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Monday, April 1, 2013

The Philippine Election Campaign ….. Olympics of Hypocrisy (Conclusion)

Alliances of Political Parties
By now, less than 2 months before the polls, the election fever has become more intriguing as it approaches its superheat state.  Major political parties have already executed strategies to encounter the skirmish for domination of the election outcome. The Liberal Party (LP) of President Aquino had a discomforting alliance with the Nationalist People Coalition (NPC) with the optimism to corner the victories of its senatorial and local candidates against the much vaunted opposition party, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay. One thing that is hypocritical here is that most of the Liberal Party coalition candidates camouflaged themselves as ‘reformers” but are previously stalwart followers of former Pres. GMA when she was still in power.  With this in mind, it becomes distinct that coalition of political parties is done only to increase the chances of the candidates to win the election and not for any other reasons astute politicians want the people to believe. After the election smoke is gone, what happens to this partnership is completely a different thing from what have been trumpeted to be the motivation for the parties’ coalition. This alone is an emblematic model of political hypocrisy.  

As one political analyst wrote, “There are no philosophies at stake in the Philippine elections, only businesses to protect, dynasties to maintain, and pork barrel funds to salivate. Other than that, Philippine politics is a vast intellectual wasteland”.
The Philippine Religious Sector
Photo courtesy of thefilam.net
Comprising more than 81% of Filipinos, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in politics dated as far back as the time the Spaniards set foot in the Philippines to spread Christianity more than 500 years ago. During those times, Spanish Friars were appointed as government officials to govern Filipinos as delegates of both God and authority. Even in the political world today, similar stimulation from the Catholic Church in politics is still commonplace.

According to Shiela Maῆalac, News Editor of MURALLA, the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin was instrumental in the ouster of the late Dictator Pres. Ferdinand Marcos in the bloodless People’s Power Revolution in 1986. As a result, the late Pres. Corazon Aquino was installed to the Presidency after the EDSA revolution with an immense influence from Cardinal Sin. When Pres. Aquino created a new constitutional commission to frame a new charter for the country, Pres. Cory Aquino chose Roman Catholic Church officials in Christine Tan, a Nun, Father Joaquin Bernas and Bishop Teodoro Bacani as representatives of the religious sector to the 1986 Constitutional Commission. 

In a most recent development related to the forthcoming 2013 mid-term election, the case involving the Team Buhay/Team Patay tarpaulins posted in front of the San Sebastian Church in my hometown, Bacolod City, became a political issue of national concern when the local COMELEC ordered the removal of the tarpaulins because it violated the COMELEC regulations for campaign materials in private properties. The act of the Bacolod Parish in posting the tarpaulins was an offshoot of the recently passed (RH) Reproductive Health Law to which the Roman Catholic Church is opposing in the strongest sense. 

The Bacolod Bishop and supporters considered the COMELEC order as “unconstitutional” and a curtailment of the freedom of expression and infringement on the concept of the “separation” of Church and State thereby seeking refuge in the highest law of the land. At the time of this writing, the case has already reached the Supreme Court who will hear the arguments from both sides and finally decide on this rather perplexing issue.

Editor Maῆalac added ; “Tagging politicians as “Team Patay” hardly seems to be an act of “Catholic faith, morals, belief, and of duty”. “Alive and well candidates being related to “death” is rather sick and savage. What is moral about that? Although the Catholic Church is recognized as the largest religious population in the Philippines, it should play no part in politics.” 

As a supposition, Ms. Maῆalac stressed a question, “Is this a clear example of religious hypocrisy or political hypocrisy? It is hard to tell which institution is the greater hypocrite.”

The Influence of “ Iglesia ni Cristo”
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
Undoubtedly, Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) is an extremely influential group in Philippine politics.  During elections, the unity of the INC members to vote for politicians endorsed by the INC leadership is beyond question and observed religiously. Because of its political clout, many INC members become high officials of the 3 branches of the Philippine government including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Led for decades by the Manalo family, INC has gained political power and influence over the past years. There's no question that with the church doctrine of INC of bloc-voting, INC had attracted many politicians during elections and fancies to interfere in Philippine politics. It is a known fact that the INC  supported  the distressed former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on her impeachment case and that  was met with disapproval and  condemnation from the Filipino people. Likewise, INC is acknowledged to be a strong supporter and ally of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

 Because of the common perception that Iglesia Ni Cristo is a powerful and politically influential religious organization, there is no national and local politician in his right senses to willfully criticize the teachings of the group for fear of failure in the election. 

The Integrity and Honesty of Public Officials
It is true that people in general do not always say the truth about what they say for a number of reasons. Oftentimes what they say is contrary to what they do, especially politicians.

In his essay titled Endangered Virtues, Author William Damon said, “Honesty is not a wholly detached moral virtue demanding strict allegiance at all times. Compassion, diplomacy, and life-threatening circumstances sometimes require a departure from the entire unadulterated truth. Some vocations seem to demand occasional deception for success or survival. Politicians, for example, are especially hard-pressed to tell the truth consistently.”

