Grace Poe and the politics of integrity

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Some readers have asked me why I have refrained from commenting on Sen. Grace Poe and her unusual ordeal with questions about her citizenship and residency. I thought initially that as a foundling, she is like those citizens who, according to Ramon Magsaysay, should have more in law because they have less in life.

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But this line was immediately shot down by a friend who said that Grace,in fact, has more than most of us. She has citizenship in two countries: the US and the Philippines. And she has had a fairly privileged life, being raised in comparative comfort and going to good schools.

Honesty not the same as integrity

When Vice President Binay opined, obviously aiming at Poe, that experience and competence should be used as criteria in assessing candidates for the presidency, she shot back with a blistering reply: “Honesty is more important than experience.” And then she suggested that Binay should start answering all the questions being raised against him in the endless Senate investigation of his years as Makati City mayor.

Media and public reaction appeared to favor Poe in this exchange. But, on closer examination, it turns out that she is imprecise about her terms and her principles. When she invokes the idea of honesty, she invokes it not in the more familiar sense of “being truthful or not telling a lie,” but in the sense of the virtue of integrity.

In his authoritative book, Integrity, Yale law professor and author Stephen Carter contends that honesty is not a substitute for integrity. One cannot have integrity without being honest; but one can certainly be honest and yet have little integrity. So integrity is a different concept and virtue from honesty.

Carter believes that a person of integrity engages in the hard work of discernment that integrity requires — which means that he or she figures out whether what he or she believes is good and right and true.

As a result of her imprecise use of terms and concepts, Grace has been caught in the horns of a contradiction; she demands that Binay tell the whole truth about the charges against him; yet she herself refuses to tell the nation the truth and the facts of her naturalization as an American and her alleged reacquisition of her status as a natural-born Filipino. My colleague Kit Tatad has written three columns on the subject, complete with references to the pertinent laws in this country and in the US, and yet Poe and her lawyers are yet to answer coherently one single point raised by Kit.

There is a profound point here about our politics. Many Filipino politicians think mistakenly that when they raise the issue of integrity or honesty, the Filipino public will presume that they possess both integrity and honesty.

It was in this light that President Aquino picked the members of the Citizens Peace Council, saying they were all persons of integrity. The chosen ones gladly accepted their designations, believing that the public will see them as persons of integrity.

From censor to censorious
A second point that deserves comment and analysis is how Grace Poe mutated so quickly from being chief censor to becoming a public personality discoursing on ethics in our public life.

I know a number of people who have served briefly as a movie censor; indeed I myself also served a brief, forgettable stint as one. Yet I don’t know any censor who became censorious or sanctimonious as a result of the experience. Most of us just took pleasure in the privilege of being able to watch any movie, in any theater, free of charge. None of us imagined that we were performing a great feat of public service. My chief learning from my stint as a censor is that about 90 percent of films previewed are bad.

In complete contrast, Poe appears to have taken the job seriously, even literally. She is now the most censorious politician in our country.

Censoriousness is the same as sanctimony. It never is a pleasant thing to behold because sanctimonious and censorious people take themselves much too seriously.

Poe, at this stage in her budding political career and on the verge of a possible run for the presidency, needs to get over herself. Even Pope Francis got over himself upon election to his holy office.

It’s significant that in May 2013, when people started getting delirious and star-struck by Poe’s topping of the senatorial polls, Fr. Joaquin Bernas in a column for the Inquirer warned about possible problems with her citizenship.

His reservations then were not answered.

yenmakabenta @yahoo.com

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24 Comments

  1. I wonder if those of you who are attacking Grace Poe about her residency feels as strongly if not more haste for Binays unexplained corruption allegations?

  2. A friend of mine who migrated to US once told me Filipinos are probably the most stupid voters in the world. After voting corrupt Estrada and stupid Pnoy to presidency, it looks like we will get another president who will further bring down this country to the gutter. Being a daughter of an actor is not at all a qualification….but many especially the C, D and Es will most likely vote for her. It is certainly disgraceful….

