Till death do them part

By Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

Romulo Neri will soon assume his new posting, as administrator of the Social Security System, which husbands some 250 billion pesos of the blood, sweat, and tears of the working class and their private employers.

To make certain he is classified as cabinet rank, his president created a new cabinet cluster, and made him chair the “national social welfare program” of the Boss Woman. Being in cabinet, he can always and ever invoke executive privilege.

And true to form, Romulo Neri tells the country that “executive privilege will stay with me for the rest of my life”. Their secrets (his and hers) till the grave he shall carry. Till death do them part. Married to each other’s prevarications – Romulo and Gloria.

In defending himself against accusations that he is out to use the workers’ fund as his Boss Woman would order, he claims that when he was appointed to the Department of Budget and Management, they likened him to “Dracula” sent to the blood bank. But there was, Neri maintains, no such “Dracula phenomenon” under his watch.

Yet this guy, over wine and fine cheeses and pica-pica, used to regale his close friends with stories of how his cell phone kept ringing during those stressful days of the impeachment case of 2005. His Boss Woman was besieged by those blood-sucking congressmen, he used to tell, with unlimited requests for funding here and funding there. And her Boss Woman, counting every vote of every crocodile, would call him (a la Garci), to release this and release that to whomever. Exasperated at the incessant ringing of his phone, he decided to go to her palace, and sit beside her, calculator in hand, so his responses, which trigger the SARO’s and the NCA’s, would be direct.

He, he, he. He may be no Dracula, but he certainly was Dracula’s valet and faithful gofer. He would open the casket dutifully each night, and close it as soon as the blood-sucking spree was over. And he would make certain the heavy drapes of secrecy are closed, lest the rays of truth permeate and set his bosses’ victims free again.

To the Energy Regulatory Commission, there’s one political appointment after another. Exit Rodolfo Albano of Isabela, enter Zenaida Ducut of Lubao in Pampanga, faithful maidservant to the Boss Woman, and faithful lawyer of the Boss Woman’s faithful comadre, Atcheng Lilia or Baby Pineda of jueteng infamy. Again, can the public expect this Ducut lady to protect their interest, or do as her Boss Woman bids, whatever that may be, and however inimical such may be to public interest? Don’t look now. And don’t be surprised if one of these days, a Pineda from Lubao sits in the board of Meralco.

Bad governance is not just the flavor of this month; it is the order of this dispensation. They have run out of people who they can trust to carry their secrets to the grave along with them. The ability to do whatever they bid, no questions asked, no ifs and buts, along with the promise to keep everything secret – these are the most “sterling” qualifications for employment in this government.

As for those former senior government officials (FSGO) who keep objecting to her “good” governance style, and critique every new appointment under the principle that bad appointments are the hallmark of bad governance, well, she just couldn’t care less. “Manhid” in Tagalog. “Insensitive and callous” in English. My lola would have said, “sin verguenza”.

Recall what Rear Admiral Mata, that member of the Board of Marine Inquiry said about the quality of officials asked to head the regulatory agency for shipping, the Marina? “Kung ikaw binigyan ng trabaho, sana naman sabihin mo, Ma’am hindi ko kaya iyan! O ngayon…walong daan ang namatay?” referring to the Princess of the Stars tragedy.

But that’s the problem, folks. The men at the helm of Marina and Philippine Ports Authority are there precisely because the cronies of the Dona y su esposo want them to be there. These are the same people Romulo Neri railed and ranted against in his lectures on his Boss Woman’s “praxis of regulatory capture by the oligarchs.”.

Corruption and bad governance not only sucks. It kills.

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