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Ronald Roy — 2012 August 22

Nothing stupefies more poignantly than the untimely death of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo (JR), whose sputtering four-seater Piper Seneca plane crashed into a hundred-eighty-foot-deep watery grave before it could take him to the bosom of his family.

Originally scheduled last August 18 to fly back to Manila from Cebu City, JR suddenly chartered the private plane to go to his native Naga City to surprise his 12-year old daughter with a treat for having won—ironically—in a swimfest.

As of this writing, retrieval operations continue for the two missing pilots under the supervision of Transport Secretary Mar Roxas.

JR is remembered for disdaining self-praise whenever rendering a service that often went beyond the call of duty and was proffered even before it was solicited. Most compelling in my view was the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service which recognized JR’s contribution that gave “credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.” (underscoring mine)

Yes, by all means let us grieve without moderation, for grief is not the only salve that eases the pain before the wound is scarred by time, it is likewise the effect of JR’s exceptional twin commitment to family and constituency—a responsibility so worthy of reverential emulation.

I was flabbergasted—although somewhat amused—when Nik (del Prado) asked me what I thought about his idea of “public officials’ need to moderate their greed”. Thanking Nik, I replied with a request to read this very piece you’re reading.

One of the three definitions Oxford Dictionary gives the term “moderation” is: “the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior or political opinions”—the meaning that best relates to Nik’s query.

We all know that excesses are generally anathema to one’s personal welfare, such as in the area of health. But we also know that moderation can be a disastrous delay of a solution to a problem that needs an immediate stoppage.

We don’t tell others, kids particularly, to slow down on drug abuse, we tell them to stop the vice immediately; where the speed limit is 60 kph, we don’t tell the driver to reduce his speed from 90 to, say, 70 kph; and had we anticipated the brutal conspiracy to slaughter around 60 innocent people in Maguindanao a few years ago, who might have been the bimbo among us with the bright idea of advising the conspirators to prune down the number of intended victims in order to make the carnage less heinous?

I’d like to think that Jun Lozada was not being literal with his moderate-the-greed advice. But I do worry that corrupt people may find shelter in his philosophy that stealing, say, ₱12B from the public coffers wouldn’t be as bad as stealing ₱20B—which goes to say, Nik, that in dealing with corruption, the idea is not to curb it but to end it pronto.

The penchant of retired civil servants to write and talk about their achievements is a natural inclination, but it should still behoove them to moderate, to an appreciable degree, their tendency for self-praise, for they would stand even taller if they suppressed their vanity. Better still, they should find no need for discussing their feats, for others will do it for them, unless they’ve got some “skeletons in the closet” or “dirt swept under the rug”.

Some three weeks ago, former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) went on television and radio—an event I recently predicted after reading a published commentary by his then National Security Adviser, Jose Almonte. FVR perorated about his museums and books that extol his alleged achievements, his so-called “tiger economy” and whatnots, and as I listened to him, I felt sorry he didn’t seem to realize that his self-advocacy only suggested a deodorization of some horrid bits of scuttlebutt that must be haunting him to this day.

To be sure, that penchant would be understandable in the case of the former president’s being an octogenarian, except that, given the high profile nature of some questionable fund-raising decisions he had made while in office, I believe he would be taking the path of prudence if he simply quietly slid into humble obscurity, and allowed history instead to do the judging. This would be a most decent thing for him to do, as a favor to his kin, kith and the entire nation.

FVR—he who is believed to have initiated the unconstitutional ouster of Pres. Joseph Estrada and twice prevented what could have been a karmic fall from power by the malevolent spurious former president, Gloria Arroyo—does not realize that he is an irritating turn-off whenever he blows his own trumpet. He does not realize that people will in fact praise him if he invites Pres. Noynoy Aquino to commence an investigation into some scandalous transactions that had rocked his administration.

Firstly, I refer to the ambitious and extravagant Centennial Project worth over a billion pesos of taxpayers’ money that evaporated into thin air. I ought to know. A corporation was established to manage the project, and when I was offered its presidency, I refused because of derogatory information that certain fund diversion schemes were in the pipeline.

Secondly, I refer to highly questionable government property ventures authorized by FVR, such as the sale and privatization of 1. Petron, which had been Pres. Marcos’ way of keeping the prices of fuel down;  and, in order to raise funds for an alleged Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, the sale and privatization of 2. Fort Bonifacio in Makati, 3. Camp John Hay in Baguio, 4. Wallace Field at Poro Point in La Union, and 5. portions of Clark and Subic Base in Pampanga.

All the proceeds derived from the foregoing transactions were reportedly lodged in the General Fund, and the big wonder is that nobody remembers how the AFP was in any way benefitted by the modernization program, if ever there was one.

FVR should stop basking in the glory of an alleged tiger economy during his presidential term. Although he did pump-prime the economy, his managers failed to sustain the targeted growth, as well as failed to prevent a foreign debt from bloating up and an employment generation program from taking off. His economic “feat” in Mang Pandoy would eventually be likened to Gloria Arroyo’s bangkang papel that sank.

Ramos’ successor, Pres. Erap Estrada, does not lie when he recalls he inherited a bankrupt government. Officials and personnel of the Office of the Solicitor General, for instance, did not receive their basic salaries for around the first two months of Erap’s Administration, so, what “tiger economy” is FVR still talking about?

Perhaps Ramos’ overzealous legacy mode has taken the better of himself, for it does not make sense for him to risk calling attention to his failures, much less forget the wisdom of letting sleeping dogs lie at a time when P-Noy is besieged  with humongous headaches caused by the Rolito Go caper, de Lima’s being knocked out of the JBC’s short list, Gloria Arroyo’s I-can-die-anytime plea for a neck surgery abroad, Ben Abalos’ temporary golfing freedom courtesy of a maverick RTC judge who’s on a bail-granting binge, and of course the lingering sorrow over JR’s passing. (Not to mention Noynoy’s foiled attempts at finding a mate… heheh.)

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