Just before the May 2004 elections, I paid a visit to a friend who was connected with an agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA). Asked him, “What’s up?”. “The DA is giving away fertilizers. The foliar kind at that. In summertime. Wala namang nagtatanim (Nobody is planting)”.
I shot back, “So?” “Parang pambili ng boto. Madaling ipamigay“. (It seems it would be used for vote-buying. Easy to distribute.)
“Antaas ng porsiyento sa opisyales (A big percentage of the amount will go to the officials). 30 to 40%”. “Yung mas mataas ki Cito (Lorenzo) ang nagpapatakbo (The one more powerful than Cito is running the show). Si Bolante”.
Cito Lorenzo was then the Secretary of Agriculture. He comes from the prominent (in agribusiness and politics) Lorenzo clan. It struck that an Undersecretary is more powerful than the Secretary na kung saan yung Secretary di naman simple ang pinagmulan (the Secretary was well-born). And that was my introduction to the man who has a funny given name.
A year later, I again paid a visit to my friend. “What’s up?”. “I will have a visitor. Si Barry. Bagman ni JB”. That’s the first time I heard the name of the man named after a Rizal character. This time there are already talks about a fertilizer scam and then Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. was starting his investigation.
Later I read Barry was covered by Gloria’s “executive privilege”. That was before the Supreme Court half-struck it down. Later I read the guy was already a vice-president in the Government Insurance Service System (GSIS). I said to myself, “What a rise!”.
Now it turned out that all he had was a Physical Education (PE) degree. When division managers in the attached agency are already required to have PhDs.