November 25, 2008

Is anyone watching?

ARE any of you still watching the hearings in the House of Representatives (Impeachment complaint vs. GMA) and the Senate (starring Joke-Joke Bolante and the fertilizer fund scam)?

I gave up at the last House hearing where former Speaker Jose De Venecia was shooting his mouth off regarding the money allegedly distributed by the presidentita to the congressmen to shut them up in the last impeachment complaint.

I don't doubt that what JDV is saying is true, and even whatever else he is claiming to have happened in China while the presidentita, her husband and he were playing golf w/ ZTE executives. It's just that, too late na dava? Why only now JDV? Just bec. you were still Speaker, you kept quiet all the while your son Joey and Jun Lozada were being grilled over the barbeque pit on the ZTE Broadband issue? Tsk, tsk. How convenient.
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I did sneak a peek at this afternoon's hearing at the Senate. I was curious to find out Ibarra Poliquit's involvement in this fertilizer fund scam.

(Barry Poliquit is currently VP of physical resources of the GSIS.)

You see I knew an Ibarra/Barry Poliquit almost two decades ago when he was just a staff assistant at the office of Undersecretary Celso Roque at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Roque, a former UP professor, I thought ran a tight ship, and handled the environmental concerns of the department. So even in the late '80s, we were already talking and writing about global warming, and debt-for-nature swaps, etc. Our environmental officials were pretty much ahead of their time compared to their counterparts in the U.S., Japan, and Australia.

Going back to Barry Poliquit, I knew him when he was thinner and was one of the people whom I knew who was already into scuba diving even before it became a rage in the Philippines. He was married to Rhoda Poliquit, who worked in the Dept. of Agrarian Reform then. He also struck me as one of those guys in the DENR who knew his stuff and was willing to share good environmental stories with us reporters.

In my 23-year-old mind, Barry didn't look like someone who would engage in nefarious activities involving gov't funds. Even though he was much older than I, he appeared as someone who still retained his youthful idealism despite the corruption in most government offices.

After I left the beat, I lost touch w/ Barry and his wife, and only heard of him again during the reopened Senate investigation on the fertilizer fund scam. According to the media reports, he was assistant secretary at the Dept. of Agriculture and had helped Joke-Joke Bolante, then Usec, oversee the implementation of the fertilizer fund program. Today he was being grilled on his apparent inadequate monitoring of the program w/c led to the purchases of overpriced fertilizer by their field office.

I wonder what happened to Barry. What changed? Did the corruption eventually get to him? Did it become an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" type of situation for him? Or did I just read him all wrong when he was still at DENR?
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After googling Dr. Celso Roque to find out what had become of him, I found out that he had passed away on June 30, 2002. Dr. Roque, who was such a masterful storyteller (he always had entertaining stories for us reporters), usually held court at Trellis, the original purveyor of sisig in the metro.

Among the DENR officials of his time, he was really the coolest cat. I could listen to him make kwento for hours, and learned a lot about enviromental issues from him. He is remembered as having pioneered the environmental movement in the Philippines. I raise a glass of wine in his memory.


RhodaRiva said...

Hi, Stella...

I hope you read the comment I sent yesterday. Barry has one curious question - did you know he was a PE grad when you worked the DENR beat way back?



Stella Arnaldo said...

Dear Rhoda,

I don't really recall if Barry ever told me that he was a PE grad. If he did, it probably didn't matter to me bec. he seemed competent at his job. I have a number of friends who graduated w/ a certain college degree but ended up doing something completely different totally unrelated to his/her course.



roquedelcastillo said...

It warms my heart that 6 years on, I can google "Celso Roque" and find other people's memories of him. I miss his kwentos too. Thank you for your kind words. I'm sure he would be pleased that you thought he was the coolest cat in DENR at that time.

deniseroque said...

Hahah that's my sister, and for some reason I googled "Celso Roque" too and ended up with this blog :)