Category: conrado de quiros

de quiros, coloma, pork

Once upon a time, we were idol worshippers, and by idol we meant Conrado De Quiros. Every morning we ran to the newsstands for his polemics, especially those that captured national anger over Gloria’s evil reign (a fact apologists like Bobi Tiglao perpetually deny). We clung to CDQ’s every word, got a natural high from the ink in his columns. When he said it was black, we believed it to be black. When he said it was white, that was that. CDQ had the last word.

that about sums up how loved conrado de quiros was in the time of gma.  more than any public intellectual, because never high-falutin, rather, writing in easy if dazzling english that resonated with the reading public as he gave voice and form and substance to rumblings on street kantos and in workplaces, coffeshops, family gatherings, and the internet.

in the time of pNoy, however, the first three years at least, he was mostly an unabashed apologist come hell or high water — whatever the problem, it was worse when gloria reigned.  but the good news is, it would seem that he draws the line at pork, PDAF and DAP both, and is fully behind the abolish-all-pork-&-pass-FOI-bill actions. read his most recent columns, here, here, here, and here, and rejoice.

i know, i know, defending his brother (pNoy appointee) emil and the SSS bonuses in two earlier columns still rankles.  but that was a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t kind of situation.  and it was a valiant effort naman; valid naman his defense from the pov of the establishment that pays executive officers huge salaries and bonuses for good performance, i.e. increased profits.  problem is, nothing much trickles down to members in terms of really good service man lang.  something’s not right with the system, and THAT needed acknowledging.  i wonder nga if he ever considered saying, i’m not my brother’s, much less the establishment’s, keeper.  because, in his place i might have, sabay, no offense meant, kapatid.

pero puwedeng palampasin.  great to have him on our side in this struggle against deeply rooted widescale corruption.  best of all, he obviously still has the ear of the palace, despite the rants vs PDAF and DAP.  if not for de quiros, wouldn’t we still be suffering the irritating student-council, and rather arrogant, briefings of lacierda and valte?

october 20, exasperated at the palace communication group’s failure to anticipate and more effectively deal with the plunder-accused jinggoy estrada’s allegations of anti-corona bribes that inadvertently led to the toxic revelation that is DAP, de quiros wrote:

… government’s communication department has been unprepared for challenges like this from the start. That department has three de facto secretaries who are not talking to each other. They are Ricky Carandang, who is now no longer to be found except when P-Noy takes a trip abroad when he suddenly reminds the world he is still alive; Edwin Lacierda, who is a lawyer, who goes on to explain everything in a way Joker Arroyo finds amateurish (for being visible, he is one of those who has suffered a plunge in ratings); and Sonny Coloma, who has the communications skills but is kept to administrative and organizational functions.

just two days later, coloma was on cam, apparently taking over palace briefings, even if graciously insisting that this is par for the course, he’s part of the group, after all.  naturally he is defending DAP, too, but at least he’s not antipatiko about it, and at least the press gets to engage with a pro.  oh, and i love his tagalog.

in a more recent column, de quiros trained his guns on the liberal party that he blames for the president’s stubborn refusal to scrap all pork.

P-Noy doesn’t need pork, he is not seeking another term. He doesn’t need pork, he can get the senators and congressmen to do what he wants not by getting them behind him but by getting the people behind him. If his purpose is true and good, like impeaching Corona, the people will back him. He doesn’t need pork, he need not pursue his agenda behind the prying eyes of the public, he can always do it under the glare of their scrutiny: If that agenda is lofty and inspiring, they will fly their banners behind it. That is how legacies are made.

He doesn’t need pork, but his people do. Mar Roxas and Butch Abad do. The Liberal Party does.

They’re the ones who want another six years, they’re the ones who dream of another six years. They’re the ones who need to keep the senators and congressmen happy so they’ll support them. They’re the ones who need the money to get the politicians to support them. The question is whether P-Noy will remain true to the vision that made him soar or to the cabal that made him sink. Unfortunately, he seems to believe those two are one and the same, the latter the extension of the first. Which makes him need pork, too.

reminded me of something i heard through the grapevine soon after corona was convicted.  to the effect that palace peeps were ecstatic: six more years! referring to the 2016 elections (talbog ang three years pa ni kris aquino).  to doubting thomases, the retort was: watch us!

who would have known that barely a month and a half later, the inquirer would explode the napoles-PDAF bomb and that the collateral damage to the palace would be so colossal.

of course the president might yet rise to the challenge, take the plunge and scrap all pork, prepare to win 2016 for his annointed based on merit rather than pork and patronage.  that would be awesome and, yes, we are watching, though not with bated breath.