  3. I have feared a Pnoy presidency even before the election in 2010. My fear at that time was borne out of the fact that during his stint in both houses of Congress, he has shown nothing to deserve higher office. We have now witnessed it the past five years. It’s been a nightmare and thanks God, it is ending.
    Grace Poe is embroiled in not so few controversies early on. She hasn’t explained to the people the residency and citizenship issues quite well. And she said she is honest. Her integrity is already placed in doubt. Despite being new in the political scene and have nothing to show either just like the current one, she wants to soar higher. She run and won (?) in the senate for a wrong reason (because her adopted father was cheated, or so she said). She is coy, but is aiming the presidency, and one purpose she advances, “ipagpatuloy ko ang ginawa ni FPJ. Come to think of it? What has really FPJ done. She should join the movie world instead.

    • exactly, what had poe done to the country? or to the people? she has misconceptions about her father’s grandeur. did she think that because he was good in movies, he was the same to his country? Never heard of him or susan work for something that would benefit the poor.

  4. Felimon A. Soria on

    There is nothing more for me to say to Sen. Poe-Llamanzares except for her again repeat my previous comment that she should apologize then resign to the Filipino people who elected her because her name is Poe not her married name. I wonder if the Honorable Secretary of Justice Madam De Lima have the courage to bring her charges for violating our constitution. May be the constitution to some of us Filipinos is just a piece of paper but in other countries the constitution is the most scared piece of paper.

    • Well, the “1987 Constitution” is just a Joke Book. They’ve changed the laws to be tailored on politicians’ caprice and robbed the people of the basic rights. They even added more priviledges for the criminals. There are “laws” written, by “lawmakers”, but was mocked by that same animals.

  5. When Pinoy says he wants someone to continue his “daang matuwid” ,
    Maybe he meant someone as “TARAY’ as himself, with showbiz relations too !!!

    Grace Poe or Chiz Escudero would fill those shoes, but not MAR .

    • P.Akialamiro on

      Forget about Mar, his opportunity is gone! He cannot lead; he’s always a second fiddle ……no sense of delicadeza!

  6. apolonio reyes on

    Mr. Yen Macabenta, mula ng sinabi ni Pres. Ramon Magsaysay na ” Those who have less in life should have more in law ” sad to say from that time on up the present that ” THOSE WHO HAVE MORE IN LIFE HAVE FAR MORE IN LAW “, THE RICH PARTICULARLY TAI PANS, CAN HIRE THE BEST LAWYERS IN TOWN BUT THE POOR DEPENDS ON PAO NEW GRADUATES LAWYERS.
    Mr. Macabenta, we should amend the 1987 CORY CONSTITUTION RE: ATTRIBUTES AND TERM OF OFFICE OF ALL CANDIDATE FOR ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS AS FOLLOWS:
    1) HE/SHE MUST BE A NATURAL BORN FILIPINO SINCE BIRTH AND NEVER HAVE DENOUNCED HIS/HER FILIPINO CITIZENSHIP. ( THIS WILL BAN DUAL CITIZENS WHO BECOME CITIZEN OF ANY COUNTRY BY CONVENIENT AND THEN RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES FOR CONVENIENT ALSO ).
    2) HE/SHE MUST HAVE A GOOD MORAL CHARACTER. ( THIS WAS INCLUDED IN THE 1937 CONSTITUION ). THIS WILL BAN THOSE WHO HAVE MOE THAN ONE FAMILY AND CHARGE O GRAFT AND CORRUPTION, PLUNDER AND CONVICTS.
    3) MUST BE OF RIGHT AGE. PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT SHOULD BE 45 YEARS OLD AT THE DAY OF ELECTION, SENATORS SHOULD BE 35 YEARS OLD AT THE TIME OF ELECTION. OTHER POSITION CANDIDATES MUST BE 21 YEARS OLD AT THE TIME OF ELECTION DAY.
    IN ORDER TO ENFORCE THE AUTOMATIC BAN ON DYNASTIES, I SUGGEST THE FOLLOWING TERMS OF OFFICE;
    1) CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIENT WILL HAVE TWO (2) TERMS OF FOUR YEARS.
    2) ALL CANDIDATES WHO WON THEIR FIRST TERM AND LOST HIS/HER 2ND TERMS ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO RUN FOR THE SAME POSITION LOST OR LOWER BUT ONLY TO A HIGHER POSITION;
    a) For President and Vice-President:
    1) The President and Vice President will have a two terms of 4-years. The
    President will have another term for re-election and win or loss, he will
    not be allowed to run anymore but will be automatically be a member of
    National Security Council and a Statesman.
    2) The Vice-President will have also two terms, if he lost his re-election,
    the vice-president can still run for president but not vice-president or
    lower than vice-president .
    3) Senators and down to Barangay Kagawad will have a three terms of
    four (4) years as these position is a training ground for president of the
    future but not allowed to run for a position they already occupied or
    lower. So a Senator can run three terms and after which he/she can no
    longer run again for senator or lower position but only vice-president or
    president.
    I believed that if this ” WALANG BALIKAN ” TERMS OF OFFICE will totally eradicate within 3-5 decades FAMILY POLITICAL DYNASTIES AS REQUIRED BY 1987 CORY CONSTITUTION.

