The Bureau of Customs in Manila (Philstar courtesy)
Happiness does not exist, nor should it, and if there is any meaning or purpose in life, they are not in peddling little happiness, but in something reasonable and grand. Do good!
— Russian playwright Anton Chekov
IN our last column, we dealt with the so-called ‘Death List’ of the Bureau of Customs (BoC), which is claimed to have the names of 14 high-ranking officials of the agency who are allegedly involved in graft and corruption — something that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has vowed never to condone or let pass.
Be that as it may, if it is true about their involvement in anomalous or ‘rigged’ transactions in the bureau, then they truly have a reason to fear for their lives as paid assassins are usually hired to do their job in the case of political rivals and armed vigilantes are also tolerated (or hired) to liquidate those unscrupulous individuals who have stepped on the foot of power persons like the president.
But we are wondering about the news blackout regarding these targeted BoC officials by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission erstwhile headed by our good (and bad), fortunate (and unfortunate) Commissioner Greco Belgica, the son of (Bishop) Butch Belgica, who in the past frequented our editorial office of the Journal Group of Publications on Railroad Street in Port Area, Manila.
By the way, I just want to mention that I once contacted Belgica, who was the then head of the PACC, to inform him about anomalies done in the last Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) held here and overseen by another so-called ‘pure-white-honest’ politician in the person of staunch Duterte ally Alan Peter Cayetano. I had the papers and details to nail the ‘sunnavabitch’ but Greco never got back to me so I could arrange how I could deliver to him the documents that would prove ‘overpricing’ in certain equipment rented by the SEAG overseeing committee headed by the good former Speaker of the House (of Representatives).
And going back to the BoC ‘Death List’, we equally wonder why Atty. Melvin Tan, a legal officer and technical assistant of the BoC who luckily survived an attack after a Customs colleague was brutally murdered less than a year before.
This corner met Atty. Tan before since he is the ‘ninong’ of the daughter of my daughter Keiko. When I was introduced to my granddaughter’s lawyer-godfather, I was inclined to believe he was good soul perilously mixed with the adders and boa constrictors of the BoC’s Pit of Vipers, which for so many times had been headed by the King of Snakes—I would say a Titanoboa (Titanoboa cerrejonensis), which is larger by far than the biggest anaconda in the Amazon.
We are surprised (and dismayed) that the good attorney has been included in the ‘Death List’ since he has been vocally against corruption in the bureau. But then maybe — or just maybe — he had been listed because of a bungled transaction which Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero was unaware of, hence its failure.
ACCORDING to vice-presidential aspirant Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III, “being a celebrity is not completely an advantage” when one is running in an election but the Senate president quickly adds with a smile that it has its perks and plus factors such as easier name recall and ultimately an inherent facial or physical recognition for most of the electorate.
In a personal interview with the running mate of Partido Reporma’s standard-bearer veteran senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson, Sotto agreed that it can be an advantage if a candidate is famous, but the disadvantage here is pinpointing what you are known for. He said that one’s popularity could be considered positive, like having many spouses, or if you’re known to have a bad character. Moreover, the bad perception could be because a candidate is known to be an enemy of somebody.
Sotto’s remarks were prompted by questions about his take on celebrities running for public office so he clarified—eyes twinkling—that the advantage could be because you are well-known by the public but he stressed that one’s popularity could either be used for molding a good image in the perception of the majority or it could be the cause of destroying or tarnishing one’s reputation.
He reiterated: “It’s not really completely an advantage. It’s a disadvantage depending on the record of the personality.”
Sotto also opined that in the past many famous personalities running for an elective post were usually not successful in their bids.
Being a part of the country’s longest-running noontime television show ‘Eat Bulaga!’ where he co-hosts with kid brother Marvic ‘Vic’ Sotto and bosom-buddy Joey De Leon, Sotto is still well known in the entertainment industry and only stopped his showbiz career on entering the political arena way back in 1988 when he was elected vice mayor of Quezon City.
He noted: “Look at the records of the Comelec (Commission on Elections) from 1992 onwards, I’ve looked at these records before. Among the celebrities, not only actors but also basketball players and other personalities like broadcasters . . . a big percentage does not win.”
“The truth is that seven of every ten celebrity candidates do not make it,” he added.
And asked if this indicates a ‘sense of maturity’ among voters, Sotto replied: “To a certain extent. It’s not 100 percent. To a certain level . . . we can see a more mature electorate. And hopefully, it will continue to be so in the next elections to come.”
For now, he admits that his bid for the vice presidency is his last hurrah as a politician: “We leave it up to the youth. But we would like to lay out a foundation that would be good for them.”