Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I had my hands full with the operational and administrative functions of the company—payroll, billing, procurement, repairs and maintenance of the vehicles, security and so on.

But one of my critical job functions was probably what I called public relations with regulatory agencies, or to be more succinct about it, graft and corruption. I knew I would have to meet with each one of the government agencies as well as local government officials and make the necessary arrangements with them to be able to conduct business with the minimum hassle from these agencies.

I had a rough introduction to this public relations business, though.

The Philippine highways were patrolled by the Metrocom, which was the military arm in charge of the national roads, the equivalent of the CHP or the California Highway Patrol in California, and similar agencies in other states.

Arriving in Cotabato, I found out that two uniformed Metrocom officers on motorcycles patrolled the whole breadth and depth of the province. When I inquired about them, my employees informed me that these two officers made their royal appearances in the construction site probably about once a month.

I left word with employees at the camp and with the chief of police of Baguer, the base camp, to contact me as soon as the Metrocom officers showed up at the construction area.

One morning, my phone rang much earlier than my alarm clock. My bodyguard had answered the office phone, and it was the base camp requesting my presence as soon as possible. No reason was given, but I knew it had to be major emergency for them to drag me out of the city into the construction site.

After a quick shower and breakfast, my driver, security guard and myself made it to the site in record time. As we approached the road construction site itself, I saw all our dump trucks neatly lined up at the side of the road. There, at the head of the column of trucks, were two Metrocom officers with their high boots and khaki uniforms.

After the proper introductions, we proceeded to the camp office. The two officers formally handed me violation tickets for each of the trucks, numbering close to about thirty at that time, not yet at full strength. Since the trucks were brand new, there were only a few minor infractions, like a busted taillight.

But all the trucks had no license plates, or tags. I explained to the officers that the company was currently negotiating with the Land Transportation Commission (LTC) in Manila, the government agency in charge of issuing such licenses, so that the trucks would be subject to a construction license, instead of a commercial license. That difference amounted to a several hundreds of thousands of pesos for the year.

The officers said they would call the LTC, and we would meet again the following day. At the meeting the following day, the officers told me that the LTC confirmed my story. However they pointed out that, by law, they could still impound the trucks for operating without a license on a public road.

I replied I would be amenable to an arrangement. They handed me a piece of paper, with a monthly amount and a list of other requirements. I negotiated the amount down, and only for the period that the trucks were without tags. Once we had the legal tags, the amount would substantially decrease.

As soon as we verbally agreed, the trucks started rolling out again. There was nothing in writing, other than the list he handed me. I can still remember some of the items they requested. In addition to the cash, the list included Sam Browne belts (imported, from the U.S.), a specific type of ammunition and some jackets . I telephoned the requirements to the home office in Manila, which approved of the arrangement and actually made the purchases for me.

I kept my end of the bargain, and so did the other two police officers. A few times we crossed paths on the road. I knew all was right with the world when the two officers, parked in the shade by the roadside and standing by their motorcycles, smartly brought their heels together, and crisply executed a salute as my vehicle roared by.

I thought they looked downright smart and resplendent in their high boots and Sam Browne belts.


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