Traslacion 2015

Chapter 7: Citizen’s Congress

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The promise of Junie’s political career gradually unfolds, thanks in no small measure to Joey’s support and the partnership he developed with Boy Deo. When Junie gets elected to become barangay (village) chair, he collaborates with Boy Deo on getting the latter’s idea of a Citizen’s Congress to work. Citizen’s Congress allows the constituents to directly propose legislation, in effect by-passing the structure on representation that is currently established in the country’s political framework. The role of elected representatives of the people shifts from being lawmakers and executives to facilitators of the process that vets, prioritizes, and enacts public policy that the people themselves, constituting themselves as an assembly, propose.

Urban poor neighborhoods in Manila were such that small crowds and bystanders would usually converge outside of their dwellings, or whatever it was that could be considered as their homes, or along path walks, or sidewalks whenever streets existed, no matter how narrow and decrepit they might be. These ad hoc groups were usually busy at being idle. They chatted endlessly, often mixed with laughter, especially when a glass of alcoholic drink was being passed around among them.

In some cases, the drinking bouts could drag on for hours, well past into the middle of the night and even beyond, after which their laughter could be heard being replaced by heated arguments. To their credit, brawls from these impromptu gatherings seldom erupted. But the immediate neighborhood, also to their lasting credit, had to tolerate and endure those evenings of being all but quiet.

One day, while Boy Deo was still in college and he, along with his classmates, was in the middle of their immersion work in Cerrito, they bumped into one of these early groupings of bystanders. As they got closer to it, they noticed that people had astonished glances, followed by quizzical and bewildered looks on their faces, as they gathered around the naked and lifeless body of a newborn baby, a boy, lying on his back on top of an improvised cardboard. The baby must have been freshly recovered from the nearby creek, as some slime and droplets of a blackish water could be seen still dripping from the body.

Boy Deo could tell that the baby had been dead for a few hours, judging from his bloated belly. He grimaced in pain as memories of another baby that did not survive one cruel night tormented him.

BOY DEO REMEMBERED SOMETHING similar had happened in Quiapo when he was seven or eight. An infant, a girl, about a week old, had died on the sidewalk. Her family, which consisted of a mother and a part-time father, a sister, and a puppy, lived on the streets. For their possessions, they kept a motley mix of plastic bags in a nearby pushcart, which they brought along whenever they moved from place to place. Boy Deo and Junie had seen her family in one of the Quiapo sidewalks a month before she died in one of those days when the pair, which by that time had become bosom buddies, joined Father Revo in his casual walks around the neighborhood. The priest had this habit of spending his free time on follow-through visits with families he considered in need of talk; it was part of a larger mission to get the general pulse of his flock.

In early morning of that day, one Hijo greeted Father Revo as the latter walked toward the confessional with the news that one of the homeless kids across the boulevard had died. Boy Deo and Junie spotted Father Revo, wearing his white cassock, and walking quite briskly, as he passed by Junie’s parents’ store inside the Aguinaldo Underpass. Without speaking a word, both Boy Deo and Junie jumped into action to get behind the priest’s tail. 

Boy Deo watched the mother cry as Father Revo tried to console her. A keen kibitzer in the making, he took mental notes of what was being said by a grief-stricken soul and the soul-mending comforter.

When the trio arrived at the scene, the dead body of the baby girl had been wrapped by a white cloth donated by a transient resident who lived in a nearby apartment. The parents were waiting for a tricycle that would transport them to the city-owned cemetery. Barangay (village) officials facilitated the baby’s burial in the cemetery.

“She was having diarrhea yesterday,” she told Father Revo. “This morning, she suddenly turned black before we could bring her to the clinic. Our neighbors here berated us that we should have sent her to the clinic earlier.”

Then the must-ask question: “Why did God take her, Father?”

For a minute, Father Revo did not say a word. When he finally uttered something, it was brief, and very likely incomprehensible to the mourning mother. “Often, in this kind of situation, God has no hand in it. It’s okay to cry and be sad, but let’s be firm. Let’s pray that we can have better control of our lives.”   

