May 20, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Sept. 9, 2007.)

I would have captioned this column “Botyog 77,” which is what his inmates call him, but only behind his back and never to his face.
But don’t let that deceive you, he is actually fast on his feet, and if you don’t believe me, try playing basketball with him and watch helplessly as he slips past you when he goes for the goal.
1977 is the PMA class to which he belongs, and take note that there is something about numbers peculiar to PMAers.

At thirty years of age or thereabouts, military officers love to play god, and seem to think that they are Messiahs sent to save this Republic from the hands of incompetent civilians.
So, these self proclaimed saviors end up either in jail and later on in the senate, like Gringo Honasan, or both in jail and in the senate, like Sonny Trillanes.
But if the country is in ruins today it is because the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. and his military cohorts started it all during the Martial Law years, and it is the taste of power that drives the military to wrest power from civilian supremacy under the guise of saving the country.
Abandoning deposed President Joseph Estrada in 2004, the military officers who sided with then Vice President Gloria Arroyo were soon rewarded for their efforts with cabinet and other high government positions under PGMA, and were even acclaimed as heroes by those who didn’t know any better.
My old man, a former constabulary lieutenant, once told me that treachery and opportunity are military twins.
I didn’t understand him then, but I believe him now.

But this column is not really about the military, it is all about Police General Eugene Martin, the new director of the Cordillera region. Martin has come a long way from his aide de camp days to Gen. Popoy Fianza, from whom I surmise, he learned the ropes of climbing the ladder to success, but his promotion to general and police director is well deserved and overdue.
An astute and courageous soldier, Gen. Martin realizes that an ideological war can never be won through armed conflict, and that peace can only be achieved by winning not only the hearts and minds of the people, but also the hearts and minds of the rebels through understanding and dialogue – by making them see the light, so to speak, that no matter who or what we are, we all have a stake in this seemingly God-forsaken republic, and that patriotism and love of country is not exclusive to any one group.

Despite his somewhat rotund figure, Gen. Martin does not suffer from ailments like hypertension or a bad heart, but I guess he has no health problems because he is married to a pretty doctora, aside from living a modest lifestyle.
Although he has a reputation as a tightwad, he has never refused friends who ask him for a small loan whenever they do not do too well in the cockfights, and unlike most creditors, he does not sic his dogs on you, even if the debt remains unpaid for a long time, neither does he remind you that you still have a pending obligation when you bother him for another loan, nor does he put his foot down when you pester him for other favors like interceding for an errant relative or friend.
“Who is it this time,” he would merely inquire, “your favorite brother, nephew or cousin, or your good friend from your hometown of Kapangan.”
Of course, he knows that us Benguets are quite sinful, but our sins are sins of need at the moment, not sins of greed or abuse.

One thing about Gen. Martin is that he has an uncanny inkling of how the criminal mind works, and that the only way to change a criminal is to punish him first and reform him later. But he is also quick to forgive minor offenses, although a second or subsequent offenses no longer move his one time only forgiving heart.
We salute Gen. Martin on his well-deserved promotion as PNP Cordillera regional director.
By the way Gene, there’s this big derby next month, and I wonder if you could extend me one last loan – just kidding, General Sir, but I will surely pay you a visit when you become PNP chief, and we can drink that bottle of Johnny Blue that you gave me when I was appointed city prosecutor.
Congratulations again Bot…ooops, Gene pala.
May your tribe increase tenfold.