  7. genesisbughaw on

    Greetings! Sir Yen,

    Ako po e malapit ng makalbo at “in taking cue of the chemistry on political animal cohabitation, one thing is certain, everything is possible under the lying tongue and that is for their whimsical and capricious wrest for political power and personal survival.

    If there is exception well…it’s a miracle to be human.

  8. oh well, suddenly she becomes a grave threat to the political ambitions of the other undesirables, they have to dig dirt on her and when they cannot find any, they invent it!

    • What dirt are you talking about, kutikut? Grace Poe is an American! Don’t you get it? If being an American is dirt to you, then Grace Poe is a dirt bag!

  9. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Grace is a disgrace to herself if she will continue evading issues about her citizenship and residency status because the TRUTH WILL SURELY COME OUT AND WILL SET EVERYBODY FREE including those mesmerized by Grace. We have to observe the Philippine Constitution otherwise we shall be chaotic. God bless the Philippines.

  10. Grace Poe can not run for President or VP no matter what she says. Poe is very deceptive until now – because official US records show as per the Rappler and Tatad articles that Poe only renounced her US citizenship officially in the 2nd QTR of 2012 which means that POE does not meet the minimum of 10 years required by the Constitution to be a President or VP. As it is – it looks like Poe will soon be disqualified too as a Senator because she lacks the minimum of 2 years as a “Filipino citizen” to be qualified to even ran as a Senator. This proves that Grace Poe has no honesty and integrity – she lied to the Filipino people when all along she knew full well that she was still a US Citizen until June 2012. She was even using her US passport until Dec 2011. How can she be trusted as a leader when she can not even be trusted in a basic thing like complying legally with the Constitutional requirement for elected officials. She not only has the potential of violating the Constitution should she become elected as President or VP . Grace Poe already violated the Constitution by falsifying her certificate of candidacy as Senator and even as early as when she was appointed as MTRCB chairman. POE will be like PNoy who is always violating the Constitution. Enough is Enough !!

    • Manuel Jaime jr on

      As a former american citizen,obviously the americans are interested and is willing to let Poe get the highest position in the land.Because like Pnot,their ally and comrade in arms,the US can easily sway or dictate to Grace whatever objectives they want to introduce to the country,reason why the US kept mum and silent on the issue concerning Grace Poe’ citizenship.Integrity in its form and meaning has remained elusive in the batch of leading presidentiables,as they opted to keep their mouth shut on how this country is being run by a demented President and his oligarchs.Only one,in the person of Bong Bong Marcos,has the balls to question outright the things that this President is doing unlawfully and unconstitutionally.

