All In The Game

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

And so the games can now truly begin. The Supreme Court has decided that Grace Poe can run, and the disqualification gambit has run its course. This should not be new for Poe, her mother Susan, or even Vice President Jejomar Binay, as all three experienced what her father Fernando Poe Jr. was subjected to in the 2004 presidential elections.

PH SC In SessionThe Supreme Court decision will not make Poe win the elections. Only the Filipino voters can do that. But the voters can now choose more freely without the sword of Damocles threatening her candidacy. To a lesser degree, Rodrigo Duterte had some anxious moments, to the point that he accused a rival political group of orchestrating the disqualification complaint. Well, no more such distractions—or so people hope.

Expectedly, there are many who are disappointed at the 9-6 decision favoring Poe. Expectedly, too, there are many who are elated by it. I have tried as best as I can to discern the objective legality or constitutionality of the controversial issue. Unfortunately, my not being a lawyer does not give me professional competence to make an informed legal opinion. My being an active social media player, however, has given me a sense of what’s out there from the nonstop commentaries of lawyers and plain citizens alike.

Just this morning, a young friend who is now a volunteer of PPCRV asked me if I knew of Duterte supporters with whom he could have a rational discussion. I did not ask him why he thought of a Duterte supporter and not a Binay, Poe, or a Mar Roxas supporter. What I simply said was partisans are precisely partisans because they fit the meaning of the word. Rational discussions are grounded on three important factors: One’s level of intelligence, objectivity, and being informed. Therefore, for a rational discussion, nonpartisans are better than supporters of any candidate.

The disqualification case of Poe brought many legal luminaries into the fray. Their opinions differed, to say the least. And they were all lawyers and included even a few former justices. Still, their opinions differed despite their knowledge, training and experience. It was not as though there was unanimity from the very beginning and the 9-6 decision was a great shocker. My being a non-lawyer does not seem to be a significant disadvantage if I were to judge from the contrasting opinions of the SC justices.

Of course, some commentaries from lawyers and non-lawyers who carried an opposing view, meaning they believed Poe should have been disqualified, included innuendos or actual statements pointing to corruption as the reason for the favorable decision. I don’t know if they understand that the accusation or allegation can be directed two ways, that those who wanted her disqualified can also be bought if it’s only a matter of making uninformed opinions.

A college mate of mine assured me that dirty judges and lawyers were the exception, not the rule, after I shared an article I wrote four years ago about the proliferation of these dark forces. I told him that I would like to believe him so much because I still had such lofty dreams about the people and nation we could be. But these commentaries provoked by the Supreme Court decision allowing Poe to run all the more support my view that our opinion of the legal profession is low and that its main players, lawyers and judges, are seen as easy to corrupt or manipulate.

More than rash judgment is the unkindness of the allegedly fair and decent in our society, mouthing morals and ethics but empty of them as well. I remember in the most famous of good books stories of how tax collectors and thieves found easier favor with the founder of Christianity than scribes and Pharisees—the great symbols of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. I remember, too, that there are 10 Commandments, that killing and stealing are not the only evil that mankind was exhorted to avoid.

One innocent-looking commandment said we should not bear false witness against another, and this must be the most openly transgressed. How moralists can be choosy about evil, the ones they cannot stand, and the ones they turn a blind eye to, is beyond me. Fairness truly submits to bias and partisanship.

Which doesn’t take away from the upfront criticism of real advocates, those who don’t hide behind false names, false morality, and take the serious risks that all brave men and women of causes anticipate. I talked about trolls in my last article and they are not really hard to identify. They either don’t use their real names or their posts are consistently against, or for, someone. It just takes for us to look them up on Facebook.

Election time tests not only candidates but citizens as well. The candidate wants to serve for a few years, hopefully for a few terms. Campaigning is the least important activity of the political process. It is public service, it is governance. So, too, for voters and other citizens. We have the rest of our lives to be productive, to be contributing the best of ourselves, and we are asked to be inspiring models, not wet blankets, for the tomorrow of our children. And the more partisan we are, the more judgmental, the more hateful, the more we set the platform for the continued divisiveness that guarantees the hell we cannot escape after elections.

Political candidates are prepared for the worst. So should we because it is the same arena we play, especially if we are partisans. Many times, the candidates we support are silently laughing it all while we are ready to do battle and break relationships. Worse, we often unintentionally reveal our hypocrisy or stupidity.
“Sport lang,” as they say. If we cannot rise above our partisanship, we lose the required respect for the opinion of others, and even democracy with it.

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