Wenceslao: Honesty

Candid Thoughts

IT WAS an interesting verbal exchange between Hugpong ng Pagbabago top gun Sara Duterte and almost everybody else. The verbal exchange erupted after Sara’s attempt to make politically acceptable senatorial bet Imee Marcos’s lying about graduating from the University of the Philippines (UP) and Princeton, both topnotch educational institutions.

Her logic: all politicians lie, Marcos is a politician, she is thus entitled to lie.

Sara’s line can be logical, but that does not mean that under the country’s value system it is morally acceptable. Critics pounced on her and rightly pointed out that honesty is still the best policy whether in our personal lives, in business and more so in politics.

The country would be better served if its public servants are honest.

The verbal exchange quickly deteriorated into one between Sara and Vice President Leni Robredo, who was dragged into the issue when she issued a statement on the matter. Robredo is leading the campaign for the opposition senatorial slate Otso Diretso. The pro-administrarion Hugpong and Otso are the main groupings in the senatorial slate.

In normal times, there should actually be no debate on whether politicians need to be honest in their declarations or not. Being honest should have been a given. But we are in a period when all the tenets of liberal democracy are being placed in the wringer. Moral values are being assaulted.

When a former dictator, plunderer and human rights violator gets buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, what does that make of the times? When senators charged with plunder are allowed to run for reelection and even rate high in surveys, what does that, again, make of the times? The son of a former dictator lost the vice presidency by a whisker—ahh, the times.

There was a time when being presidential was the thing. That meant public officials conducting themselves decently in public.

There was once a furor when Teodoro Locsin Jr., then an official of the Cory Aquino government, acted like a spoiled brat in public. Now curses adorn presidential speeches and a mere government appointee flashes the dirty finger with glee.

Be honest. That’s what we always tell our children. But there is currently a lowering of the standards of public service and an acceptance of everything we deem wrong in the past.

When a government official gets away with plundering people’s money, a segment of the populace idolizes him or her as “marunong.” Being upright is considered by some people as a weakness, not a strength.

No wonder Sara could get away with saying that honesty is not a requirement for running for a public office. The reality is staring at us in the face, with the dishonest routinely being elected to government posts and getting away with dishonesty when in those posts. Worse, even those in the judiciary are in it too, either for monetary considerations or to get promoted to higher offices.

Sad, indeed.


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