[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] A tale of two stinks

With the proper sensitivity, one will find that there's more than meets the nostrils to the scandal that surrounds the deal in which the Department of Tourism paid P60 million to the broadcast network PTV4.

The stink does not all come from that deal; it is compounded by other emissions – emissions so offensive they’ve lingered for years in olfactory memory. But that’s getting ahead of our story, so let's get back on the immediate case, lest we lose track, and proceed to sniff backwards.

That case involves a senseless expenditure – for advertisements booked with a network that, being government-owned and -run, has little market pull and general credibility, as evidenced by the ratings. But poor judgment – not to further minimize it – is a fairly common and petty offense as official offenses go. Here's where the real stink lies: the profit goes into the pockets of two of the brothers of the advertiser herself – the tourism secretary.

And here's how it is rationalized: Brothers Ben and Erwin Tulfo are PTV4 "block timers"; they have broadcast time bought for a show of their own, the show precisely intended to carry their sister's advertisements; and that makes them legitimate contractors and profit-takers. Glossed over, of course, is the fact that the appropriated sum is taxpayer money and that, once passed that way, it becomes soiled and stinky.

Sister Wanda Tulfo Teo, for her part, pleads ignorance of the deal. Well, even if she could make herself look credible or worthy of sympathy (which seems unlikely after being found out to have passed off her hairdresser as qualified company on official foreign trips), ignorance is no excuse, not in this case, not in law. But, with all the official miscreants who have gotten off, one never knows.

In any case, the brothers are left no decent option but to return the money, which they say they will do, and the sister to resign, which apparently she has done. But, again, if there's any decency in those options it's a forced one; as such, it scarcely constitutes a mitigating circumstance, let alone an out.

But with Ferdinand Topacio defense-lawyering – for Teo openly, although possibly for her brothers, too, since the case calls for a closely synchronized orchestration – the envelope is bound to be pushed. Sure enough, Topacio trumpets that his client has quit the Cabinet "out of delicadeza.

Delicadeza describes a sort of sensitivity that goes beyond the norms of propriety and decency and onto a supreme level of civilized behavior. But, because it is thrown around so often and randomly, the word has lost much of its original purity. And coming from the lips of a Ferdinand Topacio, it's not unlike preaching virtue by pornography.

As it happens, Topacio is our link between two stinks – the one surrounding the Tulfos now and the one exploded in 2005 by Gloria Arroyo, former president and now Deputy Speaker and seemingly an eternal Topacio client. 

As much lawyer as public-relations man, with a more or less predictable style of handling the tools of both trades, of which delicadeza finds a recurrent application, Topacio cannot escape the suspicion that he had to do somehow – as counselor, inspirer, prompter, or whatever else – with the show of delicadeza Arroyo herself put on at the height of the scandal now indexed in history as "Hello, Garci."

Garci is Virgilio Garciliano, the Commission on Elections official whom Arroyo was caught on tape enlisting to rig the presidential election for her. Caught in flagrante, with a smoking phone in hand, she could only say: "I...am...sorry."

Uttered to theatrical measure, with a Mater Dolorosa face to boot, those 3 words detonated the most potent stink bomb in Philippine history. It was potent not because it revolted, as only it should have, a people whose electoral will had been subverted, but, rather, because it knocked them unconscious morally and caused them to default and allow Arroyo to serve her full fraudulent presidential term of 6 years.

The characters in this tale of two stinks are all part of the Duterte regime or somehow connected to it. Do we yet wonder how we have found ourselves in the noxious situation we're in? – Rappler.com