The global Filipino and the goat

Sun, 03/25/2007 - 00:00
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By Robert JA Basilio Jr.

When Jose de Venecia Jr. was a boy, he was almost killed by a goat.

The enraged beast — the head of the herd that he was leading out to pasture — charged at him without any provocation, flinging his body into the air.

De Venecia avoided serious injury — and perhaps even an early death — after being saved by his belt. The billy goat’s horn snagged the leather strip fastened onto his waist, missing the target by just a few inches.

Whatever epiphanies de Venecia derived from this incident are not indicated in Global Filipino, his authorized biography, written by Brett Decker, a speechwriter and a newspaper editor.

But the anecdote — however incredible it may sound to friends, foes, and frenemies — serves the books purpose.

The goat attack and many other stories help drive narrative action, encouraging readers to actually go through the whole volume, a 400-page work that includes a 15-page Philippine history chronology, praise from presidents Aquino, Ramos, and Estrada.

No such remarks came from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for obvious reasons.

In early 2008 — the same year the book was published — her allies unseated de Venecia as House Speaker despite years of unwavering and critical support.

But that’s how the game is played and no one knows this better than de Venecia, who was able to unite all political parties in the late 1990s in what was then known as the Rainbow Coalition.

But in 2008 — when Arroyo deemed him useless — he may have recognized that the jig was up and that he was old and rich enough to publish his biography.

Unknown to many, de Venecia’s biggest contribution to the country may very well be his move that asked allow local lenders to accept US dollars.

Proposed in the mid-1960s and later approved by both the US and the Philippines central bank, the move continues to benefit the country by making it easier for overseas Filipino workers to send money home.

De Venecia’s dollar remittance proposal earned him a belated recognition from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in 2005, the book says.

Besides commendations — presidential or otherwise — the book also carried blurbs from 20 other heads of state including South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and the United Nations’ Kofi Annan.

What purposes do these blurbs and written testimonies serve?

That our man from Pangasinan are in the good graces of leaders, both global and local, including the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who may have considered him close enough to be a crony.

To this day, de Venecia denies the appellation.

Never mind that a company he once controlled — Landoil, which, among others, built ports and drilled for oil in the Middle East — was able to borrow a $120-million loan that was guaranteed by the Marcos government.

After failing to collect from projects that were derailed when the Iran-Iraq war erupted in 1981, Landoil was eventually unable to pay its debts.

And just like any lucky guy, de Venecia got another break.

Landoil’s unpaid debt was covered by the Filipino taxpayer through Philguarantee, another government entity.

Decades after the goat attack, it seemed that de Venecia’s good luck remain in ample supply.

The Philippine Supreme Court later sustained a decision — rendered earlier by an anti-graft court — that cleared Landoil and de Venecia of any wrongdoing regarding its loan from the Marcos government, the book says.
His good fortune doesn’t stop there — it apparently extends to the spiritual realm.

 

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