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A New Low

There are some senators in the Philippines who, in part, because of their support for Pastor Apollo Quiboloy – the self-proclaimed ‘Son of God’ and alleged rapist, sex trafficker of children, and bulk cash smuggling – are showing how unprincipled and morally bankrupt they can be. Gone are the days when those sitting in the Senate are paragons of integrity and great intelligence. They seem to have forgotten what being a senator is all about. Their apparent advocacy since the investigation of Quiboloy commenced was to vigorously defend the pastor in the social media with confounding sound bites.

Senator Robinhood Padilla, who considers Quiboloy his friend and a comrade in his fight against communism, is Quiboloy’s passionate supporter. He blocked Senator Risa Hontiveros’ committee to cite Quiboloy for contempt but failed to gather enough signatories to reverse the committee’s ruling.

Padilla also questioned the committee’s inability to provide Quiboloy his right to due process. The committee, in fact, had given Quiboloy all the opportunities to explain his side, but he continued to defy the Senate’s summons. What “lack of due process” was Padilla talking about?

Several other senators, many of whom are running for reelection in 2025, like Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Bato de la Rosa, and Francis Tolentino openly support Quiboloy with their respective political stunts and justifications. Their strong bias favoring Quiboloy boils down to one thing: They cannot afford to distance themselves from an alleged criminal who happens to be rich, powerful, and influential. After all, Quiboloy claims to have a horde of devoted followers who can potentially make or break one’s candidacy during an election.

Senators Cynthia Villar and her son Mark Villar also openly expressed their support for Quiboloy, but they are not running for reelection. And the reason for their public pronouncement of support for the embattled pastor is their avowed friendship. Since when has friendship become the primary justification not to hold a person in contempt? The Villars are not the type of senators with impeccable legislative skills and love for the truth.

Not too long ago, when the Senate was composed of honorable politicians like Lorenzo Tanada, Pepe Diokno, Raul Manglapus, Ninoy Aquino, Emmanuel Pelaez, and Jovito Salonga, this public support by a senator for an alleged child molester, rapist and money smuggler would have been a scandal worthy of condemnation.

However, it is unlikely that these pro-Quiboloy senators will face any sort of public condemnation from their fellow senators because the Senate has long lost its credibility. It is plagued with opportunists who, when push comes to shove, focus on their personal interests and political survival over the interests of the people. In fact, the senate has become like a dynastic political club, a much crasser place where the truth is often stifled by senators who may be popular but lack the honesty and the will to seriously discern right from wrong.

Many of these senatorial candidates talk about unity, government reforms, and helping the poor and the marginalized. They know what to say to be elected. But they do not know how to walk the talk once they are in office. As they kowtow to the wishes of their political sponsors or even the president, they shamelessly face the media to smooth out their rougher edges to appear more respectable and principled to their constituents.

Lack of credibility is only part of the problem that many senators face. Every senator is expected to respond to every national issue, whether it’s a pastor’s alleged raping of children, the killing of media personnel, or a former president cryptically making a “gentleman’s agreement” with China’s Xi Jinping. How our senators have responded to these issues tells us a good deal on what kind of politicians they are, and how they view themselves in relation to the country’s national interests.

A Lorenzo Tanada or a Pepe Diokno would probably fight tooth and nail to achieve national unity and seek ways to transcend political differences or even sacrifice personal accommodations, if only to arrive at a common purpose. But I don’t see this happening. Many senators, except for a very few, resist the call to come together to support the people’s interest. This seems to be the kind of world that politicians live in nowadays.

Senator Hontiveros had more than her share of being resolute despite being hurt by the testimony of allegedly rape victims, but still some senators have refused to hear anything positive from her investigation.

Hontiveros’ only purpose was to investigate Quiboloy in aid of legislation. But many senators were so venomous in their opposition that they employed delaying tactics even when she appealed for nothing more than consistency in following the rules of the Senate’s investigative process and respect for our common decency.

Why are senators Go, Marcos, Tolentino, de la Rosa (and other senators who prefer to remain quiet) at their worst at a time when the country needs them to stand up and be counted? There is every reason to think that they will be even worse if they win again in 2025.


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