(Article published in the Jan 24, 2007
issue of Manila Standard Today)
Letting him ride quietly into the sunset or fly quickly up in the sky is just isn’t the way a Filipino community permits a beloved kin to leave. To soothe the community’s pain and to warm the kin’s heart, be he leaving for another country or for another life, there has to be last minute abrazos and besos, unchecked tears and contorted faces, words of care and heart-felt “inggats”.
Thus, his official kith and kin at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas have to be forgiven for holding amongst themselves, despite his expressed wish for a quiet and quick exit, a short program paying their communal tribute to their Gob. Paeng, on the day of the last of the Novena Masses for the repose of his soul.
Nonoy Alindogan, whom Paeng had known since childhood, spoke of him thus:
“For Paeng, the true passion of his life was service to his fellowmen. He plunged himself unhesitatingly into every challenge and the opportunity that came his way. Gandhi said that the most important quality on the spiritual path is courage, and Paeng certainly was not lacking in this quality. Through his courage, he transformed his work into a prayer. He presided over the Bangko Sentral during one of the most tumultuous political transitions in our country’s history. Known for his fierce independence, he was often targeted for removal from public office throughout his six-year term. Yet, he persevered passionately and fought like a true warrior. When he retired from his post after six years, he recorded on eof the most consistent performances for a head of a government agency covered in the Makati Business Club’s semi-annual Executive Outlook Survey.”
Teddy Montecillo, who was Paeng’s colleague from his Citibank days, said:
“What else can I add. I may just say one bit of observation over the years of my association with him. A quality that stands out which translates into this: HINDI SIYA MADAMOT.
One trait that stood out during his time. He was most accessible to the staff. Hindi siya madamot of his time and attention. He allowed his people to go to him directly without hassle. This also allowed him to get a good feel of what is going on in many levels down the organization.
He was easily available to the press corps. He never evaded nor became scarce to media. Ask media representatives who are here today. He did not deny media its share of his precious and very limited time. In other words, Hindi siya madamot.
He never hesitated to lose even his most valuable people as long as it is to a greater cause, or for the benefit to the individuals concerned. Hindi siya madamot in giving away important assets in his organization for good reasons.
As head of the Bangko Sentral, he cared for the welfare of its people that is why he did not spare the cost in upgrading the facilities here and in Quezon City. The workplace has to be not only efficient but also safe and elegant. Look around. The evidences of this trait are all over. Hindi siya madamot.”
But it was his worthy successor, Say Tetangco, who summarized for everyone the gifts that Paeng had bestowed on them during the six years that he was their father-leader:
“In particular, his genuine concern for the welfare of the employees of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will never be forgotten. He championed better pay, better benefits, better working conditions, better operating procedures, and better development programs for the men and women of the Bangko Sentral….because he wanted to make sure…all of us will be able to do our work in the highest standards possible, as world-class central bankers.
In the process, he has strengthened Bangko Sentral and made it a more effective contributor to the development of our economy and the improvement of the quality of life of Filipinos.”
Not an eye was dry among those walking back to their offices, like the so many families going back to NAIA’s parking lot after their loved one’s flight had gone, as if saying that doing their job was the tribute they could give to their Gob. Paeng.
And it is just not Filipino for a hero to go without leaving behind a bequest. To serve as a token by which he hopes to be remembered and to assure his people that he, in spirit, remains with them, the departing one leaves a relic or two.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of having delivered to Paeng’s colleagues at the BSP what I am almost certain was his final gift. I sent to Atty. Juan de Zuńiga, Jr., a copy of the Ombudsman’s Resolution dated 21 November 2006 dismissing the complaint in Topacio v. Buenaventura, et al., OMB-C-C05-0307-G and of OMB-A-05-0305-G.
Both cases arose from an affidavit-complaint filed at the Ombudsman against Paeng and two officials of Banco Filipino. The complainant claimed, among other accusations, that the Memorandum of Agreement signed on 20 December 1999 by BSP and Banco Filipino, which paved the way for the reopening of the private bank, was grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government. Yet, the complainant had no known (or disclosed) personal interest in either Banco Filipino or the BSP, other than as a taxpayer.
It was the BSP itself that was a party to the transaction and not Paeng personally. Yet, no official of the BSP other than Paeng was indicted, not those who negotiated most of the terms of the deal before Paeng became governor, not those who later approved and confirmed it in its entirety, and not those who authorized Paeng to sign the memorandum documenting it.
Moreover, the questioned transaction was entered into by BSP in compliance with a final and executory decision of the Supreme Court to permit Banco Filipino to “continue in business with safety to its creditors, depositors and the general public”. Yet, the complaint implies that the BSP should have been more restrictive and constricting on the reopened bank.
And finally, while the memorandum of agreement was signed shortly after Paeng took over the reigns of the BSP, the complaint was filed much later, just about a month prior to the expiration of his term on 02 July 2005.
Indeed, it was very obvious that it was primarily the BSP, and not Paeng, which was being taken to task. Paeng was simply a surrogate target. But he was a particularly soft target. His physical illness was already of public knowledge and his term was about to expire. In such a vulnerable condition, he was being made to fight BSP’s fight.
I explained to Paeng his options. And his choice was exactly the same one he had always taken in all the cases I handled for him: “Fight.” With that marching order, I asked the help of his predecessor, Gabby Singson, then head of Legal now Deputy Governor, Andy Suratos, then member of the Monetary Board Teddy Montecillo, and Jun Zuńiga, currently General Counsel. Only the Holy Spirit knows more about the subject Memorandum Agreement than this group. Together, we fashioned Paeng’s defense, throwing in the kitchen sink but within the framework of the regularity of the BSP’s transaction.
In the end, the Ombudsman, in the criminal case, among other pronouncements, held that “there is no showing that the challenged MOA is grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.” In the administrative case, it more positively stated that “there is no substantial evidence that the challenged MOA is grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.”
In both cases, the Ombudsman, citing specific evidence on record, found that “the events that transpired prior to, during and after the execution of the MOA as revealed by the various communications, board resolutions, court pleadings, court decisions, excerpts of the testimony before the Blue Ribbon Committee germane to thereto do not support complainant’s allegation that the terms of the MOA is grossly disadvantageous to BSP.”
No appeal may be made of the administrative case that resulted in the exoneration of Paeng (Sec. 7, Rule III, Rules of the Ombudsman). The criminal case obviously cannot proceed since Paeng died on 30 November 2006. The regularity therefore of the MOA is virtually unassailable. BSP’s fight was won.