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Commentary

Six points concerning honesty

First, honesty is a minimum requirement for anyone applying for any job, and even more so for the highest positions in government. If a company rejects any applicant caught falsifying credentials, as it certainly would and should, shouldn’t the electorate all the more reject any dishonest political candidate? The fact that we are even questioning whether honesty should be an issue or not in the elections tells us that we have a problem. A very, very serious problem.

Second, a job applicant cannot justify the falsification of his credentials by saying, “Lahat naman ng mga tao sa mundong ito sinungaling (Everyone in this world is a liar anyway).” Which company in its right mind would find that acceptable? Neither should we as a people accept any political candidate who employs dirty tricks to avoid accountability. (See “Ten psychological tactics for avoiding accountability and how to address them,” by Kelly O’Donnell.)

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Third, rejecting a dishonest applicant for a job position is not incompatible with recognizing that perhaps all human beings are dishonest or have been dishonest at least once in their lives. But these are quite unrelated issues. The company will still reject a dishonest applicant, period.

Fourth, you can be sure that Imee Marcos or Salvador Panelo or Sara Duterte will not consult a doctor who has fake credentials, or board an airplane whose pilots did not really earn their certifications but declare otherwise. Would you?

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Fifth, we may all be sinners, but we are still commanded to reject sin, and not simply accept it as a matter of fact. “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus told the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees who dragged a woman they accused of adultery. They left one by one, beginning with the eldest, their conscience stung. Jesus then turned to the woman with utmost respect and the deepest compassion, even as He still told her to turn away from sin. “Woman, is there no one left to condemn you?” “No one, Lord,” replied the woman. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

Yes, we may all be sinners, but we are still called upon to sin no more. We may all have been dishonest in our lives one way or the other, but we are still called upon to uphold honesty and reject dishonesty. What else are we to tell our children? How else do we want them to grow up, except as honest persons?

Finally, Aristotle said that there are many ways to do the wrong thing, and only one way to do the right thing. That certainly applies to honesty. There are many ways to avoid answering straightforward questions such as, “Did you really graduate from these universities or not?” or “Do you think honesty is an important issue in the elections?” Such straightforward questions require a simple yes or no for an answer. Jesus Himself said, “Say yes, when you mean yes, and no, when you mean no. Everything else is from the devil.” (Matthew 5:37)

Why do you think, then, could Imee or Panelo or Sara not simply say yes or no? Where could their words be coming from? Who might they be listening to?

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Remmon E. Barbaza is associate professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Manila University.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, honesty, Inquirer Commentary, Remmon E. Barbaza
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