There’s the Rub

Measure of ‘katuwiran’


Of course it was an unconfirmed report. But if true, then it’s quite disturbing. That’s the one that said President Aquino was leaning toward accepting the resignations of two of the six Customs deputies but not Ruffy Biazon’s.

Why ever not? There’s such a thing as command responsibility. If Customs is as deep a pit of iniquity as Aquino suggested when he savaged it last week, then it must owe in huge part to its head. Either he doesn’t know what’s happening under his nose or he’s turning a blind eye to it. Either he is inefficient or tainted himself.

The two deputies whose resignations Aquino is expected to accept instead are Danny Lim’s and Juan Lorenzo Tañada’s. They are two of the more efficient people in Customs, they are two of the more honest people in Customs. Their disappearance will truly effect a revamp in Customs—in the direction of leaving the field to the people who like to make hay while the sun shines. The Palace knows who they are: Taking them out is not a question of wit, it’s a question of will.

From farther afield, there’s another development that looks more like a retreat than an advance in the war against corruption. I applaud Aquino’s tack of embarrassing or shaming devious officials in public. But it carries an enormous burden too. You do that and people will ask questions, or issue challenges, about why you took some errant knaves to task but not arrant others. Particularly those others closest to you.

Which brings me to DOTC officials’ reported attempt to extort from Inekon. Allegedly it happened when Mar Roxas still headed the Department of Transportation and Communications and was done by his favorite people. The story burst in the other week but has steadily slipped away from the papers, disappearing from Malacañang’s view, disappearing from public view, disappearing from reality and plunging into the whirlpool of fantasy. It’s as if it never happened.

It was Dante Ang who exposed it. According to him, a group of DOTC officials, led by Al Vitangcol, MRT general manager, met several times with Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar and several officials from Inekon, a Czech company bidding for a project to expand and modernize MRT 3. Vitangcol wasn’t there during the fateful meeting but participated in it nonetheless. That was when Wilson Rivera proposed that a contribution of $30 million from Inekon would greatly improve DOTC’s appreciation of their proposal. When Inekon flatly rejected his overture, he said he would talk to Vitangcol and see if he could bring the amount down. Rivera called up his boss and subsequently proposed a steep discount—now only $2.5 million.

Edwin Lacierda’s reaction to this was to say that in the absence of any definite accusation by the Czech ambassador to that effect, he was not giving credence to it. “If you look at the story there are no quotes from the Czech ambassador. We are asking the Czech ambassador to present us with evidence so we can investigate.” I purposely did not say “Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda” because I’m not really sure whom he is spokesperson for. Is he the spokesperson of Aquino or Roxas? Is he the spokesperson of the President who won in an Edsa masquerading as an election or of the vice presidential candidate who lost but is now the DILG head masquerading as the president?

One is tempted to say that this is a case where you really should be careful what you wish for. Rychtar may just grant Lacierda his wish, throwing government—Aquino’s and not Mar’s—into a tailspin. He’s probably banking on the idea that the Czech ambassador will balk at creating a diplomatic scandal, or at least will do everything in his power to protect Czech interests in this country. But you never know, everything has its limits. We already have a

reputation for treating foreign investors shabbily. We need more of it like a hole in the head.

But quite apart from that, and far more importantly, we do have it straight from the horse’s mouth. Boo Chanco wrote some weeks back that he came into the possession of a letter from Rychtar to Aquino. It said: “In early April 2013, I was able to secure a meeting with Sec. Emilio Abaya to report an incident between some officials of his department and myself, together with the top management of Inekon…. I had hoped that Sec. Abaya would have dealt with this issue in a swift and judicious manner before it reached this embarrassing and untenable state of affairs.”

How much more do you need to investigate this “incident”?

By any ranking of rottenness in types of corruption, extortion is pretty high on the list. It doesn’t matter if the amount is $30 million or $2.5 million—and it is a testament to how freely these people bandy money about that they can jump from this high to this low without batting an eyelash,  baka  lang  makalusot. Extortion is extortion and exudes a stench.

At the very least of course, the principle here, as in Biazon’s, is command responsibility. Indeed, more so here than there: This thing didn’t just happen under Roxas’ watch at DOTC, it happened under the direct command of one of his protégés. “Mga  bata,” as the boss says in the Tagalog movies. Either Vitangcol struck out on his own or he gave him his blessings. The first doesn’t do wonders for his leadership, the second for his character.