George Orwell in his “Politics and the English Language, observed that the very function of political speech is to hide, soften, or misrepresent difficult truths. Orwell added, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
While we have to recognize that honesty is not an absolute standard demanded for all life’s circumstances, it is not correct to think that our respected public leaders will consciously disregard the virtue of honesty with impunity.  As they used to say, “a public office is a public trust”.” Simply put, the citizens have elected a political leader to whom they feel worthy to be entrusted with power and authority over them. As such, an elected leader should be indebted to the people, to think and act for their welfare first, over and above the leader’s personal interests. So that when a normal sustainable and civilized relationships requires a basic intent to be truthful, the more that public servants need to be the role models for the virtue of honesty. Relevant to this, it is worthwhile mentioning the two most universally respected U. S. Presidents (George Washington, who “could not tell a lie,” and Abraham Lincoln, who was known as “Honest Abe”) who both were widely acclaimed for their trustworthiness. 

Why Do People Run for Public Office?
Why people run for a political office is a 64 million dollar question. Many of us will provide positive and negative responses as well, depending on our general perception of our political leaders.
Albeit most if not all politicians will offer idealistic responses to the same question.  Many of them will say that they run for public office because they have a high sense of public service and want to serve the people by providing better communities for the future. More will say that they are “sick and tired” of the present administration and want to initiate a “change” or “transformation” for the benefits of the community.   These are promises which we can hear from our political candidates every election year, comparable to a local jargon, a “broken record”.  There are a few who would even dare to reason out that they are responding to God’s call to help and make a difference in people’s lives, another hilarious thing politicians do.
In general, candidates spend millions to get elected to a political job that pays annually less than 1% of what they spent on campaigns. Mentally overwhelming, Isn’t it? Most political candidates are either rich having big sum of money to spend or have wealthy donors and contributors willing to part with their money on candidates they support.  Usually the latter is most likely to happen because there only a few exceptions where candidates can personally fund their own campaigns. What is intriguing here is the fact that these donations and campaign funds contributions are not “fundamentally” free. Once a candidate is elected into office, campaign contributors and donors expect “quid pro quos” transactions, from their and relatives appointments to government positions, to business transactions of “political accommodation” or support of legislation favorable to the donors. In the Philippines there are many “political “kingmakers” who rule over elected government officials who are bonded by gratitude to their campaign benefactors. This is what makes most elected public officials abandon their promises to serve the people and prioritize their own personal interests.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
What is the obsession of politicians that compel them to trudge an extra mile to win political elections by all means such as using money, lies, intimidation and violence?  According to numerous political analysts, it is the immeasurable desire of politicians to hold political power and to hold on to it as long as it takes. According to The Prince, a book by Nicollo Machiavelli, “Politics is about power and we all know that power corrupts. So should politicians have a different moral code to the rest of us?”
When asked about her belief that power corrupts people, Aung San Suu Kyi, an iconic political leader of Burma said: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

The Political Power in Public Offices 
Historian and Moralist Lord Acton expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandel Creighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” In a speech to the United kingdom House of Lords in 1770, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham and Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778 stressed: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
“What Are We in Power For?” is an infamous one-liner phrase used by the late Senate President Jose Avelino when an investigation on his reported corruption was ordered by the late Pres. Elpidio Quirino in 1949. The idiom was immortalized by most politicians and the dogma flourished until today. Without batting an eyelash, Avelino continued by saying:’ “Why should we pretend to be saints when in reality we are  not? We are not angels. When we die we will all go to hell. It is better to be in hell because in that place there are no investigations, no Secretary of Justice, no Secretary of Interior to go after us.” Avelino added, “ When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He made a distinction between the good crook and the bad crook. We can aspire to be good crooks.”
Avelino was eventually found guilty of tax evasion and was sentenced to a “suspended”one year suspension from the Senate. For the irony of it all, neither Avelino paid a fine nor went to jail and during his suspension, Avelino was even appointed by Pres. Quirino as a roving Ambassador and re-instated in the Senate after the suspension had lapsed. The faith of Avelino in corruption is fully defensible by his catchphrase, “What Are We In Power For.” Is it? I definitely don’t think so.
When Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile publicly admitted giving 2.2 million each to 18 Senators known to support him, it opened a Pandora’s box after several Senators grumbled on the injudiciousness of   squandering the people’s money. In retaliation, Enrile exposed the substantial 25 million budget provided to Committees headed by his known foes in the Senate and that created a hostile environment in the Senate. This particular episode reaffirms the public perception that our elected public officials who are expected to protect the people’s hard earned money have abandoned such responsibility in favor of their personal interests

In general, politicians run for elected government offices because of the compelling attraction of “political power” coupled by the freebies associated with it.  Most elected politicians do not even care about the legal salary and benefits of the position but is most enthralled by the captivating thrill and rhapsody of being the most powerful person in the barangay, municipality, city, province or the country as a whole. As communities gets bigger and urbanized, the appetite of politicians for more socio-economic programs and legislation using the people’s hard earned money become more insatiable. More than that, most if not all political leaders who are wielding authority do not sincerely care about the welfare of the communities they serve but more enchanted in exercising their political power over their constituents and that is what they want more than anything else.
Much as we have wanted to be governed by a democratic government to rule the country by representation, the Constitution established our rights to live in freedom unimpeded by submission to others by setting up three branches of government that would oversee and provide a “check and balance” situation. Unfortunately for us, these branches of government have developed into co-conspirators in the fleecing of the people evidenced by recent scandals and malfeasances in the Supreme Court, Ombudsman, the Military and Senate, among many others.
Our elected public officials do not earn a great deal of money through their salaries. What makes politicians do everything in order to win elections without regard to moral values?  it is the” power”, the “other money”, and the opportunity to become part of the exclusive class that they are in pursuit of in the first place and endlessly struggle to protect.

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