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No answers

By: Jullie Y. Daza

SENATOR Cynthia Villar to a Bureau of Plant Industry underling, on why smugglers are allowed to manipulate prices of garlic: “Hindi ka ba naaawa sa sarili mo, mukha kang tanga?” Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, you nitwit.

Senator Richard Gordon to two Chinese importers of 600 kilos of shabu: “Dapat alam mo!” You ought to know! (In three languages – English, Filipino, Mandarin – and still, only nonanswers.)

Senator Sonny Angara, summarizing what the public already knows about the Bureau of Customs’ impeccable history of corruption: “We have a crime but no criminal.”  

Rep. Fredelino Castro to customs officials at a separate hearing on the shabu shenanigan: “Answer me, yes or no!

ANSWER ME!”

A.G., a former journalist, watching the proceedings on TV: “How many of those in the bureaucracy could pass a job interview?” (Now that college tuition is free, would any SUC admit them?)

Taking the Bureau of Customs as one example, since the smuggling of shabu and garlic under the most spectacular conditions is so easily doable, courtesy of BoC: Do those officials and workers know what they’re paid to do in their acronymous offices? With malice aforethought, aren’t they playing ignorant, when in fact they’re experts in the art of dissimulation? Could they be so nervous in the presence of such an august body of legislators that when their brain falls to the floor, they’re so befuddled that they forget to pick it up? (Did you say, what brain?)

* * *

Roy Acosta (Aug. 18, 1941-Aug. 4, 2017), a hardboiled editor (Times Journal, Inquirer, Manila Standard, Business Mirror, Market Monitor), had his own favorite question – intoned in a booming baritone, a voice modulated by beer and for some time, nicotine – whenever scandals and controversies that readers and viewers followed, headline after headline, deadline after deadline until the stories petered out without leading to a logical conclusion: “Who cares?”

This same sometimes cynical editor had a tender streak, though. When I asked him why men who love their wives cannot help falling in love with other women, his answer was so unforgettable I had to use it for my book, Etiquette for Mistresses: “The heart has many chambers.”

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