By Conrado de Quiros

I’m aghast at and overwhelmed and thoroughly defeated by the death of Kristel Pilar Mariz Tejada. Some deaths do not particularly weigh heavily on the mind; others do. This is one of those that do.

… UP officials theorize that Tejada may have had all sorts of personal problems. But they do not rule out the possibility that her financial troubles might also have contributed to it. They have since sent their commiseration to the Tejada family and, not a little ironically, financial help to see them through in their hour of need. They cannot blame the Tejadas if the Tejadas regard their overtures less than appreciatively and remember the saying about “Aanhin pa ang damo….”

It’s tragic in all the ways that tragic can be.

At the very least, it’s so in that it’s truly tragic to be poor, mahirap ang mahirap. Many years ago, I wrote a speech titled “Tongues on Fire,” which also became the title of a book of speeches I later published. There I talked about a horrific insight I got about what it means to be poor. I’ve known poor, I’ve breathed poor, I’ve lived poor. And I’ve not forgotten the sight and sound and smell of poor, I’ve not forgotten the fear and trembling of poor.

But nothing quite prepared me for a news story I read about someone not just taking his own life but those of his entire family from having nothing in life. Nothing to see him through, nothing to look forward to. The guy had tried to keep his wife’s and five kids’ bodies and souls together, but adversity kept thwarting his efforts. The sound of his children crying themselves to sleep on their empty stomachs haunted him, and finally he and his wife decided to end it all and drag their children into it. The man came home one day, mixed insecticide into a last meal, and they went to sleep without ever waking up.

An insanity? The action of a thoroughly deranged man? To be sure. But it also gives glimpses into the pit of desperation, into the darkness of despair, into the nightmare of the poor. It is the feeling of having no one to turn to, no refuge to go to, no means of escape. It’s the feeling of being boxed in, you cannot move an inch however you squirm or thrash about.

You look at it with rich or middle-class eyes, you’ll find P6,337 or even P8,000 the silliest thing to die for. Indeed, the most incomprehensible thing to kill yourself for. Which, too, should give us whole new insights into our relative valuations of value. A peso may be bubog to us, but it is life and death, or at least food and hunger, to the street kids that regularly scour the streets badgering cars for coins.

But what makes this even more tragic is that it has to do with education, with learning, with enlightenment. It has to do with escape, with freedom, with a heroic effort to better one’s lot. What makes this even more tragic is that whatever drove Tejada to still her breath, whatever other grief she may have had in life, a good part of it was also that she could no longer go to school, she could no longer escape, she could no longer dream the dream. How can you not weep at the utter wastefulness of the wanton destruction of this girl? How can you not feel bereft at the loss of so precious a life?

That Tejada was studying at UP to begin with must suggest that she was a bright and promising kid. You cannot get to UP without being so, poor alone doesn’t cut it. That she was taking up behavioral science hammers home the loss, or the irony of that loss, all the more. To want to understood how people behave, why people act the way they do, but to not understand in the here and now why people do what they do, why life takes on the aspect of something unfeeling, something cruel, something deadly—that is the most infuriating and depressing thing of all.

Tejada may have died by her own hand, but so only literally, so only visibly, so only immediately. In the end, her hand may have been pushed to it by other things, by other beings, by other people. In the end, her death is an indictment of this country, it is an indictment of all of us, that we can allow things like this to come to pass. John Donne once said that the death of a single person diminishes us all. Certainly, the death of this one person diminishes us all.

The death of this one child impoverishes us all.



Horror story, too

By Conrado de Quiros

IT COULDN’T have come at a better time—that is, the decision of a US Court of Appeals to cite the Marcoses for contempt for their contemptuous attitude toward an earlier judgment forbidding them from dissipating their assets. Imelda and Bongbong were found to have been trying to repatriate precious artworks, deemed part of the Marcos estate, and to have agreed with the previous Philippine administration to split their estate with it, with them retaining 25 percent of it tax-free.

