Last laugh

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    I STARTED a joke.

    A week or so into Margie Juico’s resignation of her chairmanship of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, I told a group of local elective officials and their staff that I knew the perfect person to take her place.

    Who? They asked, collectively rushing out of their exhaustion from a day-long executive session over just about every aspect of local governance.

    Eddie T. Panlilio, once Reverend Governor and still suspended priest. Said I, doing my best impression of Jack Nicholson’s Joker mug. Don’t even think about it. One reacted sharply.

    Don’t ever write about it. It may give some people bright ideas…(Or is it: It may give some bright people ideas?) Another cautioned me. Only one laughed, sarcastically.

    They did not get the joke. Or, in the first place, was there even a joke? Anyways… You don’t even want to know why or how Among Ed fi ts perfectly the PCSO chair? Their resounding No! failed to deter me from making like Panlilio’s own sycophantic nominator in some political convention or his fawning publicist.

    What I said there, now more detailed, if not stretched a bit, here for effect. Among Ed is unsoiled by illegal gambling. Therefore his – and his only – is the moral ascendancy to make the PCSO walk the President’s straight and narrow path of transparency, accountability and integrity.

    Ayong Maliksi as PCSO chair? That’s like putting Count Vlad in charge of a blood bank. Ha, ha, ha. Now, there’s a big joke. Seriously, remember how – in his first hurrah for the governorship of Pampanga – Among Ed made a sweeping indictment not only of government but of the Church herself wallowing in, and maculated by, the muck of jueteng.

    I can’t forget the best sound bite from the statement he e-mailed to media then: “Tumatagos na ang impluwensya nito sa pulitika, sa simbahan, maging sa gobyerno. (Jueteng’s infl uence has already permeated politics, the Church, and even the government).”

    There’s the righteousness of the true crusader: sparing no one, even his own kin and kind, in the pursuit of his just cause. The fight against illegal gambling was a recurring refrain during Panlilio’s watch at the Capitol.

    An advocacy turned into an obsession after his defeat in 2010. And re-serving as his platform in his comeback try just last year when, in a rally graced by President BS Aquino III at the Heroes Hall in the City of San Fernando, he so boldly declared that from being “kingmakers,” jueteng lords have become the “kings” and “queens” in Pampanga.

    Promptly appealing to the President BS to put an end to jueteng. “Ipamahala sa PCSO ang tunay na paglalaro nito at bigyan ng alternatibong kabuhayan ang mga nagtatrabaho sa jueteng (Let the PCSO give it proper management and provide alternative livelihood to the jueteng workers).

    So Among Ed pleaded during that Team PNoy rally in the capital city. That’s keen insight of Among Ed on the final solution to the jueteng conundrum. Don’t you agree? You don’t.

    And then, Among Ed may just save the PCSO hundreds of millions of pesos from its financial assistance budget to indigent patients. How?

    Remember how the Reverend Governor efficiently and efficaciously dealt with the hundreds of weekly supplicants for medical assistance at the Capitol? “Ipangadi da na kayu mu. (I’ll just pray for you.)” Yeah, more cures are wrought by prayer than all the cash assistance government can ever extend indigent patients.

    O, di ba? (Ain’t it so?)

    It ain’t funny. So stop it na. I was bluntly told. And I dutifully stopped. There was not the faintest smile on anyone’s face among my audience.

    The joke is on me. So it would now seem. This Wednesday just past, someone publicly known to have strong Malacanang connections intimated to me that Eddie T. Panlilio, once Reverend Governor and still suspended priest, is set to sit in the PCSO Board.

    No, not as chairman, but as director. The official announcement from the Palace reportedly to be made after the babang-luksa (end of mourning period) as the one-year prohibition for losing candidates to take on government posts is euphemized.

    Yeah, this ain’t funny. Those who heard the joke I started would henceforth call me nagbungangang demonyo (I mouthed the devil, he he).

    The joke is on me. Really. Now, if only I’d seen that… Damn this Gibb-ly LSS, gotta stop here.

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