Why skirt the issue of marital infidelity?
How very interesting the way our President and Vice President, as well as many (if not most) of our thinkers, writers, analysts, and columnists are raising their eyebrows at, and trying to rationalize away, marital fidelity as a political issue.
All in all, they’ve given four reasons why marital infidelity cannot, should not, be a criterion in choosing our public officials.
1. Given the sexual promiscuity of most Filipino men and (yes, to a certain extent) women, disqualifying two-timers would mean disqualifying practically all candidates — walang matitira.
2. Many of the world’s admired and greatest leaders were known to have been unfaithful to their wives; this means infidelity does not distract from good leadership.
3. Infidelity is solely the wife’s business. If she doesn’t mind, why should we.
4. History shows that marital fidelity has never been a political issue; by nature Filipinos are permisssive, that is, not puritan in their expectations of public officials.
The first exaggerates. Mayroon namang matitira; iilan-ilan nga lang. Admittedly, at this late date, it may be impractical to insist on clean slates, but at least notice would be served on future aspirants to public office.
The second assumes too much. Just because leaders like Arsenio H. Lacson, Manuel L. Quezon, and John F. Kennedy were also sexually promiscuous, it does not necessarily mean that the excess indulgence in no way affected their leadership styles. That would be saying that their individual performances could not have been improved upon, that theirs were the ultimate in leadership. I’m sure that’s not true.
The third is pure garbage (or it’s the double standard, as usual). In the disco incident that involved Congresswoman LVY, her aggrieved spouse complained in the most vehement terms, by slashing the face of her alleged lover. How did the case go? In Congress the lady solon was accorded the warmest sympathy and promised she would not be investigated. Media (which she accused of sensationalizing and making mountains out of molehills) were actually kind; no one wrote up the stories whispered around about her, maybe out of respect for her sex and office, maybe out of defensiveness (birds of the same feather…) or maybe just because journalists thought it proper to disdain, remain above, such lurid matters. So now she’s running for Senator.
The fourth is absolutely decadent. It’s the same as saying no to any kind of change, who cares if the country is going to the dogs and the pigs and AIDS, never mind if history isn’t all worth repeating.
FROM LEFT FIELD. On “The Big Story” (ABC 5’s version of Public Forum) the other Friday, Professor Randy David actually apologized for bringing up the subject of marital infidelity and, surprise, surprise, most of his feminist guests agreed, declaring it a “non-issue.”
Except, that is, for Bing Pimentel (Nene’s wife) and Nanay Luring (of Samakana, a rural-based women’s NGO) who dared disagree. Infidelity breeds corruption, Bing said, because mistresses are expensive. Marital infidetllity painfully violates the rights of the spouse, Nanay Luring said.
Curiously enough, the feminists of Gabriela and Filipina were unusually cool and detached, as though Nanay Luring’s cause did not concern them in the least. Mulat na ang kababaihan, said Chit Tapales. Relationships are changing, pareho na ang standards for men and women, said Karen Tanada.
It seemed to me they were being plain defensive, choosing to skirt the issue rather than confront it, in the vain hope that the issue will go away, and with it, their many fears. Fear that the marital fidelity issue would distract from “bigger” issues. Fear that discussions would deteriorate to the level of “lip-smacking” gossip. And, even, fear of casting stones. (Baka bumalik?)
*written for my coiumn NOTES OF A TV JUNKIE, Manila Standard, March 15, 1992