It is easy to be duplicitous if you live in a world where make-believe is the name of the game. Showbiz personalities are so adept in switching from one character to another that, at times, it is difficult to know if they are wearing their true faces – and I’m not even referring to face lifts.
Many showbiz marriages end up in multiple annulments (in the case of the Philippines), divorce or separation. Is it because showbiz personalities have to live in many dimensions of reality and ‘pseudo-realities’ that it is sometimes hard for them to keep track of what they really want, most particularly, their commitment to their marital vows? Successful marriages thrive on total openness, honesty and transparency – traits which don’t necessarily assure continued patronage of fans. Highly visible showbiz personalities who depend considerably on ‘face-value’ will desperately avail themselves of cosmetic and artificial remedies to defy the ravages of time on their faces and figures. They will not be caught with a frown or a wrinkle – that is why it is so hard to understand when a showbiz icon is suddenly found dead in the morning from suicide.
Parents with moral decency and good education will consider it a family tragedy when a daughter marries a showbiz personality. Cory Aquino thought so when daughter Kris decided to have a live-in relationship with Philip Salvador. Respectable families will do all they can to dissuade a daughter from joining showbiz. Only the struggling and desperate underclass perhaps can be justified in seeking a career in showbiz as an avenue to ease one’s economic misery.
The mega-bucks in showbiz tend to lure people who want an express route to wealth and fame, even if this is at the cost of morality and integrity, assuming they even realize or possess these in the first place. Once one gets sucked into the gaudy and pretentious world of showbiz, it is easy to lose oneself to the entourage of human leeches and parasites pretending to please and telling you only what you want to hear. No real friends there.
Controversy and creating publicity bytes become part of you because it can help keep you on top of mind and, sooner or later, you begin wondering who you really are. It is the most ruthless of environments where the lights are so bright it is impossible to see the abyss looming ahead. There are no retirement plans, no security of tenure, no guaranteed career path, even for child stars in showbiz. It is all over when it is all over and you grab what you can while you can. As with the money, careers in showbiz are just as easy come, easy go.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that when showbiz folk are suddenly thrust in the limelight of a different kind, this time to face tax evasion charges, they start groping for their lines. Without a script and the usual pre-arranged endings, they can only manage the lame excuses and the melodramatic displays of tears and lament claiming to be but pathetic victims of inept accountants, amnesia, or political harassment.
Richard “Goma” Gomez’s claims of “political harassment” came as a real surprise to me. Does Goma actually think he is now such a political giant that he has to be harassed? Can he launch a coup? He did not even talk about one. Does he have such a controlling grip on the masses that one word from him will make them go pouring out in the streets?
Regine Velasquez feigns a sudden case of “amnesia.” How is it possible that a songstress who can masterfully memorize all the notes that she sings in one concert – can suddenly forget to declare a multi-million peso income? Judy Ann Santos avoided offering an excuse and simply cried. Feeling guilty perhaps that he could be held liable for the same crime, ex-con Robin Padilla had asked the BIR to just contact him if they think he forgot to declare a part of his income so they can settle it sans the glare of lights and news cameras. All of a sudden, people who have made it their business to fabricate controversies just to get into the news – are now shying away from the real hard stuff that makes front page material.
Yet, Goma, Velasquez and Santos may be considered as among the “better elements” of showbiz. Other than the tax evasion cases, they had never been embroiled in any earthshaking scandals. In the last elections, Santos was even selected to endorse a senatorial candidate. Her wholesome image is said to have been a factor in winning a seat for the senator, who had previously lost an election bid.
Of course, I cannot say the same for Robin Padilla. The much-touted ‘bad boy’ of Philippine movies, whose conversion to Islam was seen as an attempt to dodge a bigamy charge, knew how to cash in on controversy. One would even wonder if he considered his stint in Bilibid prison to serve time for illegal possession of firearms as part of his make-believe world. Padilla, whose father Roy worked with us in the 1985 Cory Snap Election Campaign, seems to have a difficulty differentiating reality from the tinsel world roles that he portrays.
Much as showbiz folk have invaded politics, we must ask the hard question – just what kind of alternative to the rotten crop of failed traditional politicians do these showbiz folk offer our people?
Paying correct taxes is a basic duty of a citizen and a hallmark of a true patriot. Cheating the government on taxes is cheating the poor. But if a showbiz personality cheats on taxes, he or she would be cheating the very people who had helped finance the showbiz personality’s ballooning net worth and high living ways. It is not only a crime against the people, it is a betrayal and abuse of the most vulnerable members of society living in an already impoverished nation.
To begin with, we are not talking about small potatoes here. The cases against Gomez, Velasquez and Santos involve millions of pesos worth of undeclared and untaxed income. This is not your small change and coins in the pocket that you’re inclined to forget to remove before you hand over your trousers to the laundry woman. These are millions of pesos that over 60 million Filipinos will never make in one year. For some, these could well be recompense for a lifetime’s toil.
What further upsets other taxpayers is the attitude of these showbiz tax evaders who perorate as if they are entitled to special consideration that would spare them of the way they were exposed and treated by the BIR. Have they been accorded some special privilege by law to be treated by Taxman Willy Parayno differently from the rest of the country’s taxpayers? What ever happened to equal treatment under the law? Why should the law treat Gomez, Velasquez, Santos and Padilla any better than it would treat you and me? Not even soldiers who have lost their limb in fighting for the country are accorded such privileges.
But for all the aggravation that the actions and attitudes of Gomez, Velasquez and Padilla do to us, these are nothing compared to the ultimate duplicity of showbiz people who dared venture into the political world even if they had neither the qualifications for public service nor the moral compass to be a public servant. They took advantage of their popularity and the electorate’s disillusionment over the traditional politicians to aspire for the highest elected offices in the government. To me, that is no different from a quack taking over the work of a surgeon who is unable to heal his patient.
I am no fan of traditional politicians. In fact, I would not mind if they get banished to the extinct species list. But that does not mean that I am about to hand the delicate job of managing the country – especially in this crisis that we are in – to a bunch of con artists who are able to make people believe that they are the heroes (even glorified villains) that they portray on screen.
I do not condemn all showbiz people or categorize all of them as incapable of efficient public service. Ronald Reagan and Clint Eastwood were well appreciated as president and mayor, respectively. Rogelio de la Rosa was one of our finest ambassadors. What I abhor is the crass duplicity of some of these people in using their chameleonic “qualification” to induce people to buy the illusion they weave to get into high office. They take advantage of their celebrity status on one hand and the gullibility of the masses on the other to get elected.
Under those conditions, are we surprised if they get involved in plunder cases? People who live and breathe mass deception are likely to find an easy time stealing. But irony of ironies, showbiz tax cheats and jueteng lords do have something in common – they are both predators of the poor who at times even thank them for it!