When the tricycle arrived, Father Revo asked the mother to bring her daughter to the church for a brief send-off mass.

After the mass, Father Revo noticed that Boy Deo and Junie had been following him the entire time. He gathered them under his hands, one to the left, the other to his right. Then he fondly rubbed their heads with his palm, as if to say, “that’s my boy!”

But Boy Deo was not the typical spectator. In Quiapo, in contrast to his earlier days under Vida’s care in Lanciano City or under Teresa’s care in Aparición, he liked to speak his mind.

He asked Father Revo a question that sounded like this: “Why would God allow this? Yesterday, during the Feast of John the Baptist, the priest said in his homily said that if God can turn the stones and make them children of God if he wants to, and God can count the hair in our head, why can he miss this and prevent it from happening?”

When Father Revo was confronted with questions like these, he normally would only look at him affectionately but would say nothing.

Father Revo did say something when Boy Deo and Junie were in their early teens. Boy Deo asked, “If God took care of birds in the air, why does he allow the stray cats to roam the streets dirty?”

Father Revo then commented that God wants his people—the ones that he said God could create from stone—to do the work for him. God wants his people to not only care for the birds in the air and the stray cats, to not only care for the environment, but also, and even more importantly, to look after the welfare of the community.

“When you grow older, you can be the ones God can rely on to work for him. Maybe joining politics can initiate the kind of transformation we all need,” Father Revo, half-jesting, cajoled them.

BACK IN CERRITO, BOY DEO was the consummate facilitator. In meetings with barangay (village) officials, to which he got invited often, he encouraged them to think through and speak on their issues. “What is it that keeps you poor?” he would ask. Then, in trying to facilitate discussions that aimed to prioritize common issues, he would follow with questions like “Why is that important?” or “What can we do to address our issues?”

In meetings with members of the community, he made it a point to discuss the importance of people owning their issues. He would end the discussion with something like this: “If we own our issues, we take the initiative to address those issues. But if we do not own our issues, we will rely on others—which often is the government—to address those issues for us. If we do not acknowledge the common issues (like, for example, there is an illegal drug problem, or inefficiencies in delivery of social services are left unchecked, or there is lack of access to opportunities) as our own problems, we will wait for others to resolve those problems for us.”  

His keen sense of empathy and understanding of what ailed urban poor communities endeared him to the people in the area. His name was soon being talked about in the surrounding neighborhoods. Some people started to look up to him like he was a savior, or a prophet, except that he was preaching political transformation rather than spiritual rebirth.

His work in Cerrito got noticed by a network of NGOs working in the urban poor sector. At twenty, he graduated from college with honors, and was promptly hired by another Jesuit NGO.

To meet one of his graduation requirements in college, Boy Deo wrote a thesis that drew from process documentation reports which he and his classmates put together from a semester-long immersion in Cerrito.

The thesis essayed the rise of a Citizen’s Congress that sought to address the dysfunctional system of representation in government. He argued that the existing congress did not respond to people’s needs, noting that “as a visceral extension of presidential clout, the present congress—like an appendix whose usefulness medical science has yet to determine—is a costly prop, an embarrassment from which the democratic ideal would wish excised.”

Through the proposed Citizen’s Congress, the people, convened as a rolling constituent assembly, would become the legislators themselves. More fundamental changes would be needed as soon as the legislative branch of government began to function under the new setup. From this assembly (Citizen’s Congress), executives and members of the judiciary branch would be chosen and appointed through a selection and affirmation process.

As a long-term agenda, the Citizen’s Congress was envisioned to take the place of the current senate and house of representatives. Registered Filipino voters, whether residing locally or overseas, would be accorded with access and capability to exercise the powers and functions performed by the current members of congress. For the innovation to work, the thesis recommended that remote conferencing and related communications technology would be needed. At that time (2005), however, the internet was not yet accessible to all or at least the majority of commercial and individual would-be users.

