brown American”. I know damn well that it would matter little to the fate of this benighted land whichever way the contest in the US of A went. But then again, I knew the inside story of how close someone is, or was, to the handlers of John McCain. Which is my private little reason for hoping that Obama would win.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It’s a small world after all

There is a song, one of Disneyland’s favourite themes, that comes to mind now that we read that Thaksin Shinawatra’s visa to the United Kingdom has been cancelled.

"It’s a small world after all."

Thaksin was tried and convicted on corruption charges shortly after he returned to his native Thailand last February. Before that, the hapless though popular leader was ousted from power while he was in New York to address the United Nations in its annual junket for heads of state. From New York, Thaksin hastily flew to London, where the imminence of his fall, occasioned by King Bhumibol’s acceptance of the new rulers, dawned upon the popular leader.

Quietly however, he plotted his return, and things began to move positively when the countryside votes in the Thai Parliament brought his party in control of Parliament and thus made his ally, Samak Sundarajev, prime minister. When Samak seemed firmly in control, Thaksin came back to the waiting arms of his party leaders. But the wheels of justice caught up with him in August when the courts found him and his wife Potjaman guilty of corruption. It was a case of self-dealing, where Thaksin helped his wife buy precious government-owned real estate. (This is similar to a power couple who dream of becoming the country’s president and first lady. In their case though, the husband provides funds in the budget for government to be able to buy lands owned by the family corporation for road rights-of-way.)

Before they could arrest Potjaman and Thaksin, he flew the coop, to London once more. Now, the United Kingdom has cancelled his British visa, while he and his wife were visiting China. Thus, Thaksin finds himself in a dilemma. He could return to his native Thailand, of course, but he and his wife will have to be whisked into jail, regardless of the fact that the man who replaced Samak is — will wonders never cease — Potjaman’s brother, Somchai Wongsawat. Thailand, it seems is different. There the rule of law reigns. Here in these benighted parts, the rule of money and powerful relations is what matters.

The powerful Thai couple could also stay in China, but only for some time. China is unlikely to give political refugee status to them. It is a precedent that Beijing does not know how to handle, and the Chinese people care not to have such a problem. Neither could they land in Heathrow again; -Britain already warned foreign airlines about bringing him back anywhere in the foggy isles. The European Union would likely not grant him a Schengen visa either. Thaksin’s dilemma could only be solved by another country willing to take him in.

Which realistically should mean an African country of the likes of Somalia, Chad, Niger, Burkina Fasso, or Cote d’Ivoire. But Thaksin, a rich man to begin with, is not likely to relish these environments. Or perhaps Uruguay, maybe some Caribbean island here and there. But the language they speak is too alien for a Thai like Thaksin, and where could he get lemon grass and coriander for Potjaman’s tom yum goong?

Maybe the Philippines. Same climate, similar-looking people, the most liberal country in Southeast Asia, with night life similar to Bangkok and Pattaya, and islands basking in as much sun as Phuket, and mountains as bracing and wind-swept as his beloved Chiang Mai. And as English-speaking as the Pakistani cab-driver in London. Not to forget, Buddhist temples as well.

Yesterday afternoon, his brother-in-law arrived for a visit, billed as a getting-to-know-you with the country’s de facto president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had to rush to the airport later in the evening to depart for Chicago in hopes of brushing her presence with the new "emperor of the world-in waiting," Barack Obama.

Speculation is rife that Somchak discussed the possibility of her government playing host to Thaksin’s temporary exile to these benighted islands. A DFA spokesman earlier said, perhaps cluelessly, that we will refuse Thaksin refuge in these parts. But he forgot that Somchak is Thaksin’s bayaw, or perhaps glossed over it, maintaining the strict neutrality of formal diplomacy. "Friendly" relations with our Asean brothers, in this case Thailand, are primordial, foreign affairs undersecretary Frank Ebdalin said.

But what if Somchak himself tells Gloria that Thailand will not take offense? What if the King of Thailand himself prefers that his once-anointed be not humiliated in other capitals of the world?

