POSTSCRIPT / April 6, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Morality in gov’t sinks to the gutter

AS THIS Christian nation prepares to walk the penitential path of Lent, Filipino sinners are being given by their more experienced elders in government lessons on how to wiggle around morality questions.

One exhibit is Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who has admitted (no choice but to attest to the fact) having sired multiple children with several women not his legal wife – a situation that may mean disbarment, toppling from his perch in the House, and a host of other dire consequences.

With a grin, he just shrugs off the scandal, even having the nerve to flaunt his indiscretion to demonstrate his manhood and political invincibility. His smug defense: Everybody’s doing it, so why look at me?

In normal times, Alvarez could have been hauled to court, stripped of his political adornments, and shaimed (sic) no end.

But these are abnormal times dominated by abnormal characters. Alvarez’s political elder, President Rodrigo Duterte, has jumped to his defense, paraphrasing the Bible about he who is without sin casting the first stone.

Noting that Alvarez is not a Catholic – as if that is an excuse for immorality – Mr. Duterte pontificated: “Even if Bebot (Alvarez’s nickname) says he has five or four (women), we can’t do anything. He never converted to Christianity so he is not bound by the number of women you can have.”

This is the same Digong who makes light of marriage and women in many of his expletives-laden speeches in the countryside and abroad. Imagine telling (entertaining?) a crowd in Japan, for instance, about having at his oath-taking as president his No. 1 and No. 2 wives beside him.

Assuming that was true (although we do not remember seeing No. 1 and No. 2 on stage at his inauguration), it might be best that he left that dark detail out of his speeches and public remarks as now president of the Republic of the Philippines and no longer Davao City mayor.

(By the way, we found it remarkable that Mr. Duterte was able to balance the absence of his wives at that delicate scene of his inauguration in Malacañang by insisting on the presence of their children, including his youngest daughter who held the Bible on which he swore.)

We suspect that his meandering in his speeches into his love affairs is his way of numbing public opinion against philandering and its Dutertic variations. It also helps lay the basis for his defense in case his sexual entanglements get him into trouble.

• Rationalizing the irrational and immoral

MR. DUTERTE being a lawyer, we are perplexed by his opinion that his friend Bebot having extramarital affairs was a “non-issue” and that his being a non-Catholic exempts him from the stricture that he must have only one wife.

The President mentioned that Alvarez’s grandfather was Chinese and his mother a Muslim. We understand his present fixation with the Chinese, but that detail is irrelevant. Then, is a child automatically Muslim just because his mother is? And assuming he is Muslim, so?

The careful reader may have noticed in last Tuesday’s PhilSTAR story by Alexis Romero the mention of laws and codes that government officials may not disregard with impunity. It says:

“The Family Code, which Duterte cited in the past to say same-sex marriages are against the law, also holds that marriage ‘is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation.’

“Under that law, bigamous and polygamous marriages are considered ‘void from the beginning.’

“The Revised Penal Code provides penalties for ‘any husband who shall keep a mistress in the conjugal dwelling, or shall have sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman who is not his wife, or shall cohabit with her in any other place.’”

Having admitted that six of his eight children are out of wedlock, Alvarez faces possible disbarment over his extramarital affairs. But his defender Mr. Duterte insists: “This is a world of hypocrisy. Sino ba walang babae dito (Who has no mistress here)?”

We heirs of Adam and Eve are all sinners. But sinners though we are, we still feel that something is seriously wrong when top officials of the land blithely parade and preach a Code of Conduct that, with due respect, we think was picked up from the gutter.

The least that these officials can do about their extramarital affairs is keep quiet — not flaunt or display them as a badge of Privilege, Pelf and Power.

• Why no charges against Sueño et al.?

ADDING to the stink wafted from junto al Pasig is the unceremonious firing last Monday of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueño amid accusations of corruption, questionable wealth, jueteng payola, and abuse of power.

“I lost my temper,” Duterte told a gathering at the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. “If you (Sueño) answer me… that you never read the opinion of your legal officer of your own office, it’s either you are taking me for stupid, an idiot, or you are lying.”

Sueño had claimed he was unaware of the adverse legal opinion on the contract for the DILG purchase of fire trucks from Austria. With other officials, he went to Austria and bought them despite a pending case with the Supreme Court against the deal.

If indeed there was corruption, why are charges not being filed against Sueño – and also against Peter Laviña, who was sacked earlier as chief of the National Irrigation Administration for alleged corruption? The rules have been changed?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 6, 2017)

A wrong act cannot be considered right even if it has become a habit.

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