Last of 2 parts
EH Diyos ko naman! Kayo naman eh. Sino ba’ng walang girlfriend?” (Oh, my God! Come on. Who does not have a girlfriend?) This was House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez speaking to reporters on March 30, 2017 (abs-cbn.com).
But first a disclaimer: I don’t have a querida, never had one. At the ripe age of seven-plus decades, I thought of having one and sought the permission of my wife, Sylvia. She laughed! That was her reaction.
Part 1 of this two-part article discussed the women in history who exerted influence on men in public life who were not their husbands; from the ancient Greek Hetaerae to the French courtesans to the geishas and even the women of the papacy.
This article will focus on the implications of the recent public outrages by the mistresses of politically powerful persons in government; and the pronouncements by the principals to justify what could be a justiciable offense of concubinage and betrayal of public trust. I leave this issue for the legal minds to ponder. I will attempt to explain the cultural and moral underpinnings of these relationships.
Tomes have been written by authors dissecting this phenomenon from different viewpoints: from the cultural, moral and religious aspects. Simply put, the querida system is an arrangement where a married man takes in a mistress more often leading to the establishment of another family, keeping this undisclosed from the legitimate wife and family.
Anthropologists posit that in prehistoric and ancient times, the union between a female and a male is simply a mechanism for the survival of the species. It has of course undergone changes over time assigning to the male the prerogatives of dominance over the female in the propagation of the species. This arrangement over eons became entrenched, with the male protecting the female and his issues.
Anthropologists and moralists have differed on how to define this union. But they may have reached an intellectual rapprochement with the injection of the concept of religion, where morality was more defined and categorized. But even in the dawn of formal religion, Judaism, Christianity and later Islam had conflicting takes on this union – which now took upon itself a certain legitimacy through the rituals and formality of “marriage”.
It is in the development of Catholicism that the union of man and woman – the “sacrament of marriage” is scrutinized and the parallel context of infidelity. Catholic doctrine interpreted Jesus’ attendance in the marriage ceremony in Cana as the approval of marriage between a man and a woman as being good. But even during the intervening years, the law of Moses on divorce still prevailed. Only in the Council of Verona in 1184 was marriage instituted as a sacrament. The medieval Catholic Church’s imposition of the sanctity of marriage and the indissolubility of the union was equated to the fidelity of Christ to his church.
Fast forward to the present. The question on the streets is that marriage—how sacred it is supposed to be in the eyes of the Catholic Church is still a union of mere mortals. What mechanism is created for marriage dissolution when love–the edifying modern ingredient that binds and coats marriages—is no longer present. A hundred countries spanning the religious spectrum have arrived at such mechanism. Only the Philippines and the Vatican believe that marriages “technically are indissoluble”, thus no divorce law was ever passed. This is attributed more to the power of the Church to sway the political leadership to its position. Our dysfunctional laws on marriage buttressed by the power and influence of the Church are crafted to preserve an impossible union, no matter what. A half-hearted solution “legal separation,” was introduced. The anomaly is the Church allows dissolution only within strictest limits. But statistics show mostly the rich and the well-connected can afford to avail of it. This is one of the main reasons why the querida system is resorted to by countless of Filipino males, the easier path of escape from an oppressively untenable union.
What concerns us now is not simply the double standard of morality, that Filipino society tolerates men indulging in discreet extra-marital relations while women are condemned if they do the same, but the objection to the flaunting of such relationships by men gifted by the electorate to serve and govern. We boast that we are a society that believes in the rule of law. And by these precepts, our leadership must be held to its high standards.
The Revised Penal Code decrees such behavior as criminal and prescribes jail and other penalties for the offense. The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) proscribe such behavior as being inimical to the public interest.
There are so many examples of these peculiar open arrangements by powerful personages vested with political power, beginning with Speaker Alvarez and his erstwhile ally Congressman Floirendo, the public squabble of whose queridas started a vortex of speculation in social media. Alvarez’s infamous declaration quoted above was answered by Congressman Tony Boy by his profound silence. But his mistress was not bereft of words in his defense.
Just recently, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered Aklan Mayor Denny Refol suspended for six months because of an extramarital affair. Like Alvarez, Refol in his defense said that only few politicians have no mistresses or affairs.
But the more famous ones have not been touched by the law: former President Joseph Estrada, former senator Ramon Revilla Sr., even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
And of course, the most celebrated is our current President, the Deegong who has not only defended Alvarez but has been open about his “many girlfriends.”
Sadly, our government officials with extramarital affairs justify such liaisons as totally irrelevant from the efficacy of good governance. Their cynical defense simply describes a corrupt moral judgment and the depth of ethical ignorance about good governance. It ridicules the rule of law – that everyone is equal and none above.
Some have advanced the idea that the law needs changing and should allow divorce as one mechanism for marriage dissolution—perhaps offering a partial solution to the querida problem.