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Honesty in politics

Tumbas Manipis
by John A. Bello

There is no doubt that honesty is needed in all our dealings, whether in public or private transactions, in government, business, arts, science, academe, sports and most especially in love and in all our activities in fact as human beings.

When Davao city mayor Sara Duterte, the presidential daughter and prime mover and campaign manager of the administration political coalition Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), perhaps provoked by the opposition senatorial candidates under Otso Diretso (OT) who have been egging on the HP senatorial bets for a debate and perhaps playing self-righteous and morally superior against their counterpart in the administration, the feisty Davao city lady mayor was forced to blurt out:

“Honesty should not be an election issue. Lahat sila sinungaling. Lahat ng tao sa mundo ay sinungaling,.” the HNP chair was reported as saying, apparently referring to the opposition candidates, during a recent campaign rally in Parañaque city.

Duterte was specifically responding to allegations that former presidential aide Christopher ‘Bong’ Go had allegedly used public funds for his senatorial campaign.

Senatorial contender Gary Alejano of OT has accused Go of spending taxpayer money for T-shirts printed with Go’s name and image which were distributed to barangay officials during a League of Barangays convention last month.

The opposition candidates have also been questioning the honesty of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos who is running as senator under the ticket of HNP. Marcos has claimed to have graduated from Princeton University and the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Law but representatives from both institutions have denied Marcos’ claims.

Duterte told reporters that all candidates have been telling lies so honesty should not be an issue in the elections.

Political candidates are no different from male suitors after their lady loves who will necessarily make all sorts of nice-nice words and other charming and delightful pronouncements to lure and get the much awaited yes nod of his beloved. But are these nice-nice words and other charming and delightful pronouncements to be considered as lies? White lies perhaps, but not comparable to the political candidate who would make astounding claims of his personal integrity, of his educational attainment, his professional accomplishments just to get the votes of the easily impressionable electorates.

Politics especially partisan politics during elections is supposed to have only one goal: to win the vote. Political candidates are expected to do what he can to win the vote, even to the extent of engaging in vote-buying and making all sorts of mischief just to emerge the victor after the balloting. Survival after all is the name of the game whether in love, war or politics. This is the ruthless principle behind realpolitik when pragmatism seems to be the only thing that guides the political aspirant.

But politics is still a human activity which should be guided by morality. There are all sorts of political thinkers and practitioners who claim that politics is nothing but the act of winning public office and after winning, of maintaining it and perpetuating one’s hold of it. They claim politics is amoral, shorn of, or indifferent to any consideration of morality but only of gaining the trust of the electorate, of doing what is good to the many as against the few. Idealism or sheer naivety has no place in politics or you will not gain traction in the rough terrain of political gamesmanship where only the astute, the smart, the calculating mind and heart rules.

Has the Davao city mayor perhaps become so indifferent or has she lost touch already with any political idealism or to any consideration of political goodness in the political realm such that for her, honesty has become a sheer abstraction during elections such that it has no place during elections? If during elections, honesty is irrelevant, would it not spill over to the performance of one’s duty once voted in office such that honesty is better swept off under the rugs and best forgotten?

But perhaps the feisty lady mayor is only being realistic, pragmatic and human such that in political affairs one should be thinking and considering only of winning and preserving one’s hold on power to be able to continue her kind and brand of public service that she thinks is the best fit for the greater good of the people.

Perhaps she, and her father Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duerte, being in the saddle now in national political affairs, just know something that we don’t?

In any case, it is loud and clear in Article 2, Section 27 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption.”