To make it easier for sitting politicians to shift to the new order, Boy Deo proposed that a Citizen’s Congress secretariat would be created to facilitate the flow of legislative proposals coming directly from the people. This secretariat would be composed of the existing members of congress.

In effect, the elected politicians would only serve to moderate the legislative deliberations, but the legislative proposals themselves would be introduced and approved by the people who would be constituted as Citizen’s Congress. The structure would be like that of the jury system in the United States, where judges (elected politicians) facilitate the trial, and jury members (the people sitting as members of Citizen’s Congress) make the decision.

Radical as Boy Deo’s proposal was, it did recommend a pilot run in one to ten barangays to start with. All residents in the pilot barangay would be encouraged to participate in enacting ordinances through electronic mail or mobile phone messaging. Decisions could be reached by invoking the usual majority rule (“dividing the house”). However, in cases where less than 60 percent of assembly members expressed support for a policy proposal, decision-making had to go through consensus (using the Delphi Method, which he learned from one of his elective public management courses).

The elected barangay council members, acting as Citizen’s Congress secretariat, would facilitate the exchange of legislative proposals among assembly members. Each council member would have to be responsible for facilitating the deliberation of legislative proposals that fell under his or her committee (e.g., good government, education, agriculture, peace and order, etc.).

He perorated on the theme that the existing political system yielded more waste (as a result of corruption) instead of outputs for every input that was spent using taxpayers’ money.

“What else can be more obvious an indication of a dysfunctional system of representation of government than by creating government offices, government corporations, or regulatory bodies, among other bloated organizations supported by public funds, which has become commonplace in recent years? The pretext has always been due to ‘exigency of service,’ whatever that means.

“The reality, however, is that winners in every election need to reward their supporters with government appointments. The more consequential the positions to which appointments are made, the more powerful the appointing authority becomes. When power builds up beyond what is truly exigent, opportunities are set for the prevalence of graft and corruption.

“Each newly created government office or body gives rise to spending obligations. Because preceding budgets have no provision for these new expenditures, the government must incur more public debt. In short, taxpayers shoulder the cost of political patronage.”

FROM THE CLASSROOM TO THE REAL WORLD, Boy Deo sought to change the world with his Citizen’s Congress blueprint. But after having spent years of trying to sell his idea, through various platforms and media (he contributed articles in newspapers and magazines, spoke in conventions and public rallies, etc.), Boy Deo felt disappointed that none of the mainstream political figures, even among those whom he considered as progressive-minded, had given his advocacy serious consideration. An article he wrote for the student organ even put him into trouble with the state university, which later claimed that some national legislators pressed the school administrators to expel him or else they risked serious budget cuts. That article, with a publication date of 4 June 2004, is reprinted below:

People and the law

When people own their issues, they also own the law that aims to address those issues. This ideal state arises when conditions for people participation have been developed. It promotes a political system that enables government to respond more effectively to the needs of its constituents. In such a case, people in government, especially the elected ones, function as true representatives. They serve people’s interests.

Without the necessary condition for people participation, governance is likely to fail.

How do we know that people own their issues?

In an ideal, functioning republican system of government, people would have no need to go to the streets and mount protest actions to let the state know what their issues are. The structures for such an ideal setup exist; for example, the Local Government Code (LGC), which was been in effect since 1991, tried to institutionalize inclusive and participatory governance processes. LGC prescribes barangay assemblies where everyone has a forum for an elaboration of their aspirations. It created barangay councils for sectoral development in which members of the House of Representatives sit, so that what people say at the lowest levels could be heard at the highest levels.

Why congress passes laws that people have no reason to embrace as their own is a sign of structural defect and of organizational dysfunctions. There is disconnect and lack of a collective purpose to serve public interests.

When people get to a point where they own neither their issues nor the process that public policy making goes through, their representatives in government do not serve them. These representatives serve strange interests.