    • BENZ CANIEGO on

      sobra kayong napaghahalata, be fair, meron pa bang mas sasama sa katarantaduhan, magnanakaw, sinungaling at mapagsamantala sakaban ng inang bayan… hinay hinay lang po pati ba kayo ni tatad laos lahat kayo dyan sa manila times ay nabayaran na ng nakaw na yaman ng mga binay??? lalo ka na ???? ibinenta mo na ang iyong pagkatao kaya pala makabenta ang iyong apelyido. NAKAKAHIYA KAYO…

  11. Yen, if someone took a swipe at you and you return the favor, would that be censorious?

  12. SALVACION CAHAYAG on

    In politics, it is just a matter of selecting the better of two evils. Politics indeed is
    dirty business. Comparatively, between Poe and Binay, who is more honest and
    who which of the two possesses integrity? Poe is a neophyte senator who does
    have long experience in her resume. While Binay is a veteran or traditional politician
    who knows the ins and outs of politics from A to Z. Poe is not facing any charge whatsoever while Binay up to now has not explained the charges against him.
    So, who has the integrity? Who took advanatage of his position while in government?
    My co-Filipinos please wake up if you want the Philippines to have a change for the better. Put people who has the integrity, not tainted with any charge of corruption.
    Do not put people who has the experienced of corruption.

    • Are they the only 2 potential presidentiables? If Yen exposed Grace for being untruthful about her citizenship, that does not mean that he is for Binay, he just wants to clarify that if you are going to call somebody dishonest, you better be upfront yourselves about the citizenship issue instead of diverting this to being a foundling and being dramatic about it. The basic qualifications for a national office is clear and she knowingly violates this.

  13. P.Akialamiro on

    While Ms. Poe may be considered qualified by many, the question of her natural citizenship notrwithstading, she is not an ideal candidate for VP, muchless, for President, with “so, so” qualifications. Whoever said that she’s “ambisiyosa” is right. Media should be more proactive and aggressive in explaining to the people the background and qualifications or disqualifications of candidates for these major positions. Everyone candidate should be dealt with with the pros and cons in their lives. How their qualifications fit into the funcions of the position they aspire for. It takes more than ‘heart’ and willingness to serve which, probably, all candidates can claim.

    We do not need another leader who is divisive, indifferent, vindictive, inept and plain incompetent.With international problems confronting the country, we cannot afford another ‘noynoying’ attitude of a leader. Instead, we need one who walks his talks and one who relies on his own strengths, manly enough to accept his failures, too. Not one who has the tendenccy of pointing the weaknesses of others, just to look nice and appreciated, even in foreign venues. We need a more down-to-earth leader who has less yet more natural and honest excuses.

    I hope that everyone who aspires for these higher positions realizes that running for any of these positions and winning entail courage, determination and wisdom to govern. Otherwise, a mediocre, but popular candidate, will just be doing an unforgivable disservice to the Filipino people and the generations to come.

    May God bless the Philippines.

    • Aside from their qualifications and experience, they should also announce their platforms and their stands on issues, not dirt-throwing or putting on a lot of drama. Its one thing to win the election, but running a country as chaotic, corrupt and poor as this country is not like a song and dance show.

  14. mikhail hieronymus on

    Grace Poe is acting like she is “holier than anybody”, or a know it all smart aleck, just because she topped the last electronic election. What are her accomplishments in the senate so far?

    She is now more than ever interested in running for presidency and yet she proclaimed that the presidency should not be desire. She is claiming that she does not have the money or the political machinery to run her candidacy. Is she asking some group to sponsor her candidacy? Something went into her head. She must be smoking, drinking or eating something that is fueling her ambition or some smart people behind her are salivating for her presidential candidacy.

    • laguatanlawZen.com on

      Grace Poe is NOT honest in telling the people the following important concerns:
      1. When did she acquire her US citizenship?
      2. When she returned to the Phil. to attend the wake of her adoptive father, FPJ, what Passport did she used – US or Philippine Passport?
      3. When Abnoy appointed her Chair of MTRCB, was she a US or Filipino citizen?
      4. When she ran for Senator, was she a Filipino citizen? If so, when did she re-acquire her Filipino citizenship?
      I have nothing against Grace Poe – I don’t know her from Adam to Benigno S. Aquino III. What I want her to do is to tell the whole nation about her status before she returned to the Phil, before she became Chair of MTRCB, and before she ran for Senator. Is that hard for Grace Poe to come out openly CLEAR and CLEAN about her status? How can you, Grace Poe, expect the whole country to believe you that you possess the unquestionable values of HONESTY and INTEGRITY? That’s basic.