Illiberal democracy needs a strong and experienced leader, Part 8




People ask why it is hard to trust people. The real question should be “why is it hard for people to tell the truth?” – Anonymous

In two forums a year apart, Vice President Leni Robredo was asked what she would focus on if she is president; and she said “trust;” that it is something that is earned and not entitled to. When pressed by party mates for her decision just days away from the deadline for filing of candidacies for president, she told them to just “trust” her that she will make the right decision. Robredo’s stance is really an admission that she has a lot to do to prove herself to earn the Filipinos’ trust.


Robredo was really giving a left-handed compliment because the right hand was motioning that the current administration was not trustworthy. As a matter of fact, her main consideration for running is to ensure that the “anti-democratic, anti-rights, corrupt, and self-serving” Duterte and the Marcoses are stopped in 2022. She further qualified these traits as the “root causes of the suffering and deaths of so many Filipinos.


By mentioning “trust” and “suffering,” Robredo has embarked on a very moralistic campaign albeit egged on by the men of the cloth. So, we’ll attempt to frame things in a moralistic way that her Roman Catholic supporters can relate to having lent their good names and representation to Robredo’s candidacy. They have become political and brazenly lend themselves as a Robredo supporter through their sermons, color of their clothing, and presence in what could only be interpreted as a political activity.


They stayed silent while Robredo’s campaign pinkwashed candles for All Souls Day and Advent. They even tolerated her campaign’s blasphemous claim of “Leni’s miracles” that would rival Jesus’ Bread of Life in John 6. With Christmas approaching, Robredo’s campaign might just turn the Star of Bethlehem pink. God forbid, if they pinkwashed Baby Jesus’s outfit!


But back on earth, let’s follow what Jesus said to a crowd described in Genesis 1: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; and unto God what is God’s.” The bishops clearly need reminding to give the government their due without interference from them. Julius Caesar may not be the best, moralistic, or upright leader Jesus would have wanted but he recognized that even his body and earthly life belonged to Caesar – and Caesar claimed it. His Father claimed what is His, Jesus' resurrected body.


Robredo emphasizes “trust” whenever she’s asked about the presidency. Perhaps not realizing that by doing so, she was really making a self-serving comment about herself that she will be trustworthy compared to, say, Duterte, who is often the target of her criticisms. A wise man once said that “trust takes a while to build up but one awshit wipes the board clean” because trust is founded on truth.


Since Duterte is Robredo’s exhibit A, let us compare their trust ratings. According to Publicus Asia’s survey earlier this year, Duterte received 65% approval rating and a 55% trust rating. Robredo received 29% approval and 19% trust ratings. Clearly, Duterte enjoys a much higher support from Filipinos despite his vulgarities that offend the sensibilities of the elites and the men of the cloth that Robredo represents.


Duterte is really like an open book – he says what is on his mind. His profanities towards the bishops including Pope Francis were obscene, inappropriate and unacceptable. But his profane jokes entertain and win over audiences because the masses relate to him. While dishonesty and profanity can be considered deviant and evidence of low moral standard, profanity can be associated with honesty. Duterte curses to express his unfiltered feelings and sincerity.


His high approval rating relates to another association between profanity and language. Majority of Philippine voters belong to the lower strata of the economic pyramid. Between the elites who are offended by Duterte’s profanity and the poor who curses the moon to high heavens for their miseries in life, one can guess who curses more. It was mostly the poor who propelled Duterte to the presidency.


But more on the sufferings of 80% of Filipinos who are mostly Catholic. “Bahala na an Diyos” (I’ll leave it up to God” for their predicament and relies on their faith for divinity. Church leaders tell them to “have faith anak” and continue to obey the teachings of the Church while blaming the government for the sad state of affairs. The priest would often say that “suffering is testing your faith and God will not test you beyond your capabilities.”


There is clearly a moral convulsion in the country among Filipinos who feel disgusted by the state of society and the moralizing of church leaders. Graft and corruption, illegal drugs, and poverty is consuming the youth and burying them ahead of their times. Trust in institutions, including the Supreme Court, has plummeted. Duterte’s profane language is the agitation and the voice they want to hear because their faith prevents them from saying it, fearful of Dante’s inferno.


The Church propelled the Aquinos to the presidency including Fidel Ramos but the economic chasm between the poor and wealthy became wider under democracy and capitalism. That is the real profanity in all these. Pope Francis often talks about such divides and would take the wealthy to task for their greed and lack of empathy. The poor who scrounge in landfills for a living are asking the bishops, “When will we be delivered from all these evils?”


The biblical Abraham is traditionally considered as the father of faith that stemmed from his obedience to God to sacrifice his two sons Isaac and Ishmael, with Isaac being the true test of his faithfulness. Ishmael is the biological first son but not from his wife Sarah. Abraham impregnated his maid Hagar at Sarah’s insistence to fulfill God’s promise. Sarah eventually had a child, Isaac (Christianity) who God preordained, much like Ishmael (Islam), that they will have innumerable offspring.


God tested Abraham’s faith several times including the binding of Isaac to be sacrificed. The other was expelling Hagar and Ishmael from his house to please an angry wife but could result in their demise out in the desert. For most humans, Abraham’s dilemma where morality and self-interest neatly fall on the same side, it is hard to see how faith in God justifies killing a person, much less, your own sons.


Clearly, Abraham suffered physically and emotionally through all these but such sufferings were overcome by his deeper and legendary understanding of faith and strong conviction to trust God’s promises. But, how many among us mortals will pass such tests? For the poor, to put food on the table is already a major undertaking. It is easy for men of the cloth to say, “Have faith anak” because they live in palaces and work in big, clean, safe churches much like Abraham in his days when he managed a big business and can afford to buy slaves to be his helpers. (To be continued.)