April 15, 2024

Last Sunday after attending mass, a Filipino friend here in Barcelona, Spain told me that they read the interesting and “amusing” news about the “drugs war” (that was how a group of Pinoys here jokingly described it) between former President Rodrigo Duterte and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who publicly hurled charges of drug use or addiction against each other.
Duterte claimed that Marcos is a cocaine user and declared that “We have a drug addict for a President,” while Marcos claimed that the former was affected by his years of use of fentanyl when he made that “vicious” speech against him at a Mindanao rally.
Duterte admitted he used fentanyl which was prescribed by his doctor and he has stopped using the drug when he became well. He then dared Marcos to undergo a drugs test but the latter did not respond.
The Mindanao rally, where Duterte accused Marcos as a cocaine user, was held as a reaction to the move for a charter change that emanated from Congress led by Speaker Martin Romualdez, the cousin of Marcos, who is supporting the charter change.
But as observers noted, the “drugs war” came about because of the softening position of Marcos on the entry of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the Philippines to continue with its investigation on the extra-judicial killings during the term of Duterte.
Whereas before, Marcos has echoed the stance of his predecessor that the entry of the ICC to investigate the brutal anti-narcotics campaign and other suspected rights abuses during the Duterte administration is a “threat to our sovereignty”.
He later on stated that the ICC investigators can come and visit as ordinary people. Justice Sec. Jesus Crispin Remulla also stated the government may allow the ICC probe if legal procedures were followed. This declaration did not sit well with Duterte.
These drug abuse accusations coming from the past president and the incumbent president have brought to the fore the deteriorating quality of leadership that our country is experiencing.
I recall the time when the leaders of our country were held in high respect by the Filipinos because they acted honorably in and out of the office that the electorate trusted them to hold.
Past presidents such as Manuel Quezon, Jose Laurel, Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay,Carlos P. Garcia, and Ferdinand Marcos Sr. were held with much reverence not only with their statesmanship and their eloquence and rhetoric in the halls of Congress, or in Malacañang.
I also remember in the halls of Congress the great debates of senators, the likes of Claro M. Recto, Jovito Salonga, Lorenzo Tanada, Gerardo Roxas, Ninoy Aquino, Amang Rodriquez, Emmanuel Pelaez, Jose Diokno, Blas Ople, and Ernesto Maceda, among others.
They were learned statesmen who regarded their office as a public trust. Their gentlemanly appearance and behavior were emulated by those who aspired for public office.
A political pundit opined that a major reason for the deterioration of the quality of leadership in our country was the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. He explained that during the Marcos dictatorship, positions in government were filled up by people who passed the loyalty to the dictatorship test and were endorsed by loyalists,more than passing the civil service or similar government exams.
Furthermore, being Martial Law, the military were given a wide range of powers to even hold civilian and business positions by the Marcos dictatorship to keep their loyalty to him. Elections during martial law was only a game where loyalty more than qualifications was favored and supported by the administration.
Graft and corruption developed and its tentacles crawled to many branches and offices of government and became “institutionalized” as the military regime continued for more than a decade and may still be continuing now. In fact, the Marcos couple was accused of “kleptocracy”, and books have been written as a “practical case study of the money laundering-corruption nexus”.
The major entertainment during Martial Law was viewed on television where many actors and popular entertainers capitalized on their popularity to be elected into public office along with those who amassed wealth, some illicitly, and were elected into office by a corrupted electorate and even in “rigged” elections.
A reorientation and reeducation of the people – both candidates and the electorate – are in order considering that there appears to be no moral compass guiding the Filipinos who need more spiritual counseling in this materialistic and corrupted society.
Given this present scenario in our political landscape, it will take years or even decades before the perception about public offices by the people will return from what is now an entertainment or amusement center into the dignified and venerated offices that we regarded them to be, long time ago.