BBM’s moral fix

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Outgoing Senate President Tito Sotto claimed that incoming president Bongbong Marcos (BBM) is “bothered” and “disgusted” with massive corruption in the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Customs. “When we were talking about it, he was shaking his head… I know, I sensed it — his facial expression and the way he was shaking his head. He was disgusted with what he was hearing,” Sotto shared BBM’s reaction when told about the depth of corruption in the agencies.

“He did not need to commit to me or anything like that, but I sensed in our discussion, I felt that he was really bothered, he was bothered by the corruption in the DA and Customs,” Sotto further said. BBM has decided to assume the DA Secretary post instead of appointing somebody to the agriculture portfolio.

In another instance, incoming Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief Lilia Guillermo asked BBM to be “a role model taxpayer.” She made the statement in case the BIR will pursue the estate tax liability of the dictator’s family.

“In the event I have to collect or BIR has to collect, I will say this is the amount, which your estate, not you, has to pay for. Can you be a role model?… But I should have the correct data, I should know what really is in that decision… I will explain it to him, maybe Gov. Diokno and I will explain it to him,” Guillermo added.

The above episodes best illustrate BBM’s moral fix as he assumes the highest post. His office demands he must lead by example. It is his duty to enforce the laws of the land and sees to it that they are observed and followed.

One crucial hallmark of a good leader is “walk the talk.” Alexander the Great lost a third of his army while crossing the deadly Gedrosia Desert. When his men brought water to Alexander in a helmet, he poured it into the ground telling his soldiers he would not drink water unless they also do. The impact of such gesture was electrifying. Arrian narrates that “the effect on the morale of the entire army was as if every man has been refreshed by a gulp of the water Alexander had poured away.”

Whether it was a propaganda coup or genuine gesture, Alexander the Great demonstrated that effective leadership is about good example. A good leader is a good follower. He/she must show the way.

In the case of BBM, Sotto claimed the incoming president was “disgusted” and “bothered” by enormous corruption in DA and Customs. The public who are aware of the facts are incredulous of BBM’s reaction. Many questions run through the mind of Filipinos.

If BBM was really “disgusted” with corruption, was the same disgust felt towards his parents who were found guilty by the courts for corruption? Notwithstanding the huge effort of troll farms, Marcos vloggers, and other peddlers of lies and fake news, the 2003 Philippine Supreme Court ruling said that the BBM’s parents had ill-gotten wealth. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court also ruled that the $ 658.2 million Marcos money in Swiss banks were plundered from the national treasury of the Philippines.

BBM and his siblings have been benefitting from the vast ill-gotten wealth stolen from the Filipino people. Was he bothered by this? Was he disgusted?

Worst, BBM and his family refused to express any remorse for their high crime against the Filipino people. They even tried to cover up the crime by peddling and promoting the fake story of the fabled Tallano gold. Until now, the Marcoses had not shown an iota of evidence on the existence of the Tallano family and their fabulous gold.

Any statement or act of BBM on corruption is hollow, fake, and hypocritical. How can his administration mount an effective anti-corruption drive when his family is involved in corruption as proven by the courts.

The second incident is bizarre. Was the incoming BIR commissioner making a joke by asking BBM to be a role model in tax collection? He was found guilty of tax evasion by the court, affirmed with finality by the Supreme Court. What is being resolved is the question if BBM’s crime involves moral turpitude which perpetually bars him from holding public office.

How can a tax evader be a role model in paying taxes? BBM can be a role model for tax evasion or teach how not to pay income tax.

Taxes are the lifeblood of the government. Citizens must pay their taxes for the government to function. How can the government encourage people to pay their taxes if its head is a tax evader?

A leader, especially the president must have moral ascendancy to persuade the people to follow the law, in this particular case pay taxes. It is awkward for BBM to publicly urge Filipinos to pay their taxes when he himself did not.

BBM is in a tight moral fix. Four days from now he will assume the presidency and moral ascendancy is the president’s most valuable political capital. A president standing on high moral ground can govern with ease for his words carry weight.

BBM is starting his term of office with a moral handicap. It will be a huge challenge for him to overcome and hurdle this disability. A president with heavy moral baggage will have difficulty making his words and deeds credible. Without credibility and moral weight, the words and deeds of a leader are void and empty.

The country faces difficult challenges as it emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. A president with high moral integrity is badly needed in this crucial moment. BBM is already morally crippled as he leads the country out of the pandemic and recovers from its devastation.

Good luck to everyone.