Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1 April 2017


The latest scandal, defined as “a state of affairs regarded as wrong or reprehensible and causing general public outrage or anger,” certainly has titillated the public. But I hope it also focuses attention on the things we have to correct in our  society/culture if we are ever to get on the road, and stay on the road to sustainable human development.

To remind: The scandal involves not just two run-of-the-mill congressmen, but congressmen from Du Du Land or Da Da Land (i.e, Davao), whichever you prefer, and thick as thieves with President Duterte. Not only that: One is the Speaker of the House and the other the scion of a very wealthy family known to have made its money by being very light on its feet, dancing with whoever is in power. Further, their “women” are involved—women not from their families, but of the kind who in my childhood were known as “queridas.” In the United States, these congressmen would have been known as “sugar daddies” to their younger female companions, labeled as “sugar babies.”

Now that we’ve got that straight, let us meditate on what this sordid affair offers in regard to important flaws in our society/culture.

First, the Speaker files charges at the Office of the Ombudsman against the congressman. I have not seen the charge sheet, but the Speaker has been quoted as saying that the congressman’s family corporation was issued a 25-year contract with the Bureau of Corrections, signed in 2003 (during GMA’s watch), for the lease of over 5,000 hectares of land on terms inimical to the government, resulting in lost revenues amounting to over P20 billion. Also, according to the Speaker, there was no bidding. (The 2003 lease is apparently a renewal of an original lease secured during the Marcos regime.)

What’s wrong with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s actions? Nothing. It is what he did not do that is important. Coming from Davao, he must have known about the contract, and its onerous terms, but chose to file charges only now. In short, while he was bosom buddies with Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr., he made no move to look after the country’s interests. Friendship first, party first, before country. This we cannot and should not abide.  If it was that inimical, the contract should not been entered into in the first place, much more renegotiated. The land should have been awarded to farmers who have been asking for it for more than two decades. Let’s see how this will play out.

Next, there is the matter of the double standard used when men and women are involved. Here is the Speaker, a married man, whose wife heads the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc. She is the present spouse. He does not even claim he is separated from her; he merely said they hadn’t talked in a long time. Yet he openly admits to a relationship with one Jennifer Maliwanag Vicencio. Not a word from his colleagues in Congress about this.

And there is Sen. Leila de Lima. No spouse (marriage annulled), openly admitting to having had a relationship with her bodyguard. No problem there. They were both consenting adults. The Speaker’s colleagues in the House feasted on her, asking the bodyguard the most impertinent and irrelevant questions about their relationship.  The Speaker did not intervene (he could have; he has real time access to congressional CCTV).

In his own defense, he said he had never castigated De Lima about her love life. Maybe. But he did not prevent his colleagues, who must have known about HIS love life, from doing so. Such hypocrisy. Out with that double standard.

A third flaw in our society that is revealed by this scandal is the utter arrogance of some public officials, who seem to think they are above the law. Case in point: Speaker Alvarez. He has dared the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to disbar him for immorality. Well, it should.

But even more important, it is clear that he has violated Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. So maybe the Ombudsman should get involved. She is probably the only one who will not quake in her boots, ensuring that the rule of law is obeyed.