Henchmen

They go with many other names. Gofers, moneybags, hangers-on, flies, factotums, sycophants, minions and many others.

With this country’s population running amuck, unemployment equally goes berserk.

We have the biggest number of unemployed in South East Asia. Where do you expect these warm bodies to gravitate? With the politicians, of course. They are willing to shield their bodies with their patrons, as human vest or bullet proofs. One encounters ambush after ambush of government hotshots from national, local politicians, government agencies’ chiefs or directors with coterie of bodyguards or factotums who invariably become the victims themselves. They become part of the statistics.

When you enter government offices and care to see the chief or the director for approval of your mangled application that has seen wet and dry seasons already, you see these moneybags in a huddle with their bosses. They read newspapers in a corner looking at you with furtive glances. In Quezon, we call it sulyap bugiw or sulyap ng damong ahas. Or they are using the telephone with you and I paying the long distance call to his wife in Hong Kong. Or if you are lucky to have a taste of your tax money, he’ll ask you if you want water or cup of coffee. But largely, he stares at you with a look of get the dirt out of here!

In Quezon, the money bag of the absentee and partly crippled provincial executive has established a well-oiled political machinery for the last five years already. Nope, it’s not for his boss but for himself as he is gearing to run in a public office in 2004, preparatory to his taking the congressional seat in 2007, once the incumbent vacates it due to term constraints. He knows that his chief is hovering near the latter’s health constraints. Bago man lang mabalda o matigok ang amo ko maganda na ang kinabukasan ko. And he’s quite correct because in that province the going SOP infra projects’ rate is 40%! Not to mention the monthly jueteng payola of P1.6M.

If he is asked where he got his newfound wealth, he readily points to his consultancy business. But back in Quezon, everybody knows his academic background as some hack that couldn’t even hold a candle with his English teacher. Even his patron is known to have gone bankrupt were it not for his timely election for public office. Nakabawi daw.

Some factotums are lucky, nangangampanya ka ng hindi mo sariling pera.

Danding Cojuangco has his share of minions. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that Ramon Ang, the Chief Operating Officer of San Miguel personifies the quintessential Filipino gofer. Danding calls him corporate genius, within the mold of Erap’s description of Mark Jimenez.

PCIJ claims that Ramon Ang was a former car mechanic of Danding who rose to become his most trusted man. If Erap has his Atong Ang, GMA has his Dante Ang , Danding has his Ramon Ang. Ramon Ang went on to establish Centech International and Standard Constructors, Inc, among many corporations where Danding is the sub rosa owner. PCIJ in the year 2000 went on to report as follows:

“Interestingly enough, Centech is also the project manager of the ongoing construction of a two-story, four-bedroom house rising on a 3,000-square meter lot at 2 Molave corner Banaba Streets in South Forbes. According to contractors and people close to (Guia) Gomez, that property is intended for either her or her son, Jose Victor ‘JV’ Ejercito. Ang, however, claimed that he is building the house for his family.

“Land records show that the Forbes Park property is owned by Standard Constructors Inc., in which (Ramon) Ang said he is a stockholder. Corporate records show that the company was formed by Centech top officials Mario Surio and Roscel Celestial, and Roberto Huang, another Centech stockholder and vice president and national sales manager of San Miguel Brewing.

“Standard Constructor’s corporate secretary is lawyer Virgilio Jacinto, who is also corporate secretary and general counsel of the UCPB, which has a board filled with many recommendees of Ang and (Danding) Cojuangco. Jacinto, according to SMC insiders, is close to Ang, who put the former in effective control of the legal work for San Miguel.

“Ang started out as car mechanic for Cojuangco, who has a passion for engines. He was entrusted with running the Cojuangco companies while the former was in exile, and is considered the Boss’s fair-haired child. Today the brash, forty-something Ang runs the day-to-day operations of San Miguel and also plays a central role in the political wheeling-dealing that Cojuangco is known for.

“The houses appear to be part of that wheeling-dealing. After all, in 1992, Estrada gave up his bid for the presidency to become Cojuangco’s running mate under the Nationalist People’s Coalition. In 1998, Cojuangco was one of Estrada’s biggest supporters. A day after Estrada’s election to the presidency, Cojuangco wrested control of SMC.” (Embarassment of Houses, PCIJ, www.tag.org.ph)”

Soon thereafter, it was found out that Ang borrowed millions of money from UCPB with questionable security. We are witness to the moribund state of UCPB lately were it not for the seasonable rescue of Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation that pumped in P20B that kept the bank afloat. What happens now to the coconut farmers’ claims over their equity with UCPB? Magaling nga naman, bago ma-ideklarang public funds, nakulimbat na. That is how we judge a pinoy, kapag madiskarte at di nakulong gaya ni Erap at ni Atty. Edward Serapio, matindi ika. Tingnan ninyo ang mga abogado ni Marcos at FVR, kung maningil ng acceptance fee eh dolyar, nakapuesto pa at tuloy ang hapbuhay kopong-kopo pa. Tindi, ika. Yan ang manahin mo! I heard one Quezon politician quipped, pagalingan na lang ika, pagmabagal ka maiiwan ka sa pansitan.

In other words, factotums range from the langaw to the buaya. What exactly goes in the head of these minions? They are aware that neither can they be great nor can they grace the pages of history books as footnotes. Unless they can dish out memorable quotes like- we are not saints or angels, what are we in power for! But most of them end up with the best of the solar system.

They have no qualms of what happens to this country. Of course, they pontificate that they are faultless, hanapbuhay lang ika.

That’s where the tragedy lies. The principal won’t take lying down the fact that his alalay is laughing all the way to his ATM and he’s not.

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