The road to national perdition
Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you.
Billy Joel didn’t mean this for politicians, but in love and politics, honesty is the foundation of trust. Sara Duterte continues in her convoluted attempt to get Imee Marcos off the hook for claiming false academic credentials. She now tells us honesty is required of senators, but not of senatorial candidates.
The people must howl in protest, anger and frustration. The answer is simple: The Senate is the cradle of future presidents, and if honesty cannot be required of senatorial candidates, that becomes true of all others down the line.
In the Philippines, we are told, there is no strategy for national survival, only a strategy for family survival. The main engine for family survival, of course, secured at the expense of national survival, is corruption, which is the use of public office for private gain.
The reason corruption is so hard to control in the Philippines is because there are two competing moralities in the country. The unfortunate moral agility of Filipinos allows the leaders and the people, like AC/DC gadgets, to live these moralities at the same time.
One morality says that if you are able to advance the welfare and fortunes of your family, you are a hero to this family, your friends, clients and beneficiaries, even if that is done at the expense of the public interest. You rise meteorically through public offices, enlarging your political and financial empire, as you move from barangay kagawad to president of the Philippines. You dodge checks that exist — the SALN and plunder laws, the Commission on Audit, the justice system. This makes you all the more admirable to other elite families, whose basic instinct is to get ahead as quickly and as far up as possible. You are considered smart and secretly admired by other families.
The other morality is the morality that recognizes that the nation is the rightful focus of our loyalty. Citizens are duty-bound to follow those institutions (the Constitution, rule of law, human rights, inclusive, honest and peaceful elections) that promote and protect the national interest, within which the freedom and opportunity to pursue private interests are embedded.
It is a rare public servant like Juan Flavier who wore his “poverty” in a Senate of multimillionaires like a badge of honor. It is in the same Senate where the opposite morality is displayed by plunderers who exhaust the judicial system with legalistic maneuvers. These senators finally are able to exonerate and rehabilitate themselves, and go on to entice the people to reelect them once again, and revel with them in their
escape from justice.
People die for the idea of a Filipino nation, the Constitution and institutions that give it life. They die not only in wartime, but in peacetime, where heroism is so ambiguous and acclaim is so ambivalent and two-faced. We die a little as a nation each time we crucify people like the Eduardo Quinteros, Jun Lozadas, Leila de Limas and Antonio Trillaneses of our country.
Tragically, many poor families who cannot privatize public resources for lack of resources, capabilities and opportunities are forced into their own aberrant version of this warped morality. They sacrifice themselves — life, liberty and happiness — as individuals, just so their families will have food on the table, get education and even frequent the malls. Overseas Filipino workers, in loving and caring for their families, should not completely forego their personal lives and happiness, and avoid unreasonable risk and bestial working conditions in foreign lands.
Even at home, it remains a horrible practice that street kids will deliberately put themselves in front of cars and buses, just so their parents can collect indemnity (“areglo”) for their injuries.
Filipinos must begin to resolve our two-faced morality. We must build the capacity for instantaneous moral outrage when public officials begin to tell us honesty is not a requirement for public office. We must break the “spiral of silence” that paves the road to national perdition.
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