This morning, as I was trapped on my dentist's chair undergoing a root canal, I experienced an even more excruciating procedure. Right in front of me was a television set showing the live coverage of the Senate inquiry starring General Jacinto Ligot.
As he was being grilled by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, the following salient points were raised:
First, he suffers from selective amnesia. He only remembers what is convenient to recall. And usually what is stored in his memory banks are mundane facts that nobody gives a hoot about. Like where he and his wife, Elena, lived while he was studying in the States ... or that he gives all his salary to his wife and leaves nothing for himself. Which of course is not a mundane fact. It is fiction at its worse.
Second, the good general admitted that he and his wife did some traveling and that dear Elena loved to indulge in ballroom dancing. Well, not that much. According to Jacinto Ligot, his wife didn't travel that much either. That is, of course, until Senator Estrada pointed out that Mrs. Ligot had this thing for international airports and having her passport stamped by entry and exit marks from various immigration windows all over the world.
By standards, a little traveling for the Ligots totaled about ...uhm, forty times ... in the past few years. And a great amount of the overseas travel usually involved Hong Kong, Singapore and Los Angeles. As pointed out by Senator Jinggoy, Mrs. Ligot felt so much at home in Los Angeles since she frequented the West Coast City far too often in a single year. When asked how she could afford so much travel (considering that the standard pay for someone of General Ligot's rank is P35,000.00 a month), the good military man pointed out that their relatives chipped for his wife's pocket money and other incidental travel expenses.
(Note: I wish I had relatives like that. Hearing stories about such close-knit families who just hurl dollars at each other for everyday vacation expenses is so nakakainggit. These are the times I feel exceptionally miserable that I do not have kamag-anaks as rich as the Ligots. Di ba? Ang babait nila. And all I get when I travel abroad is to be fed with home cooked adobo --- so that I will not get homesick --- or taken to a Filipino store where I can rent DVDs of Filipino movies I have not even planned to watch even back home.)
Third, Mrs. Ligot was apparently close to Mrs. Reyes, the wife of the Big Boss in the Military.
They must have been really magkadikits considering they traveled a lot together. They went everywhere from various points in Asia but mostly to the West Coast, particularly L.A. again. There must be something about military wives and La-la Land. It could be the joys of Disneyland. Or theme parks. It is hard to understand generals' wives and their tastes.
And when Senator Estrada asked General Ligot if he knew of the closeness of his wife and the missus of Angelo Reyes, he said he did not know. He did not know his wife traveled a lot ... he did not even know her friends. This must have been a very strange marriage.
Come to think of it, General Ligot ended up not knowing a lot of things. Or forgetting them. Or choosing to be silent about them.
When Senator Estrada showed a photograph of a fairly decent house located in one of the hubs of California, General Ligot said he did not recognize the residence. A number of times the senator showed various details of the house --- but Ligot was persistent. No, he did not recognize the place. No, he was not aware of the address.
And when Jinggoy finally announced that a certain Elena Yambao Ligot was the seventh owner of the house being discussed --- Jacinto Ligot said he did not know. He did not know that his wife went to the United States and bought a house that was estimated about about US$138,000.00. He did not even know where she got the money. Palagay ko may marital problems sila kasi hindi na yata sila nag-uusap.
Senator Estrada gasped with surprise at the very thought that you had a general who did not know his wife was buying real estate in the States?!
But Ligot did not invoke his rights to remain silent. Instead, he made mention of two very important facts: a) that he did not want to discuss this since the house was already included in a case filed against him at the Sandiganbayan and b) that he was not a hundred percent aware of all his wife's activities because he was out there doing whatever it is that generals do for a living --- putting his life in danger to protect the country in the boondocks of Mindanao. Ah, kaya naman pala.
Kaya naman pala he never knew his wife bought a house approximately worth P6M whereas a) he was giving her less than forty grand a month for living expenses and b) she was receiving goodwill money from her relatives whenever she went on these junkets. Kaya naman pala the good general was too busy tending the needs of the military to put private matters like a wife's frequent flyer privileges into question. He was busy planning how to overcome all the threats to the Republic.
This must have greatly affected his marriage, no?
But wait ... there's more.
When Senator Estrada showed another house (this time worth half a million dollars) also under the name of Elena Yambao Ligot, the selective amnesia was now matched by convenient confusion. Ligot said he did not know about this purchase either (as he did not know a helluva lot of things) and then later invoked his right to remain silent because the houses in question are already part of the Sandigan case against him and ...
Teka, teka ... Akala ko ba hindi mo alam ang tungkol sa mga bahay na ito? Eh, ginamit na pala itong ebidensiya sa kaso mo sa Sandiganbayan. Naku, ha? Ang sama ng script mo, Kuya!
(Note: At this point, the state of mind the rattled General can be best described as poached --- or scrambled.
From where I sat from the dentist's chair --- and where I and my dear doctor shared such seething indignation at the events we witnessed --- the general's color turned from deep tan to beet red --- then aubergine.
In all fairness, I and my dentist were concerned that at this point there should be some medics on standby because the military man's change of demeanor practically called for an ambulance and a stretcher.
But thank God that soldiers are made of stronger stuff. That is why I guess he made it to being a general, hindi ba? )
As the procedure went on and on --- with a very cool Jinggoy Estrada apparently enjoying the fruits of his excellent research --- matched by the hulking presence of Drilon and the authoritative stance of the Blue Ribbon Chairman Guingona --- everyone in that dental clinic graduated from amused to upset. We marveled at the way television literally peeled the truth like an onion --- layer by layer down to the core.
We were also disgusted at the thought that this perfidy --- this exercise in the art of amateurish deception --- this systematic and institutional graft, corruption and theft --- has been so ingrained in our society, in our culture --- to leave us not only numb but damaged. Irrefutably and undeniably warped and damaged.
We hear about politicos who are so brazen to run off with the nation's coffers as if it were their personal petty cash. We know of the excesses and extravagance of those in power, shamelessly foisting their material acquisitions and social position while at the same time announcing for their love of country and compassion for the millions of the poor and uneducated and even hopeless. We even laud the illicit affairs and debauchery of those who walk in the corridors or power --- and find vicarious experiences even in the shenanigans of their relatives.
But the military? The soldiers who are supposed to be out there to defend the integrity and dignity of the country? Wait: let me stand corrected. We are not talking about the soldiers who only have two sets of uniforms, combat boots padded with newspapers because their footwear are so dilapidated that they could not fight their battles properly. We are not talking about the pawns we send to fight rebels, live in sub-human conditions and expected to obey their officers because that is what soldiers are for.
We are talking about the top echelon who are supposed to embody discipline, integrity, honor ... the personification of national pride.
And after watching the proceedings, how are we to feel? What else could we say?
More important than that ... what happens now?! After all this live coverage dramas, all these games of national cops and robbers ... what really happens now?
(Final Note: The root canal procedure was relatively painless. But my dentist and I felt more ravaged, more devastated by what we saw on television.
How can anyone possibly think they can get away with such shameless blunders? Did they actually think they can get away with those answers because we are a nation of idiots?
That is the real feeling of violation I, my dentist and so many others felt watching that Monday morning perfidy.)