November 1, 1997
Public, versus private, sins
THE Filipino people have always been indulgent about the private sins and peccadiloes of their leaders. It is, for most of us, part of our easy-going Catholicism. Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone, Jesus dared the righteously angry Jews, and like the people who ended up dropping their stones, many of us feel that an official’s marital infidelities are a matter best left up to the man, his wife, and God to sort out.
The only sins an official should be held accountable for are lying, stealing, killing and making a mockery of the rule of law. Whom he sleeps with, how often, and where, is of no concern to the public unless the person he has carnal relations with did it under duress or in expectation of favors no official should be expected or allowed to dispense in exchange for sexual services rendered.
In the case of theft, murder, deceit and the abuse of influence, the Filipino people have every right to condemn their leaders and throw them out of office: the sinless are the ones Divinely qualified to cast stones. But in all else, the public should respect what are serious family matters.
So when Kit Tatad begins to pontificate about the martial infidelities of another official —an official that sanctimonious son of Bohol was content to run with in previous elections— he lays himself wide open for interrogation: does the Senator have a right to cast stones in this case?
Many voices are beginning to be heard asserting that Tatad does not have the moral ascendancy necessary to get away with making such accusations. If these counter-accusations are true, then Tatad will come out as worse than a philanderer —he would be a hypocrite.
A happy home is a blessing. A home rocked by the discovery of marital infidelities on the part of one spouse, or disgraceful behavior on the part of the other spouse or the children, is a home struck by tragedy. The most other families can do is offer help if asked for it, or intercede if the behavior of one threatens the very lives of others. But otherwise, all another family can do is hope for the best. Personal problems are up to individual persons to solve. They are not a valid basis for evaluating the fitness of an official to be a public servant.
A leader is a lady’s man: so what if this is the case? Why is his wife willing to live with the fact? And if she can live with the knowledge that her husband cheats on her, what right do other people have to question the husband and wife?
For the public, the personal proclivities of the official are of no concern to them unless, in the course of his fooling around, the official begins to use public funds to support his other wives or mistresses. In that case, a legitimate public grievance is created.
But if the official does not steal; does not abuse the women he deals with; does not pull strings or exert influence on their behalf; does not comport himself in a way that causes scandal in public: then you have a non-issue.
But an official who prostitutes his talents in the service of an official who steals, lies, cheats and has people murdered is another story. The official, in serving such a master, becomes a party to those crimes; and an official who would bring public scandal on another official, and is guilty of similar indiscretions: why, that official is nothing more than an opportunist, a maligner of men and a perverter of morality.
The private citizen, upon becoming aware of the weaknesses of the former, is entitled, if he feels strongly enough about it, not to vote for such a man. But in the case of the latter official, then Juan de la Cruz has the obligation to vote against him: for the official is guilty of public sins, for which the punishment should be the removal from office.