Thursday, January 7, 2016

Politics and Speaking Ill of the Dead

As Filipinos, we grew up doing or not doing certain things whenever certain situations come up. We don't sweep the floor at night. We have our girls jump from the third step of a staircase during their first menstrual cycle. Following certain traditions or customs doesn't really need the backing of logic. I mean, what do we have to lose by following these simple things? What do we have to lose whenever we say "tabi-tabi po" while we walk around an old tree? What do we have to lose whenever we grab our babies and pass them above the coffin in a wake? These things are simple. They give people assurance in some weird way and at the same time, it shows our culture and our history.

But sometimes, doing what is expected/accepted by society can bring about negative effects. During the New Year, for example, we are expected to spend thousands of pesos on firecrackers that can end up hurting us. Just like the social norms stated above, there's no logic behind it. But it's our culture. It somehow drives away evil spirits. And who am I to say how people should spend their hard-earned money? People follow this particular tradition or act because there is a trade-off. Besides driving away evil spirits, exploding triangles and beautiful lights make people happy. And the pollution and health effects are taken into consideration by the government when they decided to legalize the practice and set standards on the products... well that's what I hope.

Existing social norms are either inconsequential to the nation or, just like the case of using firecrackers, regulated/tolerated only to a certain extent. Note: These are my own personal classifications.

Now, the aforementioned classifications may seem crude. But social norms need to be classified by society and even individuals correctly to determine the things we should do away with entirely, the things we embrace and the things we control.

Looking at our society and individuals I come in contact with, one particular social norm is fully embraced without us realizing our accepting nature towards it and its effects on a national level. If you haven't read the title of this post, I'm talking about not speaking ill of the dead.

I'm confident most of us here were taught never to speak ill of the dead. We are told to keep our mouths shut when our abusive drunk uncle or perverted cousin die. It doesn't matter how they lived their lives. We should not judge them for they don't have the means to defend themselves.We should just let God do the judging. Plus, there's no point in upseting the loved ones. What do we have to lose when we keep our mouths shut when that person dies? Nothing right?

But what if the person who died was a government official instead of a random cousin and was corrupt instead of being perverted? What do we have to lose when we keep our mouths shut? Potentially, a lot.

A few days ago, ex-LTO chief Virginia Torres died. She was the LTO chief who got canned because she was the subject of a viral video showing her gambling in a casino. Personally, I had no problem with her gambling as long as it's her own money. But hey, memorandum circulars have to be followed even if they seem hypocritical.

Now, the fact that Torres already got fired already closes that case for me. But aside from that, another issue lingers over her name.

Torres is also embroiled in a controversy involving sugar smuggling. She allegedly used her contacts and dropped President Aquino's name in an attempt to get a shipment of smuggled sugar released so the money to be earned from the sales could be used for the upcoming elections. Unfortunately for her, she left empty-handed.

The fact that she left empty-handed is why keeping my mouth shut is the best course of action. What's the point of speaking? If we somehow prove she did use the president's name and tried to get smuggled sugar out of the BoC, that would only destroy her name and it would've cost us a ton of money. Clearly, shutting up and refraining from calling her something bad is for the best.

Unfortunately, sometimes officials don't get away empty-handed.

I'm sure we all know about Ferdinand Marcos so I won't go into detail with him. He is one of the few deceased politicians we never fail to talk about. He is either loved or despised. Cases are ongoing to retrieve the stuff he supposedly stole from the Filipino people. Sure, the case may be moving at a snail's pace. But at least, it's moving which is the most we can expect from our futile justice system.

But aside from Marcos, other individuals who have passed had their cases diluted if not completely forgotten. One such individual is Angelo Reyes. Angelo Reyes killed himself in front of his parents' grave just as the "pabaon" generals case went full swing. At first, people were ready to scrutinize Reyes of his supposed involvement in the scam. Jinggoy and Miriam were really grilling him hard. But by the time he died, people were singing his praises. He was praised to the point that he was buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani with full military honors

I'm not saying that Angelo Reyes was a scumbag who stole from us. I mean, the case did get dismissed by 2013. But our initial suspicion was subdued by his death. It's like we suspended our critical thinking and quickly accepted him as a great man when he died and labeled a potentially corrupt individual a hero by burying him in Libingan ng mga Bayani. In doing that, we quickly forgot that this guy could've walked away with millions of pesos. He died an innocent man. But that doesn''t mean we should quickly call him a hero and allow him to rest for all eternity in our heroes' cemetery considering what was happening at the time.

Shutting up about the dead's faults is one that needs a little more thinking than most. People tend to dismiss the act as inconsequential and critical thinking needs not be spared. But in the case of important people like public officials who are held in high esteem, social norms are no longer that weird or proper thing to which we need to adhere. It can become a practice of critical thinking.

Let's let Virgie Torres rest for now... at least until someone finds something connecting her to some sort of graft or corruption. And at the same time, let's not be so quick to let the dead get away with things they may have done when they were living like allowing Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Government officials should be tied down to accountability even after the Grim Reaper shows itself through the door. We stand to lose everything if we let mortality get in the way of accountability.