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Dateline Seattle: Ay Buhay!

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s public admission of extramarital affairs is definitely a stuff of human drama. The characters involved are real people. I am glued to this recent melodrama in Philippine politics because it is so fascinating. It’s like a sordid love scandal Filipinos have seen in movies: First, Alvarez, the main actor, was busted; second, he did not deny it; third, he justified it, saying he and his wife are no longer together; finally, he rationalized it, claiming that many lawyers do it. The ending remains to be seen. Ay buhay! It’s not my intent to judge Alvarez as a person. His God will do it for him. I don’t know the guy. Whatever happened between him and his wife that led to his dalliances with other women is none of my business. It’s not also my intent to psychoanalyze if he is a sexual pervert because I do not have the education and the expertise to do so. However, I cannot stop thinking about the emotional toll exacted on his family by his behavior. His children, because they are human after all, must be in pain when they read in the social media the many negative comments made against their philandering father. I am not worried about Alvarez because it appears, based on his many statements, that what he has done is for him the new normal. Ay buhay! But what concerns me the most is his outrageous double-standard in “slut-shaming” Senator Leila de Lima for having an affair with her driver. Imagine a Speaker of the House of Representatives shaming a senator when he himself spices his life by having a rendezvous with another woman. What makes a person do this? Should Alvarez just have kept quiet knowing that he himself has several skeletons in his closet? Ay buhay! Yet Alvarez continued, despite his folly, to insult de Lima. He said of De Lima last November, “Here is a woman pretending to be clean, pretending to be a crime-buster, a graft-buster, a self-proclaimed righteous individual—we need to show the people her true character.” One does not have to be a saint – one only has to be a decent human being – to realize that his behavior is completely unacceptable to a woman. And, by the way, it’s not even acceptable to a man. Ay buhay! There are those who think that the private lives of elected politicians are none of our business. True. But how they represent us should be a matter of concern to us. They should not be surprised if we let them know how we feel about them. Take for example his current girlfriend, Jennifer Maliwanag Vicencio. Sources said Vicencio is frequently seen with the Speaker, even going with him during official trips out of the country. Her picture sitting adjacent to Alvarez inside a private plane went viral. As a result, taxpayers are rightfully asking: “Who’s spending for her fares and accommodations on these official trips?” With such shameless bravado, Alvarez has even admitted that he has other children out of wedlock. It is this admission of infidelity that puts him on a collision course against the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). He faces the prospect of being disbarred for failing to meet the standards expected of lawyers, that of maintaining “the highest standards of morality, behavior and professionalism,” according to the IBP. The Speaker could also be penalized or dismissed from office under Article 334 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that “a husband who committed concubinage, or keeping a mistress in the conjugal dwelling, having sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman not his wife, or cohabiting with her in any other place, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.” Sexual scandals or extramarital affairs are nothing new among Filipino politicians in particular and the Filipinos in general. The question at the center of Alvarez’s “zipper problem” (a slang term coined during the Clinton presidency) is one of character: What ever happened to our age old standards of integrity, honesty, sincere public service from our government officials? Ay buhay!

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