The annual appropriation law of the national government quickly comes to mind as an example. Every year there is a uniform million or so provision for a multipurpose something in hundreds of municipalities nationwide. This is one among many ways by which national politicians legally bribe local political dynasties for the latter’s support during electoral contests. Kind promotes kind.

The same investment proposal would show up in the following budget year, indicating that nothing consequential came out of the previous year’s expenditures. This deception is replicated in big-ticket items that seek to modernize everything—from agriculture, to transport, to internal and external defense capabilities. Despite the ballyhoo, nothing gets modernized in the end. Every year, funds are being allocated for these proposals; every year, nothing gets done except the dissipation of public funds.

The budget law is enacted in the name of the people, yet done in relative secrecy, with the entire budgeting process hardly benefiting from people participation. During congressional hearings, congress invites resource persons (mostly department heads), with nothing much to contribute but to flatter their bosses and to legitimize the process. Congress hypes up the annual budget as pro-poor, but the money bag ends up being fodder for corruption that, as Pope Francis puts it, is being paid for by the poor. 

And yet, even as thieves run the government freely, people do not mind. In fact, they elect them to office each time there is a vote. (There had been spasmodic exceptions when controversies as naked as the Talipandas scandal had led to the prosecution and eventual imprisonment of a few. However, this was all for show. They soon got themselves out of jail, and the voters tapped them on the back with a fresh round of electoral mandates.)

It is therefore not enough that people own their issues. They must also understand what causes them. Everyone can relate to social problems about poverty, criminality, peace and order, etc. But not all may know that people themselves contribute to the unmitigated recurrence of their issues by voting to office the same people who exploit the system to their advantage.

Changing the status quo faces a dilemma. Who can initiate political reform? The people—who are beholden to patronage politics? Or their representatives in government—who benefit from the dysfunctional system and therefore would have interests in keeping it from breaking apart at all costs?

Even if voters get to change the roster of incumbent politicians every election year if the latter do not grow a conscience, the system as it works now will continue to thrive because it has grown to become the ogre that never dies. Change can be initiated only by those who have the willpower, the courage, and the integrity to educate the people on what keeps them from understanding and owning their issues.  

This can happen when political reform gets the people involved in identifying, defining, and debating their issues. When there is genuine people participation from the time public policy starts taking shape to the time it gets implemented on the ground, people become duty bearers as well. Arresting lawlessness, for example, is best left to the police. But a process where people co-own the problems of criminality is established when the police get the communities involved.

When people own the law, that law becomes self-executing. That law does not need complex monitoring structures by which the progress of its implementation would be measured; it does not require costly graft-ridden government bodies for control, regulation, and oversight.

After four years of being involved in community organizing work, three years of which were as an NGO worker, he decided that he himself or Junie should run for a political office by which he could at least test the application of the ideas proposed by Citizen’s Congress.

While Boy Deo had brainpower, Junie had charisma; Junie also had academic training in politics. They decided that Junie had better chances of winning electoral contests. 

The stars seemed to be coming together for Junie. His father’s sacrifices as a slave in Joey’s household are now being reciprocated by Joey in many forms. The greatest strategic value by which Junie was able to leverage his association with Joey was the connection he built with some wealthy and influential families in Manila and, more importantly, the implicit support he got from Makatigbas and his allies in the military.

Endorsed by Joey, and with financial support from his father, Mr. Ty, Junie ran for Sangguniang Kabataan representing Barangay Penoy in Cerrito and won. He later became a member of the City Council of Manila as Sangguniang Kabataan Federation Chair. Three years later, in the Barangay Council election, Junie ran for Barangay Chair and again won.

Junie conceded that apart from Joey, pal Boy Deo was the secret weapon he could not live without as a budding politician. All these years the latter had been his confidant, tutor and, as he launched his foray into partisan politics, adviser. Not only that, given his popularity among urban poor communities, Boy Deo had in no small measure helped win the votes for him. Boy Deo was the key reason Junie was confident of winning more political wars ahead.

