Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 December 2017


Remember the TV series “Madam Secretary” that featured the Secretary of State socking the Philippine president who tried to cop a feel? That was last year (2016), and it got all sorts of enraged comments from Filipinos and merited a protest from official circles. Well, this year, the TV series “S.W.A.T.” featured Filipino licensed nurses being used as drug mules as they entered the United States. The episode, titled “Pamilya,” was aired initially on Nov. 15, and the dialogue included allusions to the increased violence in the Philippines.

I mention it because if there was any reaction to it from our side, it escaped my notice altogether. Is this an illustration of a “new normal” — maybe even a “malignant normal”?

And what exactly is malignant normality? It occurs when a society normalizes extreme behavior that is potentially dangerous. In short, when it normalizes evil. Is this happening in our country?

Let’s talk about some examples in 2017, the year that ends in two days. Let’s start with extrajudicial killings (EJKs). Oh, one can say, these have been going on for years. But that is exactly the point. We seem to have normalized the crime, such that hardly anyone lifts an eyebrow when it is pointed out that the sum total of the EJKs that occurred from Marcos’ martial law dictatorship all the way up to the end of P-Noy’s term — a period spanning at least 45 years — is less than the alleged number that occurred in the first six months of the present regime.

Or take another example: the incarceration of more than 10 months of Sen. Leila de Lima. Oh, one can say, other senators, even presidents, have been incarcerated. But with the others, the evidence (documentary and otherwise) was strong. De Lima was incarcerated on the basis of testimony of convicted felons who had absolutely no credibility, whose prison benefits were taken away by her when she was secretary of justice (remember, she headed the first raid on the New Bilibid Prison), and who had axes to grind against her.  Totally incredible witnesses.

But didn’t the Supreme Court say that there was nothing wrong with her incarceration? Ah, but the Supreme Court seems to be part of the problem. In De Lima’s case, the decision was 9-6. Would you believe that the majority justices were not even in agreement as to what the charges were against De Lima?  Five of them thought that she was being charged with conspiracy to trade in drugs, while three of them thought she was being charged with trading in drugs. But that makes only eight. What about the ninth? Well, he wasn’t clear.  In some parts, he was talking like conspiracy, and in other parts, he seemed to think trading.

The point is this whole thing happened in front of our eyes. We saw how Congress behaved like a group of salacious boys, asking about her affair, asking her boyfriend to go into details, allowing the secretary of justice to act as chair of the committee, allowing the testimony of jailbirds to be accepted. And we did nothing. Malignant normality? Or just apathy?

And talking about Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate), its behavior this year was appalling. I wouldn’t go so far as to call its behavior evil — maybe just malicious mischief. Congress has always been like that, I can hear you murmuring, Reader. But you will admit that its behavior has been getting more malignant, or at least more in-your-face. Example: the Speaker, in a feud with his financial backer, admitting an extramarital relationship even as his wife headed the group of congressional spouses; or senators bringing charges against each other in their “ethics” committee; or openly admitting that they punish the opposition by denying them the perks they give others (hey, it’s not their money in the first place, but they act like it is). And society acts as if this were all normal.

Let’s complete the picture with the Executive.  This year we experienced a Marcos (PNP) accused of murder, then gentled down to homicide, being reinstated. And then we have Faeldon et al. given other positions even as they still have to answer accusations. The Executive knows better than anybody.  And we accept, without a murmur.

I hope 2018 shows us pulling away from malignant normality. This was a bad year.