Grassroots & Governance

To be fair, the Duterte administration will leave some positive legacies, perhaps on the economics side, because the President has made a few creditable appointments to govern this sector. To name a few, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, NEDA Secretary General Ernesto Pernia, and the late Nestor Espenilla of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. I guess because he expressly values utang ng loob as a high value, he basically gives Dominguez, the leader of this group, a lot of leeway, and basic policy autonomy. Dominguez, after all, is from Davao, and was one of his early campaign supporters. Besides, Dominguez did not accept the job right away; and reports indicate that President Duterte practically begged him to take the job.
However, aside from the virtually treasonous surrender of our sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea despite our UN-accredited victory in The Hague, the incredible extrajudicial killings in the obsessive “drug war,” the brute force applied against the human rights of outstanding women (e.g., Leila de Lima, Patricia Fox, et al) and public and ungentlemanly insults against other women including the duly elected Vice-President, perhaps the greatest harm that the Duterte administration will leave as a legacy is the blurring of lines between right and wrong. This is truly a serious crime because its potential impact can last for generations.
The sin of lying is being denigrated publicly by the President and his daughter who it is said, is being groomed to succeed him. To make matters worse, honesty is being downgraded as a value in defense of brazen lies perpetrated on her website by the campaign of senatorial candidate Imee Marcos. My mother often told me that lying and stealing are cousins, and that they often go together. What gall, to claim college degrees earned from the University of the Philippines and the Ivy League Princeton University, and what greater gall, to claim fictitious honors! It sounds like the 27 heroic medals fable claimed by her father Ferdinand Marcos. Or, perhaps, by extension, the claim of Bongbong Marcos that he was cheated in the 2016 vice-presidential race.
Sara Duterte publicly stated that lying should not be a campaign issue in the coming elections because, according to reports, she says all politicians lie anyway. OMG, if that is true, why hold elections anyway? Is she saying that whoever we choose, they lie (and steal) anyway? These are words from our potential next president? And her own father, our current elected leader actually said that there is no evidence that the Marcoses have illegally acquired wealth?
Thank God international civil servant Ruben Carranza, former deputy of the late Haydee Yorac in the PCGG, who actually did most of the work to recover over US$700 million of hidden Marcos money in Swiss banks (now worth over a billion dollars which hopefully is in process of being distributed to human rights victims of the Marcos government) took the trouble on international cable television to refute Duterte’s wild statement. There is enough evidence, Carranza firmly asserted; and that has been acknowledged by the Swiss depository Banks for aliases William Saunders and Jane Ryan, et al. It makes one wonder what it is that motivates the Dutertes to go this far to defend lies, with more lies. Is it the much vaunted value of utang ng loob? What is the utang ng loob of the Dutertes to the Marcoses? Can it possibly be great enough to supersede honesty as a value?
We as citizens, and even more, as parents need to be more mindful in the midst of social and traditional media tsunamis that can blur our vision. Shall we bear with downgrade of our moral values for the sake of higher GNP and Build Build Build, if it does happen, and at reasonable cost? (Never mind honesty, because everyone cheats, anyway?)
What kind of people shall we and our descendants become? Are we to be led by liars and cheats, because everyone lies and cheats, anyway? OMG, I have never yearned to live overseas; but now I am glad that my son and his children are living in America as honest “legals”. Well, Trump and his people are at least being investigated by a special prosecutor.
Shall we continue to accept his apologists’ explanations that our President is only joking when he makes his wild statements, or tells lies, or makes crude remarks unbecoming of a national leader? How did we get here? Remember his campaign promise to ride a jetski and plant the Philippine flag in the West Philippine Sea? So, he was only joking? He was not lying, or he was lying but doesn’t everyone anyway?
The business community, as usual, being happy with the economic numbers and Build, Build, Build opportunities has hardly issued any public objections to the downgrading of long-held Filipino family values of honesty. Are they acquiescing to this, or just not mindful of what harm this is doing to our culture and civilization? The culture and civilization in which our descendants will live?
What about our educational institutions? Are they going to tolerate the erosion of basic moral values without clarifying the issues for the sake of the generations of Filipinos they are helping to develop? How about parents and grandparents? Are they just going to sit by and turn a deaf ear?
Alas, are we going to just go mindlessly downhill as a people?
Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and an independent development management consultant.