My book launch

"Save the date–January 30."


This made me laugh. An American couple visited a friend at the penthouse of a high-rise building. They took the elevator to go from the 54th to the ground floor. On the 50th floor, the elevator door opened and a couple told the operator: “Bababa.” The elevator girl replied: “Bababa.”

Further down, on the 40th, the same thing happened—a gentleman said: “Bababa” to which the elevator girl replied: “Bababa.”

On the 30th floor, a woman said, “Bababa” and the operator said “Bababa.”

On the 10th floor, a man and a boy asked: “Bababa?” The elevator girl gave her answer: “Bababa.”

On the ground floor, everybody alighted. The American couple looked at each other, amazed. “Can you beat that,” the man said. “All they said was 'Bababa' and they understood each other!”

* * *

This is a correction. At my age of 92, I often make a mistake. The definite date of the launching of my memoirs is Jan. 30, a Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., courtesy of House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, who is also president of the Philippine Constitution Association and my boss at Manila Standard.

Invitations are forthcoming.

* * *

In my book, I said that journalism is more than a profession. It is a calling. As a professional journalist, I never expected to become a millionaire.

At my age of 92, I still pound on my typewriter three times a week to meet my deadline. Santa Banana, this has been the story of my life—meeting deadlines!

I am now at the pre-departure area waiting to board that last flight to meet my God. But I do not have a retirement pay or pension plan. When we journalists get sick, we cannot even count on health insurance. Even now, with my wife at the hospital, I have to use our savings!

This is the sad part of being a journalist. In the public and private sector, workers become regular employees after six months. They enjoy the usual perks. It's a different story for journalists.

I am a lawyer, and yet I chose to be a professional journalist. It is because of my belief that as a journalist, I can fulfill my dream of achieving change and making a difference, no matter how small.

Those who own and manage news organizations should for their part also think of ways to make journalism an honest-to-goodness profession. Imagine the danger that journalists face just to be able to bring the facts to the public. And yet we are harassed with libel suits and even get death threats, my gulay!

If there are budding journalists who think this career is a life of fascinating adventure, they better think again. This is not for the faint of heart!

* * *

Retired former Customs Commissioner Titus Villanueva, who worked at the Bureau of Customs where he rose from the ranks, has a proposal to stop smuggling and graft and corruption at the bureau.

He has seen corruption at its worst. He was my friend when I covered Customs in the 60s and 70s. He used to say that it was a daily cat-and-mouse game for the Customs chief. Smugglers always thought of innovative ways to do their thing.

It was his incumbency as Customs chief when the government hired the Swiss-based Societe Generale de Surveilance or SGS to pre-inspect imports and exports at source. The SGS method was also adopted by Indonesia to curb smuggling and corruption.

My gulay, this was from 1991 to 2000 until the government decided to scrap the SGS contract for being too expensive.

I also know, having covered Customs, that the reason the SGS contract was terminated was the strong lobby of Customs brokers and officials, as well as political patrons.

Since the SGS pre-inspection contract also covered exports from source, Customs officials and employees were complaining because smuggling was at zero level. The pre-inspection mechanism also ended port congestion, which is happening today.

I believe that the best way to stop anomalies at Customs, especially of shabu (crystal meth), is to restore the SGS pre-inspection contract. Yes, it is expensive, but price does not matter if it means an end to smuggling and corruption at the notorious bureau.

* * *

Whether Vice President Leni Robredo likes it or not, it's actually President Duterte who is running the war on illegal drugs.

If we come right down to it, the position of Robredo as drug czarina and co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee Against Drugs is only a policy-making post without powers to command the police and other agencies. This is why her role needs to be clarified.

Note the warning of President Duterte that if Robredo were to make public sensitive information relating to the war on drugs, she would be fired.

Why, it's not even a Cabinet position! She can only attend Cabinet meetings if she is called—specifically, when the agenda is about drugs! She cannot even look at Duterte's list of narco-politicians. So how can she know the extent of the problem?

This is exactly why I believe that Robredo is bound to fail. The President knows that if Robredo enjoys all the powers, she might even do better than he can. The President is not that stupid. He knows that the moment Robredo is given information about the drug war, she would relay this to the United States and the United Nations.

* * *

Whether President Duterte likes it or not, his time-sharing formula for the House Speakership will be dependent on the lawmakers themselves. It's not about what Cayetano or Velasco wants. The Speakership will be decided by the House members themselves.

At this point, it looks like Cayetano is doing well. Continuity is the name of the game.

* * *

On Nov. 25, Monday, Tony Lopez will mark 50 years as a professional journalist. It will also mark his 70th birthday, and the 18th anniversary of BizNews Asia, the largest circulating business news magazine.

Congratulations to Tony, whom I first met when he was a correspondent of Asiaweek. He is a compleat journalist.  

Topics: Philippine Constitution Association , Martin Romualdez , Rodrigo Duterte , Leni Robredo , War on illegal drugs
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