Soon it was time for the dynamic duo to get to work, not just in words, but in deeds as well. While Junie was the brand behind the idea, Boy Deo was the mouthpiece behind the brand’s promotion.

With Boy Deo holding the baton of the orchestra, Junie established a legislative mechanism that applied the basic structures of Citizen’s Congress. For the first time in Philippine history, here was a political unit where citizens themselves wrote the local laws, including those that prioritized barangay expenditures and mapped the medium-term development agenda of the barangay.

A first in Philippine governance, Barangay Penoy adopted OnePenoy, a web-based portal, where government agencies pooled their resources together, especially databases, for the operation of Citizen’s Congress. OnePenoy leveraged data from the Commission on Elections, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the City Social Welfare and Development Office, the Department of Health, the Land Transportation Office, among other government agencies, to qualify barangay constituents who could participate in the online deliberation, and vote on the approval of barangay legislation.   

Three years later, glowing feedback from Junie’s constituents had made the rounds among media outlets. Aside from seeing physical results of good governance—as indicated by less amount of public funds that were lost to corruption, or expenditures that truly responded to the needs of the community—people took pride in saying that they had been transformed from being mere subjects to decision-makers. The joke among Manila residents was that people had planned their mass transfer to Barangay Penoy to experience some kind of liberation from the rotten politics that persisted in their own barangays.

People thought Junie was not only a visionary; he also showed promise as a problem solver. At the City Council, he proposed accreditation of sidewalk vendors with the Community Affairs Office of the city government to facilitate regulation and to ensure that they did not obstruct vehicular traffic and pedestrians. He also proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance to promote the interests of the city government while minimizing displacement among the urban poor and providing them access to alternative sources of livelihood and resettlement for those whose relocation was necessary.

Support for his vision for a city-wide Citizens Congress and an operations hub upscaling OnePenoy to OneManila snowballed.

He was elected to the Manila City Council for three more terms until 2010. With Boy Deo by his side, advising and campaigning for him, Junie won Manila’s Vice Mayoralty seat in 2013 as an opposition candidate. Sir Dikomo, running under the ruling party, also won as mayor. Three years earlier, in the 2007 presidential elections, Benaobra won, reclaiming Malacanang after his party lost it in 1992. His vice-presidential candidate, Bonggoy, son of former Manila Mayor Watkasing, also won. Reg Makatigbas was on the final half of his six-year term as senator. All three—Sir Dikomo, Watkasing, and Makatigbas—were Benaobra’s allies.

With the results of the 2010 elections as backdrop, political analysts turned their attention to Lee Tan. Most of them were one in saying that the billionaire kingmaker would discreetly support either Makatigbas or Sir Dikomo for president in 2016. They also opined that the rise of Junie could not be ignored even at the early stage of his political career. 

IF BENAOBRA HAD AN UNDERSTUDY in Senator Reg Makatigbas, Makatigbas had several understudies too. One of them was Joey.

Joey caught Makatigbas’s attention when he married a left-leaning beauty. Nobody from the military academy had done what he did, ever. Makatigbas thought Joey had the courage to blaze unchartered trails, like he used to when he was young, going after rebels in hinterlands of Ispratly. He stood as principal sponsor at the couple’s wedding.

The political dust from the 2013 midterm elections had barely settled, and yet rabid partisans were already hard at work again. The 2016 presidential elections were still far off in the horizon, but speculation about who the early favorites were had percolated. Senator Makatigbas, Sir Dikomo, and the return to power of Watkasing, via heir apparent Bonggoy, among other names, were gaining traction.

The fuel for the speculation did not necessarily come from the potential protagonists themselves. It came from supporters. They were the ones who started to count gains from appointments in key government positions, from juicy contracts and all sorts of mammon varieties that parasites fleeced from every connection they had with government. 

The main characters usually did nothing to establish themselves at the front row of public perception. The supporters did the spade work and heavy lifting for them. Everyone else was a competitor, even those who worked for principals within a coalition.  

