‘Bastos dignitaries’

Is it too much to expect proper decorum from this administration’s officials? Are good manners and right conduct dead?

The country has again been put to shame in the international stage by two high-ranking government “dignitaries”—Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, and Chief Presidential Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo.

 On Oct. 23, Andanar spoke in front of overseas Filipino workers in London and slammed European organizations critical of the Duterte administration’s human rights abuses. He called them “palaiyot,” a Visayan term that refers to sex-starved or sex-crazed people. He also said that these EU groups are just full of noise but are not able to show actual results from what they do.

Andanar drew flak from netizens and opposition legislators over these remarks unbecoming of a representative of the country. He later justified his crassness by saying that those comments were made among Duterte supporters, and were said in jest. In short, “joke lang.”

Panelo, on the other hand, also got into trouble for injecting sexual jokes during an interview with Karin Wenger of the Swiss National Public Radio and Filipina journalist Ana Santos. From the transcripts of the interview, it appeared that Panelo, besides saying that he is “better in bed,” also used the word “f*ck” several times.  

As expected, people were aghast at the vulgarity of Panelo’s words during an interview that was supposed to tackle the very serious issue of this administration’s war on drugs. Some think that this was a tactic on his part to deviate from the interview’s topic. Panelo’s so-called “jokes” did not help the government any. Wenger said: “If a guy like that, who talks like that, is the legal adviser of the president… it tells a lot about the nature of this government.”

In response, Panelo denied that he used the word “f*ck” in the interview. He said it was “pack” to refer to his packing of is clothes because he travels a lot. Moreover, “better in bed” meant he is good at fixing his bed and not a lewd remark, according to him. Panelo accused Wenger and Santos of intentionally changing “pack” to “f*ck” to suit their anti-administration agenda.

The audio of pertinent parts of the interview has since been released. I listened to it and what I heard was “f*ck” not “pack” several times. Wenger even clarified when she asked, “F*ck your clothes?” and Panelo responded with, “You didn’t get the joke? I wanted you to laugh.” If indeed he was misquoted, he should have corrected it then and there.

This was a case of another uncalled for, inappropriate, crass, and sexist “joke” from an official tasked with advising the president on important legal matters.

Vulgarity seems to be a distinct characteristic of this administration. It almost seems like a “style” that those holding positions like to publicly display, like Panelo’s fashion sense. The President himself is known to curse, cuss, and viciously rant against those critical of the way this government is managed, or mismanaged. He was the first to include sexual innuendoes in his speeches. His spokespersons were the first to use the “joke only” line to rationalize his crass statements.

Government officials are debasing themselves, the country, and the Filipino people because of their bad manners and wrong conduct. The actions of Andanar and Panelo have made the people cringe in humiliation. However, they have also angered many, thus, the criticism.

These officials represent the country and people. They are supposed to be the face and voice of the people especially when they go out into the world. They must show the best of who and what the Filipino is. They ought to be paragons of dignity and decorum. They must exude honor and be respectable. Very sadly though, what actually happens is farthest from what is proper and expected.

Moreover, they should know that sexual innuendoes are not jokes. These are manifestations of their sexist attitudes that betray their low regard for women in general. This is power play. Sex “jokes” are usually done to rattle and degrade women, to put them in their “proper place.” These officials feel entitled and privileged, able to do and say anything they want without regard for the repercussions of their words and actions.

The brazen actions of the top “leadership” of the country make it appear that being crass is acceptable. No wonder, those below them, including their avid supporters mimic what they do. Just read the posts of Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, as well as the pro-Duterte bloggers. They all disregard propriety and manners. I have never seen an administration that brings out the worst in people except this one. 

These public officials’ and their minion’s arrogance is unmatched. Are they drunk with power? Do they think that they will be in position forever? For those in government, they should be reminded that they are public servants. Their only power emanates from the people and positions are entrusted to them so they can serve. For their avid supporters, they should realize that they do not have any power. What they have now are crumbs of privileges that can be taken away anytime, and will be gone after their principals’ terms are over. And as sure as the sun shines, their terms will be over.

“Bastos” dignitaries cannot be. The phrase is an oxymoron because being bastos is undignified. The people know this. People will continue to be mindful of public servants’ actions and words. We will continue to make them accountable. We will not tire demanding good manners and right conduct from those who represent us. We cannot anymore suffer “bastos dignitaries.”


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Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , ‘Bastos dignitaries’ , Martin Andanar , Salvador Panelo , human rights
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