Grassroots & Governance

United Nations-sponsored studies have concluded that Filipino women are among the most empowered of their kind in the world. So, I really cannot understand why many of our male national leaders have such a penchant for attacking our strong women leaders: Senator Leila de Lima has been in jail for a year on charges testified to by long-term convicts. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is under threat of impeachment even though after weeks of hearings in the House of Representatives, no impeachable offenses have been cited. Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio Morales is being criticized by her rumored aspiring successor Solicitor General Jose Calida despite the fact that she retires in just a few months. CHED Secretary Tatti Licuanan was pressured to resign just a few months before she was retirable.

Why does our President not want Vice-President Leni Robredo to sit in Cabinet meetings? Is it because his concept of leadership given his own statements about his high regard for Vladimir Putin, is based on belief in male superiority? And why does he make fun of rape stories? Is it to demonstrate that he is not afraid of women, to prove that he is better than they are?

All these make me conclude that many of our male politicians have not yet grown up; in fact, that they are insecure and need to assert their supremacy at the expense of women, who happen to be in the minority in national leadership positions.

Perhaps these are just symptoms of a national problem that we have to take a look at, seriously. Some of my friends in the fields of psychology and cultural anthropology are beginning to advocate studies on and advocacy for enabling Filipino boys to mature earlier than they seem to. Of course, they also recognize that Filipino mothers have a role to play because there seems to be a tendency to allow boys to just play and hang around with their gangs, and to spare them responsibilities at home, which are delegated instead to the girls, which contributes to their earlier maturity. One study is cited that indicates that boys tend to mature at the age of 30; and that therefore, they should not marry before then. Well, from the behavior of many of our politicians, who are well beyond that age, perhaps they may never grow up.

The sad thing is that somehow, like President Duterte who told his macho rape jokes when he was running for the presidency, they get elected to leadership posts!

I remember when as a college freshman I had a chance to sit in the Senate gallery and watch gentlemen politicians like Lorenzo Tañada, Jose Diokno, Emmanuel Pelaez, and their contemporaries behaving and speaking with so much dignity and gentility. Today, I often have to turn off the TV when I watch our ill-mannered politicians grandstanding with foul language, perhaps to demonstrate their machismo? Do we still teach good manners and right conduct in our elementary schools? I remember how instructive a course on civics was for me.

President Duterte doesn’t seem to realize that how he speaks and behaves in public sets the tone for other leaders and our citizenry, especially the young. Obviously, Speaker Alvarez has picked up from his boss on how to speak and behave. Bad manners and foul language seem to be turning endemic. This is not only worrisome. It can actually be tragic if it continues far into the future.

If it is not yet being done, now that we have extended basic schooling to K-12, perhaps more than just enhancing skills and knowledge, we should emphasize, as a key part of education, the need to orient our youth on right values and citizenship, how to parent, how, as parents to be conscious of the need to ensure boys grow into men and not “man-child” (or “puers,”as my psychologist friend terms them), how to be mature and responsible men and women before it’s too late.

We are in danger of electing more and more immature leaders in our future; and thus turning more of our people into barbarians if we go on like this.


Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and an independent development management consultant.