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Human Follies

Human Follies
Ronald Roy — 2012 July 19

In the early 1980’s when I was a Board Member of the Land Bank of the Philippines, the high-profile and well-connected Rodolfo Cuenca of CDCP (Construction and Development Corp. of the Phil.) fame must have been nonplussed when he received news of the universal bank’s polite denial of his loan application.

My office was not spared from the usual suspect calls from quarters identifying themselves as functionaries of the Palace, so it was not easy how to tactfully explain the Board’s action. After all, Mr. Cuenca was the much acclaimed developer of much of the reclamation project along Roxas Boulevard. So associated was he with the powers-that-be that he was ubiquitous in business and social gatherings that media considered their habitat.

Mr. Cuenca had organized a new corporation to undertake an ambitious tourism-oriented development project, one that the country needed and would do his benefactor President Ferdinand E. Marcos proud.

The project study was excellent, apart from leaving no room for doubt that it was viable. The only obstacle to its approval, however, was Cuenca himself, who had become a notorious credit risk in financial and banking circles when his earlier CDCP operations had caused countless millions of pesos in losses to government.

The Board stood its ground against his new corporation which was, to be quite crude about it, the same dog with a new collar. There was a simple explanation to the failure of Cuenca’s loan application. Chaired by Finance Minister Cesar E. A. Virata in an ex-officio capacity, the LBP Board and its Management Staff had competence, integrity, probity and independence, inspiringly generated by the sterling leadership qualities of Mr. Virata and LBP President Basilio Estanislao.

Unknown to many, Virata had an undated irrevocable letter of resignation ready for presentation to Pres. Marcos anytime he so much as sensed he was being made to perform an unlawful act, or allow any agency under his wings to engage in activities deleterious to the country’s financial and economic environment.

Marcos knew about this resignation letter, hence, he was careful not to be perceived as employing arm-twisting tactics against Virata. In fairness to Bong Bong’s father, I am not aware of any time that the strongman did, as he always seemed to defer to the technical judgments of the grandson of the country’s first president, Emilio Aguinaldo.

After working with Virata and Estanislao for close to eight years in Land Bank proper and its allied subsidiary undertakings, I was already a full-grown corporate man by the time Corazon Aquino assumed the Republic’s Presidency. It was at this time that I became acutely aware that man’s failures are caused only by his follies.

Because of the strongman’s follies, he fell from power. If the Land Bank’s officials, officers and personnel had made substantially wrong moves during my time, the institution would have fallen by the wayside just like PNB, GSIS and DBP. By the way, because of the prudent and tight-fisted management style of SSS Administrator Gilberto Teodoro, the SSS likewise stayed afloat when the Cory government took over.

Human follies are constant occurrences whether we like it or not, and whether or not we’re aware of them crossing our paths in daily life. Coming to mind now is the tragic loss of a family of five occasioned by a road accident just over a month ago.

It’s a healthy attitude to buy an expensive SUV with the latest features for maximum comfort and safety, but make sure that a good driver comes along with it. Barely eight months after a 32 year-old businessman, Tony Cruz, purchased a brand new SUV, he, his wife and three daughters perished in a road accident because their driver had failed to attend to a brake fluid leak.

And now, Charter change (Cha-cha) is high up in the air once more and the trapos are excited. Again, everybody wants to have a say, and to be heard and counted—whether for pogi points or not—as a contributor of those ideas designed (kuno) to better the economic lives of our citizens.

Are these people planning to amend or revise the fundamental law along the lines of Cuenca’s perfect project study, or in accord with Tony Cruz’s criteria for choosing a reliable family driver? It would be crazy if they were.

Has it not occurred to Cha-cha proponents Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and their political followers that not any of the past Cha-chas has ever ushered in a lasting period of economic prosperity, that economic prosperity  means Filipinos being productive at home, not denigrated menial servants abroad, and that economic prosperity means Filipinos being in control over their own labor, land, capital and other indigenous resources, with the least possible dependence on foreign assistance and investments?

Don’t Cha-cha proponents realize that down the decades we have in fact deteriorated from the status of a developing country to that of an underdeveloped country, in spite of (because of?)all those past highfalutin’ Charter changes which, on paper, should have deterred the currently intensifying state of family break-ups, criminality, insurgency, brain drain, depression, suicides and what have you, and now they uniformly declare, for the nth time, “the time has come for Cha-cha to end all these”?! HUH?!

Don’t Cha-cha proponents realize that the solution lies one: not in changing the basic charter, but in changing their arrogant and egotistical view that they can serve the people best by being the ones to decide what’s best for them, and two: not in the perpetuation of the status quo, but in its just dissolution, if sovereign power is to be restored to the citizens from the hands of exploitative trapos? Bato bato sa langit, ang tatamaan ay huwag magagalit!

But Pres. Noynoy Aquino appears cool to Cha-cha which he claims to be unnecessary, given the data showing the country has outpaced its ASEAN neighbors over the past quarter in economic growth. Well, P-Noy knows it’s a weak argument because, with Cha-cha, his administration’s boast of a growth rate of 6.4% can be made to skyrocket dramatically.

Scuttlebutt cannot therefore be helped that P-Noy’s disinterest in Cha-cha is merely an “act” that foreshadows an extended stay in power beyond 2016, and that the principal pushers of Cha-cha are in on this act.

Hmmm… this is a jaded suggestion, but will P-Noy please categorically announce that he will turn down any and all opportunities to extend his presidential term? Oh, drat these human follies!!

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