Tapped phone calls

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the September 2, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

What’s wrong with playing golf with Chairman Abalos? What’s wrong with having lunch with ZTE people?– Romulo Neri

I received two CDs in an unmarked envelope. I don’t know who sent it or why.

CD 1 – The Secret

“Hello? Hello Romy?”

“Ma’am? Yes, ma’am, this is Romy.”

“Are you still in Hongkong?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. If you need anything just call Manny Gaite.”

“Thanks, poh, but it’s summer here so I won’t need half a million pesos for a winter overcoat. Is there anything I can do for you, ma’am?”

“I just called to tell you how sorry I am that the Ombudsman charged you over the ZTE-NBN deal.”

“Me too, ma’am.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m surprised I was charged, ma’am.”

“Well, I want to assure you that you can count on my full support.”

“Thank you, poh. And I also want to assure you that I will never reveal what you told me after I told you that Abalos offered me 200. I will take that conversation to my grave.”

“Of course you will, Romy.”

“Ma’am?”

“Nothing. Anyway, how is your golf?”

“My golf? Still the same, poh.”

“You still play in Wack-Wack?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I like Wack-Wack. It’s full of history.”

“Yes ma’am many of our leaders, past and present, belong to the club.”

“Did you know that Jose P. Laurel was shot there while he was playing a round of golf?”

“Yes, ma’am. There’s a marker where his attempted assassination took place. I pass it every time I play.”

“A grim reminder.”

“Ma’am?”

“But Wack Wack is much safer now… although you never know…that’s why it’s always better not to make enemies.”

“Ma’am?”

“By the way, my people will meet you at the airport. It’s for your own protection, don’t worry.”

“Ma’am?”

CD 2 – The Lawyer

(Phone ringing)

“Ben’s Borjer, how may I help you?”

“Hello? Hello Ben?”

“What’s your order, please?”

“Ben! Thish ish…”

“Ay kayo poh pala, ma’am. Sori poh. What can I do for you, poh?”

“I just called to tell you how sorry I am that the Ombudsman charged you over the ZTE-NBN deal.”

“Me too, poh.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m surprised I was charged, poh.”

“Well, I want you to know that you can count on my full support.”

“Thank you, poh, ma’am.”

“I saw you on TV.”

“Yes, ma’am. I was saying the Ombudsman was not fair. I was only being nice to ZTE and she charged me with brokering a deal and asking for commissions.”

“Hay naku.”

“Opoh, ma’am. At least she never questioned the propriety of you and FG Mike enjoying a golf game and a luncheon with ZTE officials while their bid was being evaluated by NEDA (The agency then headed by Romulo Neri).”

“That’s an entirely different matter, Ben.”

“Opoh.”

“Good.”

“May I invite you to Ben’s Borjer one of these days, poh?”

“I would love to go but I can’t.  My son, Mike-din, told me it’s beneath my dignity to eat in a hamburger stand.”

“I understand. Pang fine dining lang poh kayo.”

“It’s nothing personal.”

“Ma’am, may I ask you a question about my problems with the Ombudsman, poh?”

“Yes, of course. But I must remind you that I have no influence over Merci (Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez). None whatsoever.”

“So I am on my own na, poh?”

“Of course not! I’ll always be around to help you, Ben. As a matter of fact, I told my lawyers to make themselves available to you should you wish to avail yourself of their services.”

“That’s very nice of you, poh.”

“Who do you want, Romy Macalintal, Jess Santos, Ruy Rondain, Oliver Lozano, Ruel Pulido, all five of them?”

“Thanks poh, but I already hired a real lawyer.”

“You have a lawyer already?”

“Yes, poh.”

“That’s quick.”

“Kasi, poh, my lawyer guaranteed that he would get all the charges against me dropped.”

“Wow! Really? How?”

“He said he would call someone who can’t say ‘no’ to him.”

“Interesting, who is your lawyer?”

“Attorney Garci, poh.”

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