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Opinion

‘Careless’

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

I have noticed how a number of government officials, in following the President’s lead, have taken it upon themselves to speak out against certain individuals that the President has publicly insulted, criticized or attacked. In particular, Senator Manny Pacquiao and former Philippine Ambassador Albert del Rosario and Sen. Antonio Trillanes have been the target of verbal barbs from a couple of Cabinet members as well as their minions such as Usecs and Asecs. People don’t pay much attention to these; assuming that it’s all part of Philippine politics and that may be true. As they say, if you can dish it out you must also be willing to take the punches that come with them. But when political appointees lose sight of the fact that they are mere appointees and not publicly elected officials, their crass, careless verbal attacks become a cause for concern in terms of etiquette and professional conduct. Just because someone is being an ass does not demand that you behave likewise. Some may say it’s pointless to call attention to the conduct and language of Duterte officials, given that no less than the President sets the example for disrespecting their critics and political enemies. So what then, do we all jump in and start calling Malacañang “The Barn” or “The Animal Farm?”

Futile as it may seem, I am burdened to call out government officials, even members of media, regarding how they communicate and particularly their choice of words. Certain government officials now behave as if they are “bullet proof” or “untouchable” because they are very close to President Duterte and they are devoutly following the example of their great leader. But what happens when circumstances change, when they are no longer in the circle of power or when a chink or small plate in the armor falls off? In recent times, the term “defund” or “to defund a government agency” has been mentioned by a number of senators who were upset with the conduct and behavior of government officials. If I recall correctly, one, maybe two departments had their budgets squeezed because an assistant secretary or undersecretary pissed off some legislators during pre-COVID times.

It is so easy to shoot off from the mouth and get on your high horse whether you are in government or in media, but there are dozens of sad stories where “big mouths” or angry talk hurt people who were not even part of the situation. Every department or government agency has many employees who do great work in order to get paid in order to support their family. Mindless, careless commentaries or attacks against critics or political opponents by officials could get them defunded, reduced or operationally dismembered simply because a spokesperson or an official got too carried away in their speech, loyalty or emotions. A number of officials have had to resign, go to pasture or go on a study tour abroad because they pushed their luck too far that even their boss had to say “enough.”

Behind many “Fearless Journalists or Broadcasters” there are wives, children, siblings and officemates who have directly or indirectly suffered the backlash against the media. We all hear about how somebody got sued, somebody went to jail, somebody was killed or a media company being blacklisted with advertisers or losing their franchise because some powerful politician decided to use his or her power or influence to get revenge on critics. But how many stories have been told about the suffering and poverty that their families went through? How it was to live in fear, putting up steel sheets in front of windows.

The sad fact is that many of us only consider the consequences when they are staring us in the face. Our human and sinful nature makes us feel good to get back at an opponent, some people find pleasure in demeaning and insulting others with colorful verbal garbage, some actually strut around like peacocks or fighting cocks after scoring on a verbal spar. I can think of a couple of people who truly relish being able to get as mean as possible in their comments. They think it earns them respect or fear from their enemies and the public.

Does it? Do we respect and honor quarrelsome persons that our society labels as “basagulero” or “palengkera?” While the bored and the aimless entertain themselves by watching people verbally abuse and attack each other, most of us don’t give it an ear or a second look because the thought that we could be on the receiving end of an attack from individuals who cannot restrain their tongues is quite unsavory and disturbing. Andy Stanley, a pastor I often listen to via podcasts, regularly asks: “What story do you want your life to tell?” His point is that our conduct, lifestyle and choices in life will knit itself together but will be told based on what other people heard, saw and experienced during their encounter with us.

It is a story that we may get to tell to our grandchildren if we are so blessed, or it may be a horror story that will be told and retold by people who were victims of our hurting words, false accusations, pride-filled justification. It could also turn into a story of how our conduct caused people to stumble by following our conduct and example. Even the little children that Christ referred to could eventually act like us and follow the bad instead of the good in our life. Just bear in mind, your story and your words will remain not just by word of mouth or stories told about you but somewhere in the internet, readily available to bear witness to your glory or your shame.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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