Angels and Demons

Mr. Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, May 24, 2006 edition, p. A6.

People who liked the Da Vinci Code will enjoy Angels and Demons by the same author. Those who can’t get a copy can settle for the version serialized in a local newspaper.

Pinoy Angels and Demons is a newspaper’s tale about a former beauty contestant who was used by a group of businessmen to launder money.

Joelle Pelaez was 23 years old when a president of the Philippines began to court her. She was showered with gifts and “deluged with offers of ‘help’ that would make her life ‘somewhat better and comfortable.”

At one point, officials of a certain bank even offered to loan her P50 million to start a business of her own. But she turned them down.

“She told them that she was only 23 and that she had no job, no residence certificate, no income tax returns, and no property to mortgage. The officials told her it didn’t matter,” the newspaper recounted.

“I insisted that they give me just P5 million,” Joelle recalled.

Joelle got so many presents, and in such a short time, she didn’t know what she had. When she turned 29, she discovered she had received fantabulous gifts she never even knew about.

“No one told me about the bonds and securities…I knew nothing about the peso and dollar accounts,” she complained.  “They used my name to get money flowing without my knowledge and consent. They used me,” she explained.

Joelle hired a lawyer to sue the former president and his friends for using her name and forging her signature to launder a lot of money without her knowledge and consent.

She asked rhetorically: “Who else could have pulled it off?”

Her lawyer said, “This commercial transaction of this magnitude could not have been consummated without the knowledge of the highest official of the land at the time.”

And that was the hook where a former president was hanged.

Up to that point, it was still obvious who the demons were. Unfortunately, the provenance of the story leaked out.

Pinoy Angels and Demons suddenly turned into the tale of a former beauty contestant who was used by a group of political operatives to sully a former president’s laundry.

Two weeks before Malacañang’s most dependable ally began to serialize the beauty contestant’s story, her lawyer met with Mrs. Arroyo’s butler. Consequently, the butler was suspected of initiating the smear job on a former president.

The butler issued a denial. He said he only “personally examined” the documents and was merely concluding that “based on the documents that I saw, there is real basis to say that there was [a] money-laundering operation in which the name of Ms. Joelle Marie Pelaez was used.”

I’m delighted that the butler, Mike Defensor, did not say, “it was her signature but she didn’t do the signing” because that would have reminded everyone of his famous Garci tapes defense, “It was her voice (Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s) but she wasn’t the one doing the talking.”   But I digress.

The butler insisted he didn’t mean to implicate anyone with his statement. So, if the butler didn’t do it, who did? One of the bodyguards?

One bodyguard did order the NBI to investigate Joelle’s allegations. For that, he was accused of bias. The public wanted to know why he launched an investigation based solely on an in-house newspaper’s report.

The bodyguard said, “It’s a first-hand story, it’s very detailed we can’t just brush that aside.”

Like the butler, the bodyguard was not exactly lying. Raul Gonzalez knew that an allegation against an enemy of Mrs. Arroyo, published in an ever-loyal newspaper, is a directive from the Palace squatter herself. He would’ve had to be suffering from acute uremic poisoning to brush that aside.

Meanwhile, another bodyguard was linked romantically to Joelle. But he denied it. He said, “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t mess with other people’s property.”  Thus, Chavit Singson became the only alpha male ever to call a vibrant 23-year old beauty a non-living thing.

Who then are the angels and who are the demons?

Frankly, I found it difficult to separate the newspaper’s tale from the machinations of “outside” characters. My unshakeable belief that the newspaper in question is staffed by Palace stenographers didn’t help my discernment either. Besides, I sensed a dark squat presence behind the fair unblemished statuesque angel.

Anyway, the presence would be doing the public a big favor if she ordered the newspaper in question to switch to softer newsprint and ink that didn’t stain instead of sending it on endless crusades to topple a fallen president.

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