Honor and shame
Reader, the day the eight members of the Supreme Court decided to stick to their decision on the quo warranto case — despite the entreaties of practically all law deans, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and thinking Filipino people — in violation of the Constitution, I wanted to call that day a National Day of Shame.
After all, that act of getting rid of a sitting chief justice was, to me, the latest blatant act in a series of shameful acts that started with the extrajudicial killings (10,000? 12,000? How can we not tell?) arising from an anti-drug war that was being waged in the streets, where the poor are, and not in the mansions of the drug lords. Then came the trumped-up drug charges against Sen. Leila de Lima after she invited Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas (if you don’t remember them, Reader, you are part of the problem rather than of the solution) to a Senate hearing. The two men said they were part of President Duterte’s Death Squad — and Senator De Lima is still in detention 15 months later.
Ironically, Police Supt. Marvin Marcos, who the NBI accused of the premeditated murder (while in jail) of Mayor Rolando Espinosa, father of a suspected drug lord, was freed from jail after the charges against him were downgraded.
Add to this the unceremonious firing of former CHEd chair Patricia Licuanan, who was asked to hand in her resignation with less than six months to go on her term. Again, on trumped-up charges.
Then there is Sister Patricia Fox, the missionary who has been serving the Filipino people for 27 years, but earned the displeasure and the insults of President Duterte. His loyal minions at the Bureau of Immigration declared her as having forfeited her visa and ordered her to leave within 30 days. Thank heavens that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told them off — that the BI has no authority to do that.
And what about the attempts to harass/pressure Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales? One can be forgiven for thinking that maybe the reason the administration has been gentler (if one can call it that) on her than the other ladies above is that the President’s son-in-law is her nephew.
How about the various acts of the House of Representatives not only in support of the Executive, but that are also, on their own, downright illegal? I refer, for instance, to that extravagant birthday celebration of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez—it was not clear whether the government financed it or he did (where did he get the money?)—and the flaunting of his mistress in front of the nation and of his wife.
In between all these are the various encounters with the European Union, the United Nations, the president of the United States (Barack Obama), the UN Commission on Human Rights, and the International Criminal Court, where foul-mouthed language not worthy of any official of the Philippines, much less the president, was more the rule rather than the exception.
All these point to violations of human rights, the rule of law, and simple good manners and right conduct, not to mention possible pandering to other dictators and the risk of endangering the country’s patrimony in the future.
So why not call for a National Day, or even a National Year, of Shame? Because, Reader, I realize that while we may feel shame for the country and ourselves for what is happening, the perpetrators of these acts, the leaders of our country, appear shameless.
And why is this? Because to feel shame for dishonorable acts, one must first have a sense of honor. Honor is that moral compass, that personal GPS; as Walter Lippmann once said, it’s that ideal of conduct to which we hold ourselves even though it may be inconvenient, or unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. It is when we fail to follow that compass that shame is felt.
Honor and shame, it is said, are the yin and yang of life. No sense of honor, no sense of shame.
We need more honorable men and women. Men like Justice Antonio Carpio. Women like Maria Lourdes Sereno, Leila de Lima, Patricia Licuanan, Pat Fox and Conchita Carpio Morales. May their tribe increase.
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