The real test of the daang matuwid  is not taking action where it feels good, it is taking action where it hurts. It is not taking action with the people farthest from you, it is taking action with the people closest to you. It is pursuing evidence wherever it leads to, it is pursuing guilt whomever it points to. The  daang  matuwid  is not a well-paved road, it is a thorny path. The measure of  katuwiran  is sacrifice. The measure of  katuwiran  is blood, sweat and tears.

The measure of  katuwiran  is  katwiran.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • JosengSisiw1

    Aquino could be very honest with his “daang matuwid” & could be so with his close friends too. But the biggest problem with this is, all of them could have their own version of “daang matuwid” and each version could be having a different direction. Although the paths are all straight it doesn’t mean it will all go in the same place intended by the president. So now we have hundreds of “daang matuwid” going everywhere, pulling each other and putting everything into halt.

  • RyanE

    Abolish BOC and outsource its functions to reputable private companies. There could be 3 companies, 1 each for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. SGV could be tapped to conduct regular audit on these firms.

  • Descarte5E

    …. And then Rivera’s boss told him: “Moderate your greed”.
    How much is ma-katuwiran ba?

  • Si Lito Ako

    Conrad take care of your health, avoid meat and fatty foods. Eat more veggies and fruits. Exercise. We want you to write forever…

  • 05devillrn1652

    Is this really u CDQ?…am I not dreaming?? Finally, ur criticizing Pinoy?? Totoo ba to? Kaw ba yan??…until this writing now u were singing hallejas to Pinoy…so tinablan ka rin??..ur talking of command responsibility…wat bout Pinoy’s …di ba it shud star fr him..he put those pipol there so he shud take resposibility, much more when he dnt accept Biazon’s resignation!!!…very blatant proof of his inconsistencies and discrepancy to his DAAN MATUWID….the bottom line ..Pinoy too shud step down…hope fr now on you will be able and continue to see the TRUTH…what exactly is happening…

  • pinoynga

    This commentary reminded me of my earlier life as a young professional in the corporate world when I was told by one among many of my management mentors: “You know son, in management we have a saying, give man enough rope so he can either climb up or hang himself.” Of course I didn’t understand what it meant until he spelled it out to me in simple street language.

    Trust is a rope we have extended to PNOY, and with which many still continuously do so in the hope that our aspirations for a better Philippines for Filipinos will finally come to fruition. But only PNOY himself can decide how to use this rope for whatever purpose or gain he desires, regardless.

    At the end, a leader will eventually come to terms with his own destiny, either within the solitary confinement of the prison that he himself built, or among the many jubilant followers and supporters whom he had truly served and freed from greed and modern day slavery. It is still PNOY’s choice.

    Supporters and non-supporters, believers and non-believers will all witness either a tragedy or triumph in 2016. I can only wish that it is a triumph, for to wish otherwise is unthinkable.


    Kudos to you CDQ on this article. Daang Matuwid is for everybody to tread.


    The Aquinos are intent to get something because of losing their hacienda, so extortion is its aftermath. Sorry na lang tayo. Babawiin iyang nawala sa ating lahat.

    • Eustaquio Joven

      The Cojuangos didn’t lose an hacienda. It was never meant to be theirs in the first place. Believe it or not, they could now be laughing their hearts out. They are richer by billions of pesos in “just” compensation, courtesy of taxpayers’ money. Talaga lang yatang walang kasiyahan ang mga Aquino. Does the missing Imelda jewels ring a bell?

      • TGM_ERICK

        Yes, the jewelry ring and dazzle as the wearers Ting and Teta walk about with them. They add to the luster of greed on their faces.

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Didn’t Tita Cory promise to ask her daughter to return all of it?

      • TGM_ERICK

        But not all are returned, one of the things that made Joker resign in her government.

  • Descarte5E

    Murphy’s law Mr. CDQ. Half way into his term, we are seeing more cracks on his Tuwid na Daan. We need to call Pinoy to pull over and check it for himself. Some of his engineers are busy playing tong-its. Tell him more about that.

    • clanwolf

      What would be the use? Pnoy lacks the means to grasp complex issues.

  • anne_203

    Thank you CDQ for this article and for writing so clearly about this issue, helping to fuel our fire as Filipinos to think about our country, and giving many of us a collective voice, so that we may help our nation in ways that we can.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks

May 22, 2015

China versus Edca

May 21, 2015

Right thing to do