Of forgetfulness and politicians

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“AT MY AGE,
I’ve
Seen It All
Done It All
Heard It All
I Just Can’t Remember
IT ALL.”
—Words printed on the T-shirt bought by my wife Lynn for me.

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Lynn must have taken note of my growing forgetfulness in deciding to buy that T-shirt. The other day, I had just boarded the car of Irene when I thought I forgot my cell phone at home. When we returned, I couldn’t see it. Well, what do you know! Irene came, bringing along my cellphone which was in the dash board of her car all along.

Sometimes, my forgetfulness gets to be embarrassing as when I couldn’t find my eye glasses. I learned later that they were on top of my head! If it’s any consolation, I’m not alone. I’ve heard of many persons my age or even younger who forget a lot of things, especially when they’re testifying before the Senate blue ribbon committee.

Previous committee chairmen Nene Pimentel and Dick Gordon (I hope Dick would return to the Senate) often complained of witnesses who were suffering from what they called “selective amnesia.” The most vivid in my memory was that of Gen. Carlos Garcia (ret.) former AFP comptroller, who said he didn’t know that his wife often went abroad.

“Kung aso nga hinahanap, asawa pa!” Sen. Jinggoy Estrada wryly commented.

Garcia also said he didn’t know his wife had bought real properties in the United States. Incidentally, the US government recently gave to the Department of Finance the proceeds of the sale of the confiscated Garcia property in the US.

I’ve known of many politicians with excellent memory. The late Rep. Alberto Veloso of Leyte could quote provisions of the Labor Code without any “codigos.” The late Rep. Rolando Andaya Sr. of Camarines Sur, undoubtedly the best appropriations committee chairman the House ever had, always had ready answers for questions on the budget and the history of important items. (Andaya was a rare CPA-lawyer, rarer still that he was in the Top Ten of both CPA and Bar exams.)

Juan Ponce Enrile, Joker Arroyo, Prospero Nograles, Miriam Defensor Santiago and the late Raul Roco are among the legislators whom I admire for their prodigious memory, especially on matters pertaining to law.

Remembering names and faces is also essential among politicians. I was told that nobody could beat the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos on this regard. Having one’s name mentioned by a high official makes one feel like a VIP. I felt like one in a meeting with then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Malacanang.

I had contact with her only when I covered the 1998 election campaign when she ran as vice president of Speaker Jose de Venecia. I was assigned at the House from 1987 to 1998 so GMA could run into me and not know me from Juan. In 2004, more than six years after the campaign, I attended a formal affair in Malacanang. When she saw me, she stopped and exclaimed: “Efren, it’s a surprise to see you here!”

Former Rep. now Gov. Oging Mercado of Southern Leyte, was also one who prides himself with his memory.

“I have no trouble remembering names and faces,” he told me.

Once, however, I caught him giving the wrong name of a fellow congressman so I immediately chided him.

“I have no trouble remembering names and faces. My problem is, the names I know don’t belong to the faces,” he reasoned out.

Actually, remembering names and faces of all 250 or more congressmen is a difficult task. I’m sure no congressman could identify all his or her colleagues, especially since a number of them are often unheard of and unseen.

Tong Payumo was still the Bataan congressman when I saw him greet another lawmaker whose face wasn’t familiar to me.

“Who’s that congressman?” I asked Tong.

“I don’t know. He’s just a nodding acquaintance,” he replied.

Then, there was the congresswoman who mistook a sectoral representative for a page and asked him to take her things from her desk. The latter, bless his soul, followed without any protest. The congresswoman later knew she erred when she saw his pin and apologized pronto.

Ah, but forgetting names and faces is just a minor flaw in the personality make-up of politicians. Their biggest sin is in forgetting their elections promises. President BS Aquino made a lot of promises before and after his election and he had delivered only a few of them.

And if we keep on returning these “forgetful” politicians to power, then perhaps we the voters have committed the graver sin.

19espiloy47@gmail.com

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