Senator Makatigbas and Sir Dikomo were part of a coalition covertly supported by Benaobra and Lee Tan. But a silent rivalry, approaching the edges of a cold war, emerged between the supporters of Makatigbas on the one hand and those of Sir Dikomo on the other, although the principals themselves were on the best of terms, and to some extent they did not keep track of what their supporters were up to. Perhaps they preferred it that way: that each camp plotted the downfall of the other with the principals not being consulted at every step of the way. That was how, if tales that made the rounds among pundits were true, Ninoy Aquino got murdered in 1983, or Bubby Dacer and his driver Corbito in 2000.

MOBILIZING HIS SUPPORT base early, Makatigbas sought Joey’s help, who in turn sought Olivia’s help. The latter organized a consultation workshop, hyped as “One Nation Vision” among Peace and Sustainable Progress Foundation-allied civil society organizations.

ON HER RETURN TO BIRINGAN days after Luzie died, Teresa learned more atrocities committed by the military.

Relatives told her about how her first cousins—Poklo and Jason—were hog-tied at the back and made to literally swim with their legs on a dirt road. Blood dripped from their bare bodies as they waded through rough edges of gravel and stone over a distance of some fifty meters. They traversed that distance from end to end repeatedly. Their offense? They inadvertently broke a lampshade inside one of the military camps.

In a neighboring barrio, the military punished an alleged offender by skinning him alive, again literally. They sliced and took off parts of his body, then dipped them in a bowl of vinegar before champing them in between sips of Filipino beer.

Cases of more violent and cannibalistic bent by the military—like cutting off fingers and broiling livers—were talked about in hushed gatherings. But just the same, the stories flew like wildfire that forced a scared population to take up arms. At no other time in Ispratly’s history had there been as great a rise in the number of armed rebels as then. 

Teresa herself had not seen her father and brother alive since the day she, along with her mother and siblings, left Ilihan decades ago. Rumors about their disappearance had been fodder for what rumors were made of—storylines branching into half-truths and half-lies. There were those who believed they were killed by the military. And there were those who thought they were killed by fellow rebels for double-dealing.

She was eventually drawn to a church-based movement for peace, rejecting violence sanctioned by either side. She became an activist, joining rallies that denounced atrocities perpetrated by both the military and the rebels. Her peacemaking advocacies led her to a reunion with Tangdayan, who went on to hire her as an area coordinator. 

Her boss sent her to the One Nation Vision workshop as civil society representative from the Mindevisa region. In the invitation letter, she saw that Makatigbas was one of the speakers for the preliminary sessions.

At the workshop, Teresa waited for the moment when she could talk to Makatigbas in private. “Excuse me, Senator. Do you happen to remember somebody in Bukāran, Biringan?”

The question floored Makatigbas. He remembered the place. He remembered a woman whom he had a brief romantic fling with. But what about it? He felt like asking Teresa some questions himself. Who are you? Where are you from?

Teresa appeared to have correctly read what was in Makatigbas’s mind. “I am Teresa Biradayon. I once lived in Bukāran. Waday is my sister. I have another sister—her name was Osang—who fell in love with you when you and your team were once assigned in Biringan, and you got around to visit Bukāran several times. That was a long time ago. I would not be surprised if you forgot everything about it. Anyway, she got pregnant with your child. But she died while giving birth, and the child also perished a few days later.”

Makatigbas blushed, then grew pale. His face turned ashen. He needed somebody’s help to deflect the impact of Teresa’s haymaker.

Trying to compose himself, Makatigbas still could not find his words; he was probably better off not being heard. But he thought he had just been charged for committing criminal neglect, and his accuser was waiting for his reaction.

Teresa continued, “Senator, as I said, you may have forgotten what happened. But those are facts. My family needs you to know them. When I go back to Biringan, my folks will be waiting for my feedback. They expect me to bring to your attention the memory of my sister. They need to know what you think.”

Makatigbas, aware that the victim’s family was deserving of respect, said something at last. “I understand. It is by no means easy news to hear. Please give me time to process that. Hope you also understand.”

