The Death of Decorum in Philippine Politics

What ever happened to having expectations that our public servants be model citizens? 

When we elect our politicians, we give them our blessing to be our representatives. We expect them to represent not only the political pulse of the electorate but also to embody the values of those they serve.

The sad reality is that we virtually expect our politicians to renege on the promises they make, conceding that in the game of politics compromises need to be made. Hence, disappointment with political pledges is almost a certainty.

However, we have always held our public servants to a moral standard – that is, we still mandate them to behave according to the values which we hold.

We expect our politicians to be faithful to their spouses, we condemn those who act impolitely to ordinary citizens and we praise those who display religious piety in the public eye. Even if their actions were merely for show, at least they made an effort to portray the widely-accepted definition of a role model.

It seems the Filipino public have given up on that ideal as well. We have become more forgiving of the conduct of our public officials, to an extent that they are no longer afraid to display bad behavior in the public eye.

The most evident example is the head-of-state himself, President Rodrigo Duterte. It is almost expected to hear profanities in any public speech he makes, he has also not been shy to raise his middle finger in televised appearances either. All unbecoming of a statesman.

In a more recent case, Senator Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian displayed similarly crude behavior. After being called out by several Twitter users, the former mayor of Valenzuela began calling several people gago (moron) and ulol (idiot) in a fit of anger.

Sen. Win Gatchalian

To make matters worse, the Senator refused to apologize for his behavior and even justified it by blaming the Twitter users for being annoying. Even if they had struck a nerve with him, it reflects unfavourably on his character to stoop to that level when challenged by critics.

What happened to being the better man?

Gatchalian’s gave a pathetic excuse for his conduct, but what is more deplorable is that he believed that excuse would suffice. This is a politician who campaigned on educating our youth when he ran for Senator, he appeared on several television ads with students – proclaiming how his priority was in better educating them.

What kind of educator behaves in such a crude way? Shouldn’t he set a better example for the young Filipinos he wishes to educate?

Then again, Senator Gatchalian has good reasons to believe he would go scot-free over those remarks seeing the way his other colleagues behave.

The President acts in a way that he seemingly holds no regard for decency or common courtesy, even making a rape joke during his 2016 campaign and still winning the election in a landslide. He then made two more rape jokes the following year. (In May and in July).

President Duterte gestures with a middle finger. (Photo by Associated Press)

Duterte’s administration is chock-full of individuals who disregard decorum on a regular, one of whom is his communications secretary Martin Andanar. In October last year, he said that European Union (EU) officials who issued public criticisms of the President’s human rights record “just needed to get laid”.

Like Gatchalian, Andanar refused to apologize for his statements and justified them by saying the audience whom he gave those remarks to were “probably used to that language”. Ironically, he gave those statements in the United Kingdom which is still a part of the European Union until they finalize their “Brexit”.

The country’s third most powerful person and key Duterte ally, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is also a treasure trove of bad behavior. He led the House of Representatives to enact a zero budget for the Commission on Human Rights, in order to spite the independent organization for their criticisms of the Duterte administration. When criticized for the move, he then labelled those critics gagos.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

Alvarez was also exposed to have a mistress in March last year, who was photographed riding in the Presidential private jet which is intended only for government officials and their immediate families. The House Speaker was annoyed by the revelation and justified it by insinuating that every male has a mistress, and that it was only the media making a big deal out of his personal relationship.

It is very concerning that these very public government officials act with such impunity when behaving in very shameless ways. Normally, when a public official is discovered to have extra-marital affairs or lost their temper in public the scandal is enough to push them to resignation.

In Japan, many public officials commit suicide when they become embroiled in a scandal. In the Philippine setting, these public officials remain popular among voters with President Duterte registering a very high approval rating in October 2017.

This is perhaps the best explanation for the lack of decorum or decency in Philippine politics, the voters have stopped caring altogether. The high moral standard which we used to hold our politicians to has dissipated, and with that their agency to act in a morally upright way.

11 thoughts on “The Death of Decorum in Philippine Politics

  1. What I suspected all along. We are a shallow, superficial people pretending to be Christians.

    1. That’s a good summary.

      To your South, in Indonesia and Malaysia, we find shallow superficial people pretending to be Muslims. Unfortunately for your nation, to your North and West you have rather serious people.

  2. The corruption, hypocrisy, and low-life uncaring mentality of the previous administration are the reasons why despite the issue on decorum people love and accept the president. We have at the moment a very honest and caring President who has the political will and ingenuity to lead this country to recovery and progress.

  3. Duterte is an honest and caring president? Was he honest when he said that he would end the drug problem in six months, as well as the endo problem during his term, that he wound jet sky in the Western Philippines? May honesty ba kung ipapangako mo ang langit at bibigyan mo ang bayan ng imperno? Caring ba siya ng binawasan ang pondo sa edukasyon at calamity funds para mataasan ang pondo ng communications office ni Andanar na wala ng ginawa kundi magkalat ng fake news at ang intellligence funds na hindi naman ginagamit sa intelligence kundi most likely para pambayad sa trolls para pabanguhin lang ang kanyang imahe? Caring ba taong nagsasalita ng “wala akong pakialam kung magugutom kayo” sa mga tsuper ng jeepneys na ayaw sa modernization ng transport dahil sa sobrang mahal ang mga halaga ng jeep na inaalok ng kanyang kaalyado? Gumagawa kayo ng ilusyon na hindi akna sa pagkatao ng inyong idolo na ang iniisip ang huwag uamlis sa pwesto dahil na nalango sa poder at sa pagnanais na lalong yumaman pa. Isang araw magigising tayong lahat na para na tayong Venezuela kung saan naghihikahos na ang karamihan sa mamamayan.

  4. A nation where everyone, and I do mean everyone, drops litter casually, where every driver disobeys traffic rules, and where nobody cares about the cleanliness of public spaces, is no nation at all.

    The complete lack of public morality in small things carries over to big things.

    Filipinos sell their votes at election time because they neither understand nor do they care about what their politicians will do. They just want a “blow out” every couple of years.

    Filipinos drop litter everywhere because they neither understand nor do they care that plastics are not biologically degradable, so the whole country is filthy and a nation of a hundred million is the third biggest polluter of the oceans.

    Filipinos live in a degraded and a degrading moral universe, and very few ever leave it. If you take a Filipino or a Filipina abroad, you may get a day’s work out of him or out of her, but they still live by the same degraded moral standards; they will still cheat and think themselves clever if they get away with it.

    There is almost no real religion; just a form of animism which has adopted Catholic saints in place of its older little gods. Brother Mike Velarde’s followers holding their wallets up to the sky for the Sky God to rain money into them sums it up.

    In another few decades the place will be a colony of China, a nation whose people understand the meaning of work and who have an intact moral system, but who are far less tolerant of the weaknesses of the Malay races than the Anglo-Saxons have been.

  5. STOP COMPLAINING in comment sections like this, or any social media corner. The people you complained in this article don’t read comments. TAKE JUSTICE INTO YOUR HANDS by writing them about your comments directly mailed to their office and home addresses.

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  8. Itѕ liҝe you read my mind! I’ve long noticed a degrading level of public tactfulness and decorum. It makes sense to pinpoint this trend to the current regime.

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