Thursday, February 14, 2008

‘Permissible zones’, bukol, guavas

The phrase “permissible zone” has been bothering me these past few days that witness and whistleblower on the ZTE-NBN deal Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. has been in the media and the eye of the storm.

I must say that his revelations have discomfited me. No, not the alleged much-coveted multimillion-dollar commissions he has been talking about (so, what’s new?) although these are really staggering amounts, and greed has no limits. What I found discomfiting is that while with all candor Lozada has revealed what he knew he also admitted that he has tread what he called the “permissible zone”. That was after Sen. Miriam Santiago brought up what she had dug up on Lozada.

I felt sorry and I thought, why can’t anyone be really squeaky clean? Why do whistleblowers also have to have some mud on their person? I am not questioning their motives for coming out and I admire their spilling the beans. In the case of Lozada, he could indeed be experiencing enlightenment and divine inspiration.

But I just feel let down upon realizing that it is difficult to find someone who is willing to tell all and at the same time is also beyond reproach. I wanna shout, “Yes I believe you, but sana…”

I am not saying to Lozada, “You have not been clean yourself”. No, not at all. Again, what I want to say is: Why is it so difficult to find someone who is totally clean? That is why when Lozada made his mea culpa over certain personal deals of his own that may not have been above board (on top of his “free lunches”) I felt let down. I thought, oh God, I am now an admirer of this guy’s courage, how I wish he had been above it all.
This is not to condemn Lozada. His courage to make revelations on the scandalous amount in the ZTE-NBN deal, if all true, are admirable and are nothing compared to his own peanut-size deals on the “permissible zone”. What bothers me is that there is such a thing as a “permissible zone” pala and he had been there.

Hello, not that we do not know about these zones. But the word “permissible” rankles. Like, ah, this thing has a name. There is a word for it, a spelling, a meaning. There is an area, a zone. Who decides what is permissible or not? Who draws the perimeters? Where does one stop? When does the permissible segue into the so-called “forbidden zone”?

Lozada brought up the words “forbidden zone” to refer to the really scandalous deals. The 22 percent kickbacks that, he said, are the “norm” in government deals—are these on the permissible or on the forbidden zone?

“Commissioners” treading on the forbidden zones must have stomachs made of steel and have zero conscience and zero love of country and Lozada couldn’t help but warn about someone’s supposed $130-million commission on the ZTE-NBN deal that “bubukol yan” (It’s gonna stick out like a boil). It’s mind-boggling, yes. But so is $13 million or $1 million or the proverbial P100 if you are depriving this country and its people of something. Bukol or no bukol.

I like the Filipino word bukol, its street-corner meaning refers to symptoms of corruption. It connotes infection, inflammation, foul-smelling pus. When you say, sasambulat na parang bukol, the operative word here is sasambulat or to explode in a disgusting, messy way. That’s onomatopeia.

Thanks to Lozada, we have enriched our jargon of corruption. We are now more aware of zones on the landscape, who are there, where they lead to. What does this mean to the small government employee or honest public servant serving in the bureaucracy? Who’s watching? Someone please start “Operation Bukol”.

From bukol to bucolic. Yes, I love that bucolic scene Lozada described where farmers leave guava fruits on the tree for the birds to feast on. The farmers don’t take all, and even in their poverty they must provide for the proverbial birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Like genuine stewards of the earth, indeed. What have our elected stewards done to us?


For those who have been following the healing work of Fr. Fernando Suarez CC, be informed that he has apologized to Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros of Malolos over his healing visits.

“On behalf of the Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation, I want to respond directly to you regarding the recent misunderstandings and miscommunication regarding the scheduled Healing Masses in your diocese. Please know that there was never any intention to act without your permission and blessing. In fact, we only want to serve the Church in complete obedience to her legitimate pastors.

“Our standard policy in the Philippines up to this time has been that, upon receiving requests to conduct a Healing Mass in any parish community, a written package of guidelines is sent to the parish in advance before approval of a date is finalized. One of the requirements is to inform the parish priest that it is his responsibility to ensure that the permission of the bishop is granted. We assumed this was the case regarding the two Masses we agreed upon in Jan. 2008…I am extremely sorry on behalf of the ministry that this was not the case. There was never any thought or intention of disobedience. As a priest, my policy is to always come under the authority of each local bishop…

“We are grateful that you have called our attention to this matter. Therefore to avoid problems of this sort in the future, we will now include in our policy the need for a written approval letter from each local bishop prior to our scheduled Mass in his diocese.”

The superior of the Companions of the Cross has issued a statement regarding Fr. Suarez’s good standing in the congregation.