Sorting out ownership of those controversial choppers

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was first published in Interaksyon.com on August 19, 2011.

 

“One and one is two, and two and two is four, and five will get you ten if you know how to work it.”  – Mae West

 

If you are trying to hide something, one good rule to observe is not to leave tracks. But you have to know how to work it. You have to know the difference between not leaving tracks and covering them up, between forethought and afterthought.

The break-in at the Batasan, that clandestine operation to replace poorly faked certificates of canvass with near-perfect fakes, is a classic example of an afterthought without any forethought. It was supposed to cover up the cheating in the 2004 presidential election but it ended up becoming unassailable proof of cheating. But, the Philippine National Police (PNP) purchase of three Robinson Raven helicopters  from Manila Aerospace Products Trading (MAPTRA) shows forethought in the implementation of an afterthought, as you will see…

“Archie, I’m leaving Malacañan soon and my secretary reminded me about getting rid of a few things. Will you help me?”

“Of course sir, what is on your mind?”

“Those choppers that I did not buy from you.”

“You mean the five that are parked in my hangar and maintained by my company?”

“Yes. My secretary tells me that they’re a drain on petty cash. Besides, flight scheduling is too time-consuming.”

“You do have more important matters to mind, sir.”

“Yes, people don’t appreciate how much time I put in for my charities. You’re one of the few who even remember my dentures- for- the- toothless project.”

“How can anybody forget the only program that addresses the problem of hunger squarely? Sir, you are the only person I know who saw that people are hungry because they don’t have teeth.”

“Sad isn’t it? Anyway, what do we do about those choppers?”

“I will tell my dentist friends that you want to continue giving away dentures even after you leave Malacañan.”

“No, not those choppers. I meant THE choppers.”

“Oh…how much do you want for them?”

“Moi? But I don’t own those choppers!”

“Well, I don’t own them either.”

“I want you to get rid of them anyway. I will be separated from my income stream soon and I will have to shift to a ‘conservation of wealth’ strategy. Which reminds me… (he buzzes his secretary), hija call Bobby and tell him I’m still waiting for his financial reports…(turns back to Archie) Sorry…now where were we?”

“We were talking about selling the choppers…let me ask around.”

“Thank you.”

A couple of days later…

“Hello… sir? I heard the PNP is looking for choppers…”

He covers the mouthpiece of his phone and turns to his secretary, “Hija did you hear that? God must have heard our prayers.”

“…but there’s a slight problem, sir.”

“A problem?”

“Yessir, the PNP is not allowed to buy used equipment.”

“Ganun ba? Okay, I’ll get back to you… wait for my call.”

An hour later, Archie’s phone rings…

“Archie, let’s describe the choppers as ‘service-center condition’.”

Baka may sabit ‘yan, sir.”

“Don’t worry, there will be more than two dozen people involved in the process, starting with amending the specs to tailor-fit  the choppers, to bidding out the contract and awarding it, to inspection and taking delivery of the goods, and finally to making payment. No one will ever be able to pin the blame on anyone.”

“Because they’re all part of the process?”

“Exactly.”

“Sounds like forethought to me.”

“Absolutely! Consider the choppers sold. Just make sure you bring them up to service-center condition. ”

“No problem, sir. What do I do with the money after I get paid?”

“Give it to my secretary.”

“I will need a receipt from you.”

“From moi? But I don’t own those choppers.”

“Sir?”

“Archie, who’s been paying you in cash for parking and maintenance? Who’s been texting instructions to your flight dispatcher?”

“Your secretary?”

“Naturalmente! Because she owns those choppers. Ask her to sign the receipt.”

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