If there is any place in the universe where people genuinely would not mind the presence of a former head of government accused of crimes far, far less than any they are willing to suffer in the hands of a president much, much more corrupt, then this country must be it.

As for the Doña, how do you suppose she would react? Let me give you a guess. Would it be about swapping investments? You allow me to buy into your European, Middle Eastern and Singaporean investments, perhaps Chinese too? Then you buy my "partners" (maybe she will be direct and refer to them as "cronies") investments in our power utilities, shipping, banking, you name it, you can have it. Thaksin’s money is properly dry-cleaned, and hers laundered as well. Neat, eh?

It’s a small world, after all.

But wait! Will not the Doña, while crossing the Pacific into the domain her friend Dubya will soon relinquish into the hands of the not-too-friendly Obama, ponder as well her fate after 2010? Who among the crop of presidential pretenders would give her guarantees of safety and security and nolle prosequi, if even Thaksin’s brother-in-law could not save him?

Could Noli live up to his promise? Or Bayani? Or Dick? Or Manny? Or even Erap? Could they resist the calls for prosecution that will surely rise from the bowels of the masa, and the civil society, and media, and hey, even the bishops? Justice they will cry out. Will the new president, even if she contributes generously to his campaign kitty, not give in to the roar of the crowd, just as the Thai prime minister could not sway either the PDA in Bangkok’s streets or the courts?

And if London could do this to Thaksin, how would these Brits and perhaps tout l’Europe treat her after June 30, 2010? Thaksin after all was never taken to task by the international community for any extra-judicial killings. Yes, he caused the mysterious deaths of drug lords, but everyone applauded him. But political activists and newsmen? No, Thaksin was never guilty of that. Why, the Doña might think, as her PAL flies across the Pacific, even Madre España might not give her y su esposo refuge. And she recalls how they ditched Augusto Pinochet, and forced him out of his villa in Capo Finisterre.

So after that two-day sojourn for some "interfaith dialogue ek-ek" in New York, watch the play for cha-cha begin. Why, an exiled Thaksin Shinawatra may even be called in to talk about the wonders of a parliamentary government, once he is safely ensconced in Boracay, or Palawan, or Bohol.

And if the people should fall for it, then it’s not going to be a small world after all for Gloria y su esposo Miguel, as well as Mikey and Dato and the newly-wed Luli. It will be happily ever after.


Reader and friend Mon Mayuga has a P.S. from Germany:

"Gloria Arroyo’s vain effort to seek an audience with US President-elect Barack Obama smacks of bottomless insensitivity and utter lack of self-respect as she keeps on pursuing the American even if she knows that she is not welcome. She had already been cold-shouldered in June when he was still unsure of victory and her calls to congratulate him have all neither been answered nor returned now that he has won.

"Still, she wanted to go to New York to attend a useless meeting and pass by Obama’s home city of Chicago, Illinois, ostensibly to meet with the Filipino community there (many of whom probably do not want to see her), a crude effort to show Obama that she "has" influence on many of his Filipino-American constituents.

"Arroyo was thinking perhaps that being geographically close, Obama would relent and invite her to pass by since she is already there.

"She would be risking the biggest embarrassment of her life for behaving like a jilted lover who persists on pursuing him despite being continually spurned. (She is "beyond shame," Mon. That’s what she told some of the Hyatt Ten just before they deserted her in 2005.)

"Obama knows that Arroyo has been very much disliked by the Filipinos at home and abroad like the majority of the Americans regards his future predecessor, George W. Bush. He knows that Filipinos have been dreaming of an honest and clean election and of a president who had been elected fairly and honestly which, respectively the Philippines did not have and Arroyo had not. He knows that the great majority of Filipinos wanted change and that they are fed up with Arroyo as the Americans are with Bush."

On Thursday, I shall attempt to react to Mon Mayuga’s observations, which I am certain most Filipinos truly share of a president who is not only "nakakahiya" but "beyond shame."