IS it light at the end of the tunnel? President Rodrigo Duterte’s advice to his Congress allies to lay off Vice President Leni Robredo, whom he would like to invite to dinner now, after Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against him over the drug killings—assuming he really means it—could be the long-awaited sign that his promised metamorphosis is finally on. Previous to that, he got his gay supporters hopping mad when he said he was against “same-sex marriage,” despite his reported support for it during the electoral campaign. Have pigs, in fact, begun to fly?
If DU30 tempers his brutal war on drugs, his push for the death sentence in defiance of our government’s treaty commitments, his bid to lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old, his witches’ brew of inverted federalism, his routine brinkmanship in foreign affairs, he might yet find himself losing all the critics who regularly annoy him every day. This may be good for the nation, though not necessarily so for adversarial journalism.
Dealing with Robredo
Why is it right not to touch Leni Robredo?
Because it seems but fair that an impeachable official, which includes the President, the Vice President, justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman, should first be firmly installed in office before he or she is subjected to impeachment. And Leni Robredo does not quite meet that requirement. Her election as VP is until now under question—former senator Bongbong Marcos’s electoral protest remains pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, made up of the Supreme Court en banc.
Were Robredo to be impeached now, her eventual trial would seek to remove an official who is already facing possible removal by the PET because of unresolved questions about her election. Supposing she is impeached, convicted and removed, the President would be obliged, under the Constitution, to name a new Vice President, while the electoral protest hangs. If the naming of a new Vice President does not render the protest academic, would it instead speed up its resolution? Or would it quickly send the protest to the archives?
Robredo tends to blame Marcos for the impeachment move which would not favor his protest, and which an assorted group of netizens (all DU30 supporters) is already trying to claim authorship. It seems harebrained for Robredo to blame this on Marcos, and witless on the part of Marcos if he, indeed, has any part in it. This point need not be overlooked.
No obvious grounds
Secondly, and this is the more important point, Robredo has not committed, as far as the public is concerned, any of the impeachable offenses enumerated in the Constitution. These are culpable violations of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust. Her greatest offense is that she has never managed to look fit for high office, particularly as a potential successor to the President, whatever her virtues and whatever his failings. There was no need for the kind of demolition job that certain parties recently tried to launch against her and her late husband Jesse in the social media just to make this plain.
Certain acts of hers could be made to look like “betrayal of public trust,” or “other high crimes,” but this would require a lot of legal carpentry which not even the most skillful lawyers could perform. The public, which is the ultimate judge in every impeachment trial, will be hard to convince. Right now, many of DU30’s followers want Robredo impeached not because they are convinced she has committed any impeachable crime, but only because DU30 is facing an impeachment complaint, and even though it has no prospect of ever reaching first base, they do not want to see her entertaining any thought, no matter how remote, of ever succeeding him.
Robredo has been faulted for producing a short video for the 60th annual meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna. In it she criticizes the extra-judicial drug killings, as pointedly as many others have. She has been savaged for this: DU30’s supporters believe she violated the unwritten rule that no public official should criticize his or her own government while abroad or before a foreign audience.
As a former public official, I try to practice this out of habit even now. In 1981, after I left the Marcos Cabinet, I disappointed a large foreign audience in New York, and a much larger anti-Marcos crowd at home, when I failed to personally attack Marcos and dwelt instead on policy issues affecting the Philippines and the United States. But I was merely trying to honor a longstanding universal practice.
Unfortunate as it may seem, Robredo’s apparent lapse of judgement in criticizing DU30’s war on drugs before a foreign audience does not constitute a constitutional or impeachable offense. As DU30 himself pointed out, Robredo’s right to free speech is constitutionally guaranteed, especially since she is an “elected official,” (even though under protest.) On this point, DU30 gets my vote, assuming he means what he says.
‘Because we are Catholics’
But even more worthy of support—again, assuming he really means it— is DU30’s refreshing position on “same-sex marriage.” This is a civilizational issue that threatens to divide and destroy the modern world. Speaking to the Filipino community in Myanmar, during his recent state visit there, DU30 said he was opposed to legislating “same-sex marriage,” contrary to earlier impressions that he was in favor of it. For someone who had spoken rudely about the Catholic Church, the Pope, bishops and priests, DU30 surprised everyone by giving a religious reason for rejecting “same-sex marriage.”
