Rodrigo Duterte’s sadistic comment on rape matches in mischief and gravity the serial dishonesty of Grace Poe. One seems more scandalous than the other. In fact, they have the same effect of corroding the moral fiber (strength of character) of our society, and of corrupting our politics.
The only value I can see in these controversies is the possibility that they could jolt us from our moral confusion about the election campaign and the choices before us, into the realization that great issues are at stake in the May 9 elections and that we as voters have a fateful choice to make on Election Day.
Who we choose for President, Vice-President, senator, congressman, and local offices will have far-reaching impact on our lives and on the nation.
Character, words and truth matter
The character, capabilities and programs of the candidates we will choose from are not sidelights in this political exercise; they are front and center.
Character matters. Words matter. The truth matters.
I hazard a guess that moral clarity has entered our public square because of the transgressions of Duterte and Poe. We cannot close our eyes to Duterte’s vile statements and what he threatens to unleash in our public life, any more than we can excuse Poe’s glaring lies and deceptions, and the damage she has done to the Supreme Court and the Constitution.
Supporters and financiers of Duterte and Poe have become enablers of their immoral behavior and mischief. Their cult followings ensure that there are always people to rebuild the citadel when they stumble.
One has to be stupid to accept the repugnant rationalization and justification provided by either candidate for their transgressions.
Grace Poe says her lies and deceptions are honest mistakes and are committed in good faith (with sincerity). Duterte says his perverse remarks about rape are just the way men talk and are not intended to disrespect women. His vow to kill every criminal suspect is spoken from the heart.
Absurdly, the Supreme Court ruled that all the lies of Grace Poe are legal; it is the Comelec and her critics who are wrong.
Duterte’s defenders are issuing a similar verdict in his defense, but without magisterial authority.
These are all crap. And they have the effect of making the offenses even greater because the offenders believe they have done no wrong.
The nation’s moral core
We realize how grave these offenses are the moment we connect them to the honor and integrity of our country, and the fundamental decencies of our culture and society.
As a nation we have a moral core.
We have values that we collectively believe in and live by.
Neither Duterte nor Poe shares these values despite their professions of patriotism.
When Duterte repudiated the apology made for him by his political party, he made plain that he cannot admit to committing a mistake and that he cannot distinguish right from wrong, no matter how righteous he sounds.
He declared: “Don’t force me to apologize, because I never will.”
He will play the tough guy to the end.
Mar Roxas, who never gets credit for his insights and instincts, has seen through Duterte’s braggadocio and posturing. When Du30 boasted about slapping Roxas if they ever meet, Roxas called his bluff, “OK, Sampalan tayo; or suntukan na lang (OK, let’s slap each other; or better yet, let’s just have a fistfight.). At this, Duterte retreated and remembered his age (71).
How to spot a liar
Last Monday, the Associated Press issued a wonderful feature story on how we can spot a liar or how we can tell when someone is lying to us. It is aptly titled “How to Spot a Liar.”
This means that we may not be totally helpless against Poe’s dishonesty. We just need to observe her carefully every time she speaks in public or talks to us. Or consents to be interviewed with her portable teleprompter.
AP says that recent research has uncovered the giveaways that show when we aren’t telling the truth or are being lied to.
Experts say that it is possible to get a good sense of when someone is deceiving us.
First, experts say the face, and the smile in particular, is key. A real smile is seen in the eyes, a fake smile is only in the mouth. Also watch for a smile of contempt with one lip corner curled, as if the liar thinks he or she is getting away with something.
Second, Liars may split hairs, decline to answer, change the subject or tone, protest a question, even put up their hands while protesting.
Third, What experts look for is change from truth-telling to deception, but not one specific change. So they need a baseline, a sense of what people look and talk like when their guard is down and they are telling the truth.
Once a normal is established, the idea is to ask open-ended questions and look for cues, changes in verbal and nonverbal behavior.
I can already see what’s going to happen. Journalists and concerned citizens will be watching Grace Poe like a hawk from hereon. Even her nostrils will be under scrutiny. Her public statements and advertisements will be reviewed. She will be under heavy watch during the debate on Monday.
Of course, it’s true that many of Poe’s lies and deceptions are already sealed in documents submitted to the government, and they were instrumental in jump-starting her career. The biggest harm was done when nine Supreme Court justices swallowed Poe’s lies hook, line and sinker.
A problem of fraudulence
How did we wind up with false choices like Duterte and Poe for the presidency? Are our people so untalented and desperate that we have turned to them for leadership?
I can think of three reasons:
First, our political system today does not have real political parties to winnow the field of politicians for leaders of true ability and vision? What we have are political gangs and clans.
Second, electoral politics in the country has become essentially money politics. The oligarchs now team up with political dynasts to control our elections and, therefore, policy making.
Third, the 1987 Constitution placed our political institutions and electoral politics in a straitjacket, from which there is no escape without constitutional reform.
This dysfunctional system produces a President in every election cycle. It will not produce real leadership, unless sooner uprooted and defanged.