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By Ronald Roy

I’m not sure about the date of the Four Freshmen’s performance at the Araneta Coliseum, but it was at the height of the “Hello Garci” public outrage when “lying” became a buzzword in the widespread denunciation of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Not at all convincing was her “I am sorry” public apology, which she in fact effectively negated with a subsequent insistence she had not stolen Fernando Poe’s million votes in Mindanao, and that she had been told by God kuno to ignore the clamor for her resignation because He needed her to continue her good work for the Filipino people.

I still wonder if that was a lying ploy to enable her lawyers to plead insanity so she could beat the raps. “What a smart cookie this Gloria is”, I then mused. But, well, if God had really told her to carry on, shouldn’t we blame Him for all the moral and economic wreckage she left behind? Obviously, we cannot because God is inherently faultless. Therefore, GMA lied, as she then often did, and this was why the entire nation was in such a foul mood, why people sought refuge at the Big Dome that evening.

My fourth-row orchestra seat was right by a two-meter-wide aisle, at the other side of which sat then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, who had obviously looked forward to dodging the public flack in a relaxing evening of musical entertainment. He had then been derisively seen as a lackey of the malevolent Gloria Arroyo.

Then, as in all shows locally staged by famous foreign entertainers, the time had come to thank the host country for its hospitality, smiling beautiful faces, etc., etc. “And your food”, intoned a Freshman, “oh my God, this spicy, delicious vegetable dish called laeng (which sounded like lying) yes, laeng, laeng…” An interruption was unavoidable, with the audience howling and hooting, and three spotlights swirling until they focused on the chief magistrate who was now slightly crouched, his face buried in his hands. Truly, a most embarrassing moment for the pitiful man!

Let’s ponder that “shame”, that sense of guilt that follows after a wrongful act, is a human trait that prompts a wrongdoer to rue and change, and yet, not too many people have this attribute anymore. It therefore surprises not a few that Corona did not resign his position, and that is why he is now paying the price of vexing legal restraints and social isolation. It likewise warns us anew of power’s intoxicating dangers that are so prevalent in government nowadays.

Anyway, the lessons to be learned from Corona’s dire straits are: that a lackey is as much a liar as his master, and that lying with intent to deceive is as deprave as other acts of dishonesty. Would that today’s so-called “public servants” could likewise learn from George Herbert (1593-1633), an English metaphysical poet and vicar of Bemerton, who once said: “Show me a liar, and I will show thee a thief”. Herbert’s understanding of lying and thieving can thus be expressed as an adage, viz: Liars and thieves are birds of the same feather.

It’s difficult to dismiss Herbert’s quote as a principle of truth, an aphorism that is ubiquitously applicable in the ongoing investigations of the pork barrel scam. The humongous national scandal that now bedevils our lives compels us to retrieve our national dignity and honor by booting these scalawags out of office, with or without due process; but it seems we do not have our forefathers’ fire in the belly!!

Close to a hundred and fifty lawmakers, most of whom are current, apart from local officials and so-called agents, are listed down as having robbed us blind!! And they’re all denying the charges, as expected, with some even threatening to sue back for libel, perjury, or whatever! Their uniform riposte is: “We didn’t steal a single centavo! They’re all lying!” In fairness, however, a number have been wrongfully implicated, like former Sen. Jun Magsaysay, who had his righteous indignation published with official documents.

What a mess!! Will someone pray tell me how, when and who will clean up the bloody shambles in a non-bloody way??? But wait! If these heroes are faces from the failed past and the floundering present, forget it! What we need are warm bodies with new faces, new minds and new hearts revving up to install a rational justice system. Perhaps we can start with an amendment of the law punishing lying under oath. It’s a curiosity, e.g., that the accused in any criminal case is required to take an oath to tell the truth, and yet he can lie with wild abandon because the same law protects him against self-incrimination. Isn’t this a self-inflicted mockery of the justice system??

Less unreasonable would be China’s quantum of proof: presuming heinous offenders guilty until proven innocent — a stricture that will surely prune down all the thieving and the lying.