Let me try to characterize the Philippine social value called "Fudging". If we flip through the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, skipping past a particularly popular American obscenity because it is not relevant to his inquiry, we come across the definition we need:
- Fudging: a propensity to work around the edges of the law for personal gain.
It derives from the Latin word fudgare, which is the infinitive expression of a verb meaning "to cheat benignly". Roman gladiators used it when they laced their loin cloths with hot chili pepper, at least preserving their family valuables from the maws of hungry lions.
"Hey Ben Hur, pass the Tabasco sauce, eh?"
Well, the inquiring mind of Joe America sees the Philippine Congress as being in a bit of a predicament because fudging has been, until now, an accepted Filipino social value. But that has changed.
Bam! Has it changed.
It changed because we had the page turning, dial flipping drama of Chief Justice Corona biting the proverbial impeachment dust at the hands of his Excellency, President Aquino, who pursued the case like a pit bull on a fluffy toy poodle.
The heavy mace of punitive embludgenment (note to self; add this fine descriptive word to the HDNWD) was called an "SALN", a particularly simple document that asks elected officials to add up what they own and what they owe and put it on paper. But the math was a little much for the Chief Justice, no matter the 26 years of education you are likely to find in his curriculum vitae. So the President and all his men, and a few women to boot, whacked the Chief Justice upside the head and tossed him under the historical bridge like a log heading downriver into the West Philippine Sea.
Well, in truth, it was not the math that nailed the Chief Justice. It was fudging.
He skirted around the edges of the law on his SALN, concocting some weird interpretation of bank secrecy laws meaning that his hidden and potentially ill-gotten wealth could be socked away in a thick iron vault under no eyes but his own. He did not have to enter dollars on his SALN. That is the way an incompetent Chief Justice fudges. He interprets laws to his personal benefit.
The Chief Justice also intermingled money from businesses and relatives and his own accounts in such a web of confusion that it would take 23 senators from now to eternity to figure out exactly whose is what. That is another way to fudge.
Alas, whereas fudging was perfectly fine in 2011, and everybody was doing it. It is processa non grata in 2012. That is, it is illegal.
And double alas, we have a bunch of representatives who impeached the fluffy puppy and a bunch of senators who convicted him who are also sitting on SALN's prepared under the 2011 Filipino Code of Conduct, where "to fudge" carried a certain macho bearing, as "man, we are screwing ordinary citizens and pulling the wool over their blind and ignorant eyes; aren't we rich and grand!"
If the spotlight turns on the hooks and crooks in the legislative math-making, we'll likely find half the government out on its ass in the middle of the road. So the legislators have called a "time out". They are huddling and muddling and trying to figure out a way out of these troublesome woods. Once they discover how screwed up the SALN's of their colleagues are, they must decide what to do.
I have an idea.
Just declare amnesty. Stamp each SALN "accepted as filed" and move on. But next year's damn well better be precise to the decimal points and it had better include dollars and Russian rubles and even that well-tattered scrap of paper called the euro.
Recognize that social values have changed.
People who lived by the old values ought not be punished because the rules have suddenly changed.
"Well, then, Chief Justice Corona should be pardoned," you might argue. "He should be given his job back."
No, no. His warped SALN was relevant to his competence, and the impeachment an expediency for a greater good. His error strewn SALN proved his judicial injudiciousness. There was no intent to prove theft; there was intent to prove bad ethical character. A Chief Justice is paid to be a law-based and high-minded arbiter of disputes. He is not supposed to use his expertise to manipulate laws for personal gain.
A legislator is not an objective arbiter of the laws. He is a writer of laws, wherein the laws reflect the preponderance of the political ideology in place at the time. In other words, a legislator is PAID to be political. A Chief Justice is paid to be NON-POLITICAL.
So the legislative SALN's that may not add up don't prove anything with regard to a legislator's ability to write laws. Besides, who needs the hassle of trying to sort out all that paper muck when Filipinos are starving and many poor women are uneducated about birth control?
The main point is to move on. Certainly, the Philippines loves a good blood bath. The sensationalist television stations would love to see hundreds of legislators with their eyeballs gouged out, lying in the middle of Roxas Boulevard or wherever they'd get dumped. And the tabloid press, masking as mainstream newspapers, would love to rumble out edition after edition of 196 point headlines screaming which legislators couldn't add things up right.
The legislators that FUDGED!
But, the glory of gore aside, it would be better to focus an intense spotlight on 2013 SALN's as the clear benchmark of present wealth. And then 2014 and subsequent years to examine change.
The point is made.
The point is clear.
Fudging is now a swear word.
Move on. Get transparent, get honest, and get some bills passed.