Shame

Salus populi suprema lex esto: the good of the people is the highest law.

The wisdom of Cicero’s statement should have a clear echo in every office, agency, and branch of all governments.  This country is no exception; here, in fact, it should be a deafening roar.  The highest law is the call of the Senate.  Every Senator is a vanguard, a protector, and a warrior of the public interest.  This Government should be at the very front of the line to figure out ways and solutions to feed, educate, and mitigate the suffering of the many who are poor.

Today, it is at the very front of the line of questioning the morality of sex tapes, not to mention the technicalities of making one.  I write this condemnation in the spirit of shaming, something that I hope can be accomplished with the limitations of a blog entry.

Shame, ladies and gentlemen.  That emotion, that bout of conscience that the Senate should feel.  A rare commodity in shameless places.  Redundant, but true.

In a country where the first signs of dissent and expressions of discontent are often met with the wrath of a truncheon and the fury of a water cannon, the Senate chooses to investigate – in aid of legislation – the Hayden Kho-Katrina Halili sex tapes.  In a country where malnutrition, underemployment, and a lack of education are pressing problems, the Senate chooses to scandalize lawmaking by making a spectacle out of women’s rights and surveillance.  In a country where newspapers and tabloids are replete with every crime known to threaten the very foundations of civilization are daily fare, the Senate embarrasses itself by turning their august and honorable task of making – and safeguarding – the laws of the land into a showbiz talk show.

And yet, for what?  Publicity?  The interest of the people?  Ladies and gentlemen, there is a difference between the public interest, and an interested public.  The task of governance is towards the former, and not the latter.The scandal taking place in the Senate is an embarrassment of national proportions.  There’s a difference between matters of public interest, and matters for public consumption.  While the wisdom of the Senate’s investigation on a sex scandal is timely, it is not proper, and it certainly is not right.  As the august and honorable Senators of this nation, many other issues hang in the balance.  Poverty, malnutrition, the state of education, health, the laws of the land, the welfare of every single Filipino have now taken a back seat to the technicalities of sex videos, and the stretching and extending of this issue to cover the rights of women.  The women of our nation who, much like a lot of other people, are poor, malnourished, ill-educated, sick, and have not found a refuge and a crying shoulder on the laws of the land.

For that, I take this opportunity to shame.

Shame on the Senate for turning this noble end into a circus.  It is a shame to, and a betrayal of, the common good for the august and honorable members of the Senate to focus their wrath on this non-issue.  I feel for Katrina Halili for being betrayed by Hayden Kho, but in the same vein I feel absolutely angered by the highest law being leveled on something other than the hunger and the anger of the Filipino people.  The same vitriolic anger that the esteemed members of the Senate is something that is used sparingly on other issues.  Farmers who get water cannoned, children who sleep on the streets, women forced into prostitution, people who lose their jobs, and families who get displaced from their homes do not get the same righteous anger from those who occupy space in the Senate floor.

Shame on the Senate for shaming its traditions.  It is a shame that the halls of the Senate once carried – or are supposed to carry – the indignations and resolutions of wise men and women who know the good of the people, and who know the highest law.  Today, thanks to their excitement and eagerness to ride on to issues than to resolve them, the good of the people and the highest law has been scandalized, stained, and shamed.  The very Senate that once stood against dictatorships, that fought against the excesses of power; the very institution that serves as the hallmark of prudence in governance has degenerated into a spectacle for entertainment.

Shame on the Senate for scandalizing the people.  The outcry for better social services, the outrage against corruption, the outpouring of hatred against incompetence at the expense of empty stomachs and empty pockets, have been replaced by outcries, outrage, and an outpouring hatred for someone whose crime is a sex video.  Good Senators, the adultery, fornication, and pornography that really takes place here is not a fuzzy sex video.  Pardon my language, but what takes place is the violation of justice; and on this day, at the very least, your refusal to elevate the living conditions of the very people whom you must serve because you chose to investigate a man’s videotaped sexual escapades with other women.

From those lecterns and desks came speeches, debates, and filibusters that, at one point in our country’s history, stood for the good of the people as the highest law.  From the hallowed halls of that place you occupy, dictators were deposed, threats to basic rights were defeated, and challenges to freedom have been deflected.

Today, perhaps tomorrow, as you continue to investigate that sex video, I can only say this: with all due respect, dear august and esteemed members of the Senate…

Shame on you.

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