Conflicted morals of politicians

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

Moral conflicts happen to individuals or groups when decisions or actions have to be made and one of the alternative actions are clearly against the moral/ethical standard of the person or the group. All are confronted with these situations in their lifetime but most have minor consequences, are not life-or-death situations, or may be choices of a lesser evil. However, there are those who are confronted with major moral conflicts that go against their total upbringing, and which consistently happen because of their profession, means of livelihood, and their way of life. Among these are the professional criminals, assassins, and politicians. For this article, it is about the Philippine politicians, as we are more familiar with them, especially with the events and happenings now leading to the 2022 elections.

The phrase “the end justifies the means” is a mantra many politicians follow and encapsulates the cause of moral conflicts. It means they will do anything, illegal or immoral to achieve a goal or victory. Ambition for fame, fortune, and power drives all their actions and sets aside all moral and ethical considerations. This is particularly significant in a Catholic/Christian democratic country like the Philippines, where almost all of our politicians and government officials have been raised with the minimum standards of good and evil and of freedom and justice in the last 500 years of history. Even our non-Christian brothers have similar moral codes and upbringing as these are foundations of an orderly society.

Authoritarian rulers and regimes have always assailed moral codes, as it is a limitation of their absolute power, and claims to be above the moral and ethical laws of ordinary mortals. They are however, aware, of the consequences of disregarding these moral standards when counteractions happen, as shown in all history and the natural law of the universe or their God. While Philippine politicians have been grappling with moral conflicts since we started to have elections, from Aguinaldo eliminating Bonifacio, to Roxas double-crossing Osmeña, to Marcos declaring martial law, the present situation leading to the 2022 election is another moral crossroad for Philippine politicians.

The last five and a half years of the Duterte administration have been full of moral hazards. The extra-judicial killings, the unlawful persecutions, arbitrary detentions, illegal detentions and closures, selective enforcement, and graft and corruption, are inundating the people with reasons to stop the continuance of this government. If we add the unpopular decision to turn a blind eye to the Chinese incursion into Philippine territory, the selective implementation of the law, and the irregularities and errors in the COVID-19 pandemic response, politicians should now be in moral dilemma leading to a moral conflict that has to be resolved. Depending on the moral values of the politician, it could be a choice between good versus evil, but if he has deluded himself with a compartmentalized morality, maybe a case of a few sleepless nights.

Psychologically, moral conflicts are stressful and bad for physical and mental health. It is really more than just sleepless nights, because the conflict between your actions and your beliefs eats on your whole person. This is why politicians on average, have shorter lives. Sociologically, moral conflicts disrupt family and social relationships. It would be difficult to impose moral standards on your family if your blatant disregard for what is right, fair, and just are in open display. If you belong to an organized religion, a religious community, or are a Sto. Niño devotee, it would be more difficult to stand by and defend your immoral/amoral political positions and advocacies.

Resolution of moral conflicts are what pushes wanted criminals to make confessions, when they say that their conscience or ghosts are haunting them. Or the guilty make atonement and retribution. Or if you believe in the hereafter, a necessary ticket to heaven. The 2022 election is a time for moral conflict resolution for some politicians.


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