Thanks ‘Butch’

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

As I watched the evening news on GMA-7 last Wednesday, I was shocked to learn that Mr. Butch Raquel who had served as a long time executive and VP for Public Relations of GMA had passed away due to COVID-19. Like most people who experience such unexpected news, I was momentarily in denial finding myself searching the internet and Facebook for more information. Only after reading a thread of condolences and expressions of loss and gratitude, did I find myself saying “Thanks Butch.”

Yes, a “public thank you” is in order because I would not have this column space were it not for an unexpected push from Butch Raquel and this is how it happened. Back in the day there were so many prominent and more experienced individuals who fit the bill of columnist and probably triple that number of other people who wanted to write in The Philippine STAR. What took place was clearly an act of God, a divine appointment and a blessing to wit. It was a Tuesday morning when I went to the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel where I meant to counsel a friend who I learned was going through an emotional and moral roller coaster of sorts and I knew just where to find him that morning. As I was scanning the floor of the HEAT restaurant looking for my friend, I chanced upon Butch Raquel, so we momentarily exchanged pleasantries and as he checked on how I was doing, I brought him up to speed that I had literally just resigned from ABS-CBN four days ago but I was OK. By then I saw my intended target or appointment so Butch and I broke off as I pulled my friend to a table while Butch Raquel took his seat beside Mr. Max Soliven – publisher and senior columnist of The Philippine STAR.

I went about talking with my friend about his state of mind and intentions and I was busy explaining to him the consequences of making the wrong decision and the burden of having to take responsibility for doing the right thing. I was oblivious to what was going on around me but the tapping of a fork on a water goblet was hard to ignore, especially since the person doing the tapping and calling everybody’s attention was the Leader of the pack, the chairman of the Tuesday Club, Manong Max who was standing at the head table and clearing his throat. “Ladies and Gentlemen, May I introduce the newest columnist of The Philippine STAR: Cito Beltran.” I’m sure the crowd was shocked but probably not as shocked as I was. Never did I imagine myself qualified for such a coveted position nor did I imagine being taken in by Manong Max just like that.

It took about an hour before I finally got to talk to Manong Max and only then did I learn what went down. After talking with me, Butch Raquel immediately informed Manong Max about my resignation from ABS-CBN with no parachute or anything to fall back. That was all he said but that was all he needed to do. Manong Max told me that he had watched me do interviews and talk shows and that my strength was bringing out the “human interest story.” “Avoid writing about politics because everyone else is doing it. Tell the stories.” Many years later, here I am blessed by two men who have gone ahead but will never be forgotten. Thanks Butch – Thanks Boss Max. God Bless you both.

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After sharing the “instructions” of Manong Max Soliven, I have to say that following them is not always easy, especially at a time when incompetents rule, wicked men spread lies and sow discord, and the poor and helpless have nothing but unfulfilled promises or delayed help from a government that prioritizes its self image or fictional popularity.

Sorry guys, but like some biblical prophet I find it hard to be silent while the government penalizes hospitals with a P20,000 fine for the first offense for not adding 30 percent more beds for COVID patients. Last year, we already suggested and called on the DOH, the IATF and the Duterte administration to build field hospitals just like the ones that China built in a matter of two or three months. One year later, only the Philippine Red Cross and the City of Manila has stepped up and finally started building field hospitals. To date no new real hospital has been built or added to the DOH roster. All they have done is convert gyms and complexes into quarantine facilities but no new hospital. Now they pass the responsibility of COVID-19 cases to private and public hospitals that also need beds for other medical conditions that have not disappeared.

I find it hard to tell stories when I know the real life situation of hog raisers who were promised P5,000 for every pig that the government kills in order to prevent the spread of ASF but got nothing. The real story is that the Department of Agriculture and Malacañang have passed an executive order opposed by local hog raisers as well as Congress, which has authority on tax legislation. The real story is that the plot to increase importation while lowering taxes will destroy the local hog industry and rob the government of income. Perhaps an added story will be cases filed after 2022 for issuing an executive order that is injurious or discriminatory to an industry and unfair and highly disadvantageous to the government.

In the meantime the story I know is that backyard hog raisers hit by ASF have converted their piggeries into dog kennels, tilapia ponds and poultry pens overnight at their own expense. I suppose I’m still following instructions because for now those are stories that are of real interest to Filipinos suffering under the Duterte Misadministration.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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