• Undeserving of honorific titles

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    Tita C. Valderama

    Tita C. Valderama

    Some of our public officials are taking seriously the July 15 memorandum of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to all government offices. The memorandum, which was kept for a few days from the media, conveys the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte “to refrain from addressing him as ‘His Excellency,’ and the Cabinet secretaries as ‘Honorable’ in official and internal communications.

    They are so serious in complying with the memorandum that they even go beyond official communications. They also refrain from acting in public to become worthy of being called honorable. The President’s followers in the legislative branch are observing the memorandum as well even if it covered only those in the executive. They not only drop the title, they also stop acting honorable.

    His Excellency and Honorable are courtesy titles that convey respect when referring to a person. These titles are used on persons you hold in high esteem.

    The child-like verbal tussle between Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th and Alan Peter Cayetano during last week’s investigation by the justice committee on extrajudicial killings is something that adversely affects the credibility of the Senate as an institution.

    We have a President who passed on gossips about a lady senator’s supposed relationship with her former driver-bodyguard, and later with a motorcycle escort from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). It was said that the other lady senators were disinclined to stand in support of de Lima because they were afraid of being the target of similar presidential gossip.

    Bent on pinning down Senator Leila de Lima, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre came out with bank deposit slips allegedly proving the senator’s link to drug syndicates operating at the New Bilibid Prison, but one of the deposit slips was dated on a Good Friday when bank operations are suspended.

    I am not saying that de Lima is pure and honest. I am no fan of her. But there would be no gossip if she behaved honorably as a public officer.

    And then we also have a chief presidential legal counsel in Salvador Panelo, whose stint in the legal profession is not worthy to be considered honorable, and who now raises a scenario of a constitutional dictatorship under Duterte as a consequence of the worsening problem over illegal drugs. This guy tries to tailor-fit his interpretations of the law to suit the public utterances of his boss.

    Perhaps Duterte knows himself and his appointees and followers too well that he did not want to deceive the public by referring to them as ‘His Excellency” and “Honorable” because he knows they wouldn’t be up to it and, therefore, don’t deserve the honorific titles. He must have attached high importance to this issue considering that it was one of the first few memoranda under his presidency.

    Perhaps it would be good for Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to also issue a similar memorandum that would apply to the justices and judges, particularly those who do dishonorable things like extorting from litigants or giving favorable decisions to the highest bidder.

    I squirmed on my seat on a few occasions when I attended court hearings and the judges insisted that they be addressed as “Your Honor.” In one of these instances, the judge said she felt bad that a defense lawyer did not know how to address her. The lawyer forgot to say “Your Honor” in his three-sentence argument. His opponent punctuated almost each of his sentences with “Your Honor” two to three times. For example, the prosecution lawyer said: “Your Honor, the defense, Your Honor, has been insisting on presenting unacceptable evidence, Your Honor.”

    In another instance, a public prosecutor asked a litigant for a big amount of money to reverse an adversarial ruling. After the money was delivered, the same prosecutor asked for a “gift” for the “honorable” judge. When the original Louis Vuitton bag was ready for pick up, the prosecutor shamelessly told the litigant that it be converted to cash, and hinted at a conversion of P300,000.

    When the litigant failed to sell the brand new bag and come up with P300,000 cash, he also failed to get a favorable ruling. The litigant just opted to move for the inhibition of the judge, citing his discomfort in dealing with the “deportment” of the public prosecutor. The judge readily inhibited without even finding out the prosecutor’s deportment complained about.

    When the case was raffled to another judge, the case was instantly decided against the litigant. Just like that, the litigant lost the estafa case on which he was hoping to recover P26 million from a businessman who had tricked him into buying a real property that he hoped to develop as a resort.

    Nowadays we seldom see the marks of honorable men: selflessness, humility, and truthfulness. This is specially so in politics where there are no permanent friends and enemies, only vested interests.

    Honorable is a title used with current and retired high-ranking government officials and officers of the court, as well as local officials. It applies not only to officials appointed by the President but those elected as well.

    From among the incumbent and past Cabinet officials, senators and congressmen, justices and judges, governors and mayors, can you count with your fingers who deserve to be called “honorable?”

    Perhaps, it is about time to take a serious look at the country’s educational curriculum and consider bringing back a subject on Good Manners and Right Conduct with the hope of raising them as responsible citizens deserving to be called honorable.

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