The contempt judgment carries a hefty fine: $353.6 million. It will be added to the $2 billion a US district court awarded to the human rights victims in 1995 as compensation. “Human rights victims” sounds almost benign, referring as it does to the nearly 10,000 Filipinos who were tortured, “salvaged,” and made to disappear during martial law, who filed a class suit against the Marcoses shortly after 1986.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. It reminds us forcefully, and forcibly, of a couple of things.

At the very least, the scale of pillage the Marcoses wrought upon this land. The original class suit sought $10 billion in compensation from the Marcoses, already a gross undervaluation of the amount of loot they had amassed. The $2 billion that was actually awarded to the litigants is an astonishing amount, as is the $353.6 million. Our failure to appreciate the mind-boggling plunder this represents comes from the very mind-boggling-ness of the amounts. Their size gives them an air of unreality, an air of abstraction. In a thoroughly impoverished country like ours, where kids are seen lying on the pavement, sleeping the sleep not of the just but of the drugged, those amounts become almost ungraspable.

What helps to grasp it are things like the poster on malnutrition that came out during martial law. The poster showed a child in an utterly emaciated state, wasting away from lack of food, and a bauble-d Imelda representing the initiator of a nutrition program. The poster was meant to show how government cared for the poorest of the poor, but it had the unintended effect of showing instead why we had hungry kids. There, people said, pointing at the poster, was cause and effect: Imelda was the cause, the emaciated child was the effect. The poster disappeared from the city’s walls faster than you could say “the true, the good, and the beautiful.”

But the question that arises from all this talk of millions or indeed billions of dollars is how the Marcoses managed to acquire all that. Ferdinand was just a small-time politician—or hood; he was accused of shooting Julio Nalundasan, his father’s political rival, with a sniper’s rifle while the guy was brushing his teeth—and Imelda a poor cousin of the Romualdezes when they began. To have created an estate—what gentile airs that connotes!—worth that much, it makes the phrase “stealing the country blind” sound like a euphemism. That is not their estate, that is ours. That is not their wealth, that is ours. They have no right to use it as they please. Hell, they have no right to it.

At the very most, it reminds us of the horrors of martial law, and prevents the kind of revisionist rewriting of history Juan Ponce Enrile has begun. Etta Rosales is right, the contempt judgment is worth far more than the money it entails. “The contempt ruling means that the US courts are taking seriously the disrespect shown by the Marcoses. More than the heavy fines, this is a big embarrassment to the family who has shown no remorse for the deeds they have done.”

My own hope is that it goes more than embarrassing them to stopping them from carrying out the kind of political laundering Enrile has. Of course Enrile has also been the beneficiary of exceptional luck, quite apart from an exceptional share of the spoils as custodian of martial law, being there at the camps when the people arose against the regime he helped build and defend, and being the Senate president when the impeachment of the first Filipino chief justice took place. The Marcoses have not enjoyed the same breaks. But you never know, stranger things have happened in this country. This should help to stop things from getting even stranger.

Indeed, I hope that the victims of torture and the kin of the “salvaged” and disappeared take it upon themselves to publicize the accounts that are contained in the class suit. I attended one of the collective dredging of memory in the course of that suit in the 1990s, and some of the recollections there were truly harrowing. No horror story beats the capacity of human beings to inflict pain and harm on other human beings.

Enrile has been challenging the leftists to show proof of his guilt and of their innocence, claiming to have the documents that prove the complete opposite. All the victims have to do is bring up their personal accounts in the class suit to the public gaze to disprove him. What Enrile’s documents are, only he can say. What the victims’ documents are have been scrutinized by the American courts, from Manuel Real’s Honolulu court, which ruled in their favor, to the higher courts that continued to rule in their favor after various appeals by the Marcoses. Those documents, not quite incidentally, often mention Enrile as the one who signed the victims’ ASSOs (arrest, seizure and search orders). He may not have directly ordered their torture or “salvaging,” or disappearance, but neither did Marcos. And Judge Real, as well as the other American judges, who heard the class suit found him guilty anyway by command responsibility, or by creating the conditions, policies, and premises that made them possible.

That is one horror story for Undas, too, Marcos, Enrile, and the others who never had to wear masks to horrify the country for so long.