Reminded that many Western countries have legalized “same-sex” unions, DU30 said, “That is their culture. That’s for them. That can’t apply to us because we’re Catholics. And there’s the civil code, which states you can only marry a woman for me, and for a woman to marry a man. That’s the law in the Philippines.” He said he had two brothers-in-law and some cousins who were gay, but “where God has placed you, you stay there.” No one was empowered “to erase the great divide between a man and a woman,” he said.
It was most refreshing to listen to the usually irreverent tough guy talking theologically and doctrinally correct language about the Christian family and marriage. Among current world leaders, this puts him on the same page as Pope Francis, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin as far as this issue is concerned. Trump, for all his controversial decisions on many issues, has taken brave moves to strengthen American family life, defunding Planned Parenthood, which is the biggest provider of abortion in the US, and reinstating Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy, which prohibits the use of US funds to support abortion activities overseas. He has also begun his search for conservative justices to fill vacancies in the US Supreme Court who will hopefully reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion in the US, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized “same-sex marriage” in 2015.
With respect to Putin, his advocacy of large families and opposition to the homosexual lobby and same-sex unions is well-known. Russian family associations and their government are one in promoting the traditional values of the family and marriage; how to raise boys to become men, and girls to become women is a popular theme in some of their family conferences. In 2013, together with Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, an American colleague in the World Congress of Families, I helped launch the Parents Association of Russia in Moscow; a year later I was asked to help keynote a conference on “large families as the key to the future” at the Kremlin.
Despite the big push for the homosexual agenda and against sexual discrimination, which scored big in Obergefell v. Hodges in the US, “same-sex marriage” continues to meet major reverses in many parts of the world. In Paris last year, hundreds of thousands marched against “same-sex marriage,” including (of all people) gays and lesbians.
Not homosexuality but marriage
Rejection of “same-sex” unions is not simply a Catholic thing. In November 2014, the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith organized “Humanum,” a colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman, at the Vatican. Pope Francis opened the conference, with some 400 religious leaders and scholars from around the world. The delegates, representing all religions, unanimously reaffirmed the distinction between, and the complementarity of, man and woman. One very important material that made its debut in that conference was a small paperback of 133 pages, written by three American scholars, Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, under the title, “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”
The book points out that the “gay marriage” debate should not be about homosexuality but about marriage. It should not be about whom to let marry but about what marriage is. Marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation and the intimate sharing of family life. It is a comprehensive union of will (by consent) and body (by sexual union), which calls for a permanent and exclusive commitment, whatever the spouses’ preferences.
“Same-sex marriage” on the other hand is an attempt to redefine marriage. But there is no marital relationship in it, which qualifies it to be recognized as marriage. In fact, it is the final word against fatherhood, motherhood, childbearing and the natural propagation of the species, which is the principal objective of marriage. Since the debate is not about homosexuality but about marriage, the book addresses the issue “without discussing the morality of homosexual or heterosexual acts, and without denigrating same-sex attracted people or ignoring their needs, or assuming that their desires could change.”
Not a matter of religion
Although the book defends the use of religious arguments for, or against, a marriage policy, as DU30 does, it does not argue from divine revelation or religious authority. While Christian Catholic teaching says marriage has a divine origin, the book says the conjugal view of marriage is not peculiar to religion, or any religious tradition. It cites ancient thinkers like Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Musonius Rufus and Plutarch, among others, to point out that even those who had no contact with religions such as Judaism or Christianity, which have always regarded marriage as a conjugal relationship, developed similar views of matrimony.
This only suggests, says the book, that no one religion invented marriage. “It is rather marriage—the demands of a natural institution—that has helped to shape our religious and philosophical traditions,” the book points out. But for DU30 to invoke the nation’s predominantly Catholic faith as his basis for rejecting “same-sex marriage,” and upholding the conjugal view of marriage, (assuming he means what he says) is to make common cause with most Filipinos whose faith he had for so long derided. This need not be just smart politics. It could be light finally breaking through the fog and the darkness.