MANY, and I am in that category of human beings, do not pay much attention to the private lives of public leaders. Policies—and the part of their job that impact on public lives—is the more important concern. Bill Clinton is Exhibit A of indiscretion and a pliable zipper. Yet he presided over growth and prosperity and even raised taxes on the rich to fund his redistribution programs. George W. Bush is a devout Christian. Yet, he plunged the US into two unfunded wars and the Great Recession.
For as long as the public leaders do not flaunt their indiscreet acts, what they do in their beds is their concern. Many are appalled at public leaders with the predisposition to publicly announce their supposed spirituality.
On private conduct of our public leaders, the mindset of many is this: the realistic bigotry of low expectations.
But why are the non-prudes scandalized by the headline-generating news stories on the reported cat fight between the girlfriends of two married and very powerful members of the House of Representatives, who represent the two districts of Davao del Norte, which turned into a full-blown war between the two representatives themselves? And which led to a proposed congressional inquiry on the supposed source of wealth of one of the congressmen involved?
This is the reason. The very public fight involving Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Tonyboy Floirendo is indiscretion run amuck. They seem to flaunt their extra-marital affairs via social media postings and reckless public statements. Where were they with the “gelprens”? Venice? Or, on official plane trips that involved presidential state travels? Affairs that should be done discreetly and away from the public eye are spread around either as a badge of honor or testament to their great libido.
It is the stooping to the level of fishwives while under the cover of being “honorable” that disgusts the general public.
Speaker Alvarez and Mr. Floirendo could have stopped dead on its tracks the scandal that has engulfed their private affairs, which is taking place while the country is being traumatized by killer flash floods, killer earthquakes and the biblical intimation of end-days. And with remote areas of their home region, Mindanao, still languishing in 84 percent and 74 percent poverty rates.
The approaching Lenten season, a time for meditation and reflection, did nothing to deter their determination to throw more gas into the fire. Mr. Alvarez, in a statement that breached the highest form of public recklessness, even dared those who threatened to file disbarment proceedings against him, on the grounds that having affairs is being done by all men of power. And because that is being done by everyone, it absolves him of any culpability. From what sick corner of the law and established rules did he pluck that tortured argument?
And Mr. Floirendo cannot even rein in his Cathy Binag, who spoke of “greed” as the reason behind the embarrassing public tussle. Ms Binag seems to be enjoying her 15 minutes of fame. To many, that is not fame but notoriety.
During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Mr. Alvarez and Mr. Floirendo should realize this, such indiscretions merited work at the “rehabilitation camps” at the very least, and execution at the worst.
Colleagues, who cannot initiate either move of sending them to rehab camps or the guillotine, should advise them to use the Lenten season to reflect and meditate about their private affairs and their public conduct. At the end of the reflection and meditation, they should take steps to make their bedroom romps private bedroom romps, not very public stories. There is a tolerance threshold for official misconduct and the point of breach is when that misconduct impacts on national policy and gets into the center of the national conversation.
The princes of the Church, from the cardinals to the bishops to the priests, should join the two-House leaders in the rite of reflection. The invocation from the princes that the Church is for the “poor and the oppressed“ stinks of hypocrisy.
The official Church is so feckless that it cannot even issue statements that are as bold as Pope Francis‘s on inequality, on trickle-down economics, on the often evil yields from the concentration of so much wealth and capital in the hands of a few.
I have not read a single statement that points out the innate cruelty in a society that is structured to send 80 percent or 90 percent of the yearly income gains to the super wealthy. A society that has, sadly, institutionalized towns with 84 to 74 percent poverty rates.
Church leaders who cannot muster the courage to afflict the rich and to comfort the poor, in a Church whose bedrock constituency is enshrined in the Sermon on the Mount, are just as morally and spiritually challenged as the two House leaders.