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?