In an instant, Teresa sensed that the man she was talking to sounded like a man of honor.

“I decided just now that you deserve to know the whole truth.”

Still reeling from shock, Makatigbas remained speechless. She could almost see in his eyes the look of a lost soul—if ever there was such a thing.

“The daughter you have with Osang—yes, a girl—is very likely alive today. When Osang died, my mother decided to send your daughter to our relatives in La Profesa where she thought the child would be beyond your reach. Trying to avoid you and your troops was the main reason nobody knew except family members your daughter was alive.  

“Months before she was born, the military strafed everyone on sight and practically razed Bukāran to the ground in a fit of reprisal, to avenge for the death of one of their kind in an ambush which my father initiated. We have not seen our father and one brother since then.

“We called your daughter “Elodia”—which, translated from the dialect means “orphan of armed conflict”, but we would later know that our relatives sent her to an orphanage which in turn had her baptized with the name of Katleya Ramos.”       

SIR DIKOMO’S HANDLERS RECOGNIZED the unique strength that Makatigbas had: the ability to reach out and be heard by ideologues from both ends of the political spectrum. They needed to do something to stop Makatigbas from gaining more ground, especially in his not-so-hidden agenda to befriend perceived communists.

Those who had access to resources under the command of government intelligence units could eavesdrop on people talking on their phone, including the now popular cellular phones. The security aides of both Sir Dikomo and Makatigbas had unlimited access to police intelligence assets, while those of Makatigbas had additional access to military intelligence assets.

Sir Dikomo’s aides got wind of Lee Tan’s yearlong feeling-out meetings with prospective contenders. The multibillionaire kingmaker had lined up six names with whom he wished to talk to over dinner. There would be one meeting every two months over a period of twelve months, starting in mid-2011. First to be invited was Makatigbas. The venue would be a private, member-only island resort. Chartered flights were needed to get there.

Sir Dikomo’s aides got a copy of Makatigbas’s itinerary. The plan was to confirm both Tan’s and Makatigbas’s booking details and plant a discreet recording gadget in every plausible meeting place. While they got nothing from the mole operation, they were surprised to learn that Makatigbas’s aides had arranged for a police chopper to fetch him from the island resort.

Sir Dikomo’s men went to work quickly. They unhinged the control levers of the chopper that could result in its engine malfunctioning minutes after takeoff. The decapacitation would be gradual; the pilot would have enough time to save himself or herself in the event of a crash. The next morning, news broke out that a police chopper was missing. Newshounds reported later that the missing chopper had crashed on its way to the island resort to fetch Makatigbas. Unfortunately, while the pilot escaped death, one passenger died and another one was badly injured.

With a keen eye for detail, Makatigbas correctly sensed that somebody might have logs on his meeting with Tan. He had no option but to tell at least a slice of the truth. In a media interview, he said he was in the island resort on “private time.”

The senator was roundly bashed in the media. Not a few called for his immediate resignation. The push for him to seek higher office appeared spent at this point.

Makatigbas’s security aides agreed that attempts to embarrass and discredit the senator had been taken. They thought the other side was coming through and that they needed to be stopped. They felt provoked and ached to get even.

Somebody suggested exposing Sir Dikomo to cases of chopper irregularities himself. For one, there had been muted complaints about the anomalous procurement of second-hand choppers when Sir Dikomo was head of the national police. For another, buried tales of choppers he used to drop murder victims stuffed with wet cement and concrete inside cylindrical steel drums off the waters near Corregidor Island could be exhumed. But Makatigbas shot the suggestion down because it not only sounded like a direct war declaration, but it also risked bringing the entire police and military establishment down. For as long as personal conflicts were not involved, the unwritten yet sacrosanct rule of fraternity among men and women in uniform prevented one to discredit the organization to which they all belonged. After all, here was the goose that laid the golden eggs for all of them, especially the generals.

Makatigbas and his men chose another line of attack.