Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stewed in his own saliva

The whole world is agog over a new strain of infectious swine flu. It began in Mexico, and has since “infected” the US of A and Canada.

Not to be outdone, our Department of Health has intensified, or so they say, measures to protect the country from possible infection by this scourge. Pingkoy Duque and his bevy of epidemiologists faced the cameras last Monday to allay fears. One of his chorus boys tried to be cute. “Don’t worry. It’s easy”, he said (or words to that effect). Pork does not sneeze, nor does it emit saliva. Only live pigs do”. Dr. Tayag was allaying fears spreading through the markets, where scared population has shunned pork.

I did not see Secretary Duque laughing at his subaltern’s “cute” joke. He probably knows why pork is “tumal”. People simply don’t have the money, swine flu or none.

But Duque, under whose department the Bureau of Quarantine operates, might be interested in this unsolicited advice, sent in by a friend who watched that live press conference on ANC:

“Quarantine the Batasan! That’s teeming with infected swine. And now with more congressmen, courtesy of the Supreme Court, the virus of the pork barrel will multiply several times over”, he cries.

* * *

Meanwhile, at the rate she’s dumping every general the minute one retires into our foreign service, we might as well merge the DFA and the DND, and give both portfolios to her alleged presidential candidate, Gilbert Teodoro, who took it upon himself to announce the new ambassadors. Feeling president, eh?

This is not to disparage Alexander Yano’s qualifications. He may well be better-suited at having tea with the Sultan of Brunei, for all we care. Or his vice chief-of-staff, Cardozo Luna, with his impressive academic credentials, is certainly qualified to cool his heels in the cold winds from the Nordsee that buffet Den Haag, as our ambassador to the Netherlands. (Last time I knew, we had a consolidated embassy for the Low Countries --- Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, but maybe Dona Gloria, oozing with E-VAT money, can afford to split it up and have an embassy exclusive to the Netherlands).

But this is becoming automatic. Admiral De Leon is in Canberra, whiling his time away trying to earn another academic degree in an Aussie university. Vidal Querol of the police is in Indonesia. When Efren Abu was to be called to testify in some Senate hearing, he was suddenly announced as an envoi extraordinaire to le BIMP-EAGA, whatever that means nowadays. Roy Cimatu is still ambassador-at-large for Middle East crisis management, and somewhere too is Generoso Senga, and heaven knows who else and wherever else. Of course the DOTC is riddled with ex-generals, and so is clueless Angelo’s Department of Energy. Likewise, the DPWH is under a retired police general, Hermogenes Ebdane. The DOTC has of course been under former PNP Chief Leandro Mendoza for the longest time. The highly sensitive and extremely powerful Presidential Management Staff is headed by former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Hermogenes Esperon. And the Executive Secretary, Eduardo Ermita, mismo, is a retired three-star general.

* * *

Now I will let you in on a secret. Sometime last month, PNP Director-General Jesus Versoza (PMA Class 1976) was called to Malacanang. When he was ushered into her royal presence, he was surprised to see Western Police District Chief Boysie Rosales (PMA Class 78) already with the Dona. In no uncertain terms, he was told that royalty wished that Rosales be posthaste promoted to chief of the NCRPO, vice Leopoldo Bataoil, Versoza’s mistah. Bataoil had been in the post of NCRPO head only a few months, and had hoped to retire in that posting. Now they invented a powerless title and position for one who headed NCRPO briefly, but with great promise and professionalism.

Royalty had spoken, and Versoza could not say otherwise. The speculation going around Camp Crame nowadays is that Versoza, who will turn 56 on December 25, 2010, will be saying adieu to his post one year earlier, on or before Christmas Day this year. Then perhaps he will be “justly” rewarded, with a diplomatic posting. May I suggest --- Ambassador to Moscow? His first task --- recover the euro-generals’ confiscated funds?

So who will be his replacement? Who else but new NCRPO chief Boysie Rosales, of the fabled class of 1978? By then, the newly-proclaimed Army Chief, Delfin Bangit, also of Class 78, and former bodyguard and “special ops” henchman of the royals in the stinking palace beside the stinking river, will have consolidated his hold on the Army, in time for his new promotion (March or earlier, 2010) as supremo of all the armed forces. In his stead, his mistah, Romeo Prestoza, also a former bodyguard and factotum in the stinking palace, will be the new Army chief.

