There were a lot of talks and posts coming from the Philippines recently about the importance of honesty, moral character, and integrity. This is expected as the election campaign in the country started heating up for the upcoming mid-term election in May.
It is interesting to note though that the posts and concern about the importance of honesty, moral character, and integrity were not brought about by the usual talk from would-be voters about the right candidates that they should vote for. The concern was fueled by a statement made by Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte who serves as the mayor of Davao City. Duterte-Carpio who isalso the campaign manager of pro-administration candidates under the coalition banner called “Hugpong ng Pagbabago” said recently that the false claims made by senatorial candidate Imee Marcos about her academic degrees and accomplishments should not be an issue because “everyone lies anyway.”
She then explained her viewpoint about honesty to reporters—
“Ang importante is ano yung required ng batas. Ano ba ang sinasabi ng batas for a senator? Able to read and write, natural-born citizen. Does it say na dapat good moral character yung tao? Does it say the person has to be honest? Kaya sinabi ko kung honesty ang pagbasehin natin, disqualified lahat”(What is important is what the law states. What qualification does the law requires for a senator? That one is able to read and write, and a natural-born citizen. Does it say that one has to have good moral character? Does it say that a person has to be honest? That is why I said that if honesty is a criteria, then all candidates are disqualified).
Duterte-Carpioerred in her statement and she needs to read the Philippine Constitution, particularly Section 27 of Article II whichstates that “The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption.”
Furthermore, the Section 1 of Article XI, specifies that“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”
We learn as early as grade school that honesty is the best policy. Those who joined the Boys and Girls Scoutseven recite an oath that starts with— “On my honor, I will do my best . . . to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Being morally straight means to live life with honesty, to speak and act decently and truthfully, and to be a person of good character.
We address our elected officials and high ranking government officers as “honorable.” But how honorable are they are if they could not even pass the “scout honesty test?” So why downplay honesty as a virtue and as a requirement for people running for public office?
It is good that VP Leni Robredo has a better take on the issue of honesty in government and public service. She said: “Honesty is a big factor in a person’s integrity. If you don’t have that, you shouldn’t think of serving because how will you serve if you have a problem with yourself? . . .”
I believe that honesty is more than an election issue. Add moral character and integrity as well. They are key ingredients for a democracy and for democratic institutions to thrive. There is no democracy if the people are cheated, lied upon, and ledby dishonest people because a government that is run by dishonest people is not a government that serves the best interest of the nation and its people.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.