Less than forthright
It was refreshing to listen to Leni Robredo answer questions put to her in a television interview with forthrightness: no attempt to sound cute, no air of imperiousness, not the slightest hint of bravura. Just simple, direct answers that stand out in relief against a background of duplicity, calculated ambivalence and downright mendacity that have polluted the environment of national discourse. I particularly liked that part where she was asked by the anchor person: “Do you think someone who renounced her Filipino citizenship should lead the country as President?”, to which she gave a simple, direct, but unequivocal: “No”. She had earlier declared that she was interested neither in the presidency nor in the vice-presidency. While the vice-president is often deprecatingly referred to as “the spare tire” whose constitutional office it is to wait for the death, incapacity or resignation of the president, Leni Robredo exhibited such a high regard for the office that cannot but be admirable: “A novice like me in politics is unprepared for the demands of such high office.” And so, her “no” was not that of competitor for the same office, but of a citizen expressing her views, a lawyer giving voice to a conviction!
And now, for Grace Poe. She is facing a petition for quo warranto against her before the Senate Electoral Tribunal. As so very often happens in our increasingly unintelligent society, the petitioner has been pelted with every kind of denigrating epithet. “Baliw”, “pakawala”, “bayaran”. We would all fare a little better were we to raise a proper procedural issue: Is he the proper party to petition for such a prerogative writ? In quo warranto proceedings, the personality and the interests of the petitioner are of utmost moment. But the substantive issues he raises are valid questions, and it will not do to stage an impromptu gathering of orphans, adopted children and foundlings and have Grace Poe shed some tears either of sympathy or of poignant remembrance of a painful past. “Stop calling her a foundling”, we have been asked by her drum-beaters. But if we are to resolve this important issue, then we have nothing else to go by except the categories of law, and “foundling” is one such applicable category in this case. Let the issue of fact be raised. Let the petitioner assail her status with competent evidence. She enjoys the presumption that she is qualified for office, having been admitted to candidacy for public office by an agency of government, having won an election and having been sworn into office. It is not for her to defend her citizenship but it is her burden to rebut whatever proof the petitioner may adduce against it!
Whatever prevarication she may now indulge in to “explain” her rather reckless remarks at the height of the INC show of force, it was wrong of her even to hint that an agency of State should buckle down in the face of what was in fact a call to set aside the law. The crowd that massed first at Padre Faura before it trooped to Edsa was neither engaged in worship, nor in the protected expression of belief or persuasion. It was using the might of numbers to importune the DoJ into exempting its leaders from the processes of law after it had been alleged, through a criminal complaint, that a crime had been committed. But I am willing to credit Ms. Poe with a higher degree of circumspection and a mature capacity for discernment. Is it not possible that she spoke the way she did and said what she said because she was convinced that the crowd had massed for a just cause, a cause unknown to the rest of the nation? That they were in fact protecting themselves against bullying by one who had set his sights on some high office of the land and wanted to be assured of the church’s block vote? It is possible, I grant, that Grace Poe knew something that was kept from the rest of the nation and she was speaking, not so much for them, as against him!
Which brings me, as might be expected, to the issue of the deal. After a meeting between the sect’s leaders and the representatives of the national leadership, a “deal” was announced. No, they used a less intriguing term: understanding, they called it. What was there to understand? It is a lesson taken in a freshman college subject—Politics and Governance. High school students also take it in araling panlipunan. A complaint is investigated. So, the nation rightly demands to know from a less-than-forthright government: What was “understood”? What was the deal? Trixie Angeles has every reason to be concerned. Her client’s cause is at stake. He had been wronged. And she wants to know whether his cause was bargained away and whether it was part of the “understanding” that his complaint would be left for the courts of heaven to resolve in the hereafter rather than disposed of on earth in this life!
It does not help tolerate a culture of duplicity. It is a sure sign of things gone awry when the proper language to use is doublespeak! But when, at every turn, we do not have forthrightness from those of whom we expect it, then it seems that we are mired in this fruitless and absurd game of the calculated perversion of communication!