Notice how Rosales and his new CPD boys handled the “sig-heil” investigation of Ted Failon and his household, after wife Trina committed suicide? Were they trying to get even because Ted has been true to his calling, denouncing the Keystone Kops and corruption ? Or were they showing their “wares” to the royalty who expects them to be “capable of the worst” in these dangerous times? Rosales and his boys may have gained public notoriety, but then, do they care? All that matters is “his” and “her” approval, ne c’est pas, Herr General Boysie?

“Hail, hail! The gang’s all here”, a jolly pedestrian ditty sings. Now segue into the classics, Handel’s Messiah, “And she shall reign…forever and ever”.

* * *

“Hoisted in his own petard” is what happened to Senator Manuel Villar Jr., the man who would be president of the benighted land. Responding angrily the other Monday (April 20), to what he labelled as the machinations of a kangaroo court of “presidentiables” out for his persecution over the mysteries of that stretch of road called C-5, he repeated several times that “he is not afraid to face (Senator Madrigal’s) accusations”, but not before the Ethics Committee chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

“Sasagutin ko ito…not before the Ethics Committee, but right here, on the floor!”, he thundered before his colleagues. Immediately thereafter, his seconds, Minority Leader Nene Pimentel and Alan Peter Cayetano, created their own hobgoblins and peddled these to the public through a cacophony of eager sympathizers from all sorts of media, broadcast, print and whatever else. They just simply cried “rape” even if no one’s rights had been ravaged, let alone touched.

So, the Ethics Committee decided to go the final “extra” mile, just to prove to all and sundry that they were not being unfair or unjust to respondent Villar, who kept touting his being a presidentiable hounded by fellow presidentiables, as shield against possible malefaction. Last Monday (April 27), Lacson stood on the floor, and concluded his short speech by moving that his committee be discharged of the responsibility to give due course to Senator Jamby Madrigal’s accusations of conflict of interest and unseemly conduct against Villar, and for the same to now become the task of the Committee of the Whole (Senate). In fine, let all his peers hear and judge him, without having to go through the committee level. His motion was carried, with 10 votes versus none. Villar’s 5 abstained, while he himself was nowhere in the Senate.

“Hoisted in his own petard”, European parliamentarians would have perhaps dryly remarked. “Stewed in his own saliva” is more succinct.

And how did the man who would be president react? Tuesday noon, the ABS-CBN crew caught him at the nearby Sofitel, and he said “The Ethics committee is a kangaroo court…and the Committee of the Whole is a bigger kangaroo court”!

Later, perhaps realizing that he hooked his mouth once again (did wife Congresswoman Cynthia upbraid him?), he went to Senate President Enrile and “apologized”.

But as soon as Villar stepped out of Enrile’s office, media asked him to clarify his previous statement about kangaroos in the whole Senate, and he said: “Yung sa kangaroo court I was not referring to the Chairman, to be fair. I was referring to the membership …wala akong duda sa kakayahan ni Senator Enrile na chairman. In fact, iyan lang ang consolation doon. Yun lang ang maganda sa committee of the whole, na somebody like JPE is the one chairing it.”

Wow! Breathtaking! So the Committee of the Whole are all “kangaroos”, save for the Senate President?

“So would you submit yourself (to the investigation of the Committee of the Whole)?” came a follow-up question. “Ay…hindi ko pa alam”, was Villar’s reply.

He ought to be “untouchable” pala. Not yet president, he wants immunity from prosecution, by anyone and everyone.

And Juan Ponce Enrile, the man who could have been president, and has credentials far more than Villar in several lifetimes could hope to achieve, and character far more solid (though he has his share of faults in his long career), calmly stated --- “I have no intention of railroading a case against a fellow senator. Let people be the judge, on how fair and impartial the hearings will be”.

In the end, the Senate under Juan Ponce Enrile wants the whole nation to know that any accusation of wrongdoing must be answered, whether by a cabinet official or bureaucrat facing the independent Senate, or by one of its own. That is as it should be.