The logic of Senator Lito Lapid
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2004-10-04
I was completely aghast when I beheld Sen. Lito Lapid in the news – GMA Network’s September 22 telecast of 24 Oras – explaining away the reason why testimonies of escort girls identifying their alleged legislator-clients behind closed doors or in “executive” session should not be disclosed.

In her testimony during the public hearing, Janina Roque admitted giving sex and having shabu with a congressman. Even without the aggravating act of substance abuse, this already puts the erring congressman in the same boat as the infamous degenerates, among them Britain’s War Minister John Porfumo who was forced to resign in the wake of the scandal over his involvement with the prostitute Christine Keller during the early 60s.

Sen. Lito Lapid reasoned out: “Kung meron man, huwag na sana banggitin pangalan dahil siyempre kung nagbayad naman, wala naman silang kasalanan. Nagbayad naman.” (If ever, let’s not name names. After all, if they paid, then there is no guilt. They paid.). In my disbelief, I had to check the veracity of what I saw and heard from the reporter who covered the story. Ruth Cabal, the reporter of our sister company GMA Network, did confirm what I had hoped she would not.

Following Sen. Lapid’s line of reasoning, the issue has nothing to do with the involvement of a ranking public official with girls from escort services, a euphemism for prostitution. Rather, the issue in question is whether he paid for the services. It can be further deduced from Sen. Lapid’s line of reasoning that:

1. Patronizing the services of a prostitute is a crime when plain Citizen Jose does it. (It goes without saying that paying for the services does not absolve him of culpability. That is supposed to be the law.)

2. When a legislator commits the same act, it is not a crime as long as he pays for services rendered. (Thus implies Sen. Lapid’s statement.)

I never took Sen. Lito Lapid to task for his lack of academic preparation. In fact, I admire achievers who have defied the odds of their handicap. I never took it against Sen. Lito Lapid for insisting to use Filipino in the Senate where all the templates of procedures and practice are in English. It is Lapid’s right to use his native tongue in the Philippine Senate. At the very least, this puts him in a better stature than counterparts Joseph Estrada and Ramon Revilla Sr. whose struggle with the English language is tragicomic.

But Sen. Lito Lapid’s line about keeping details about the escort girls scandal under wraps reveals something deeply disturbing. It betrays ignorance of the law, the very staple and substance that a legislator is supposed to make. Allowing Lito Lapid some slack for ignorance of the law is like green-lighting the cardiologist to operate on your brain tumor. Allowing Lito Lapid the benefit of your forbearance will be like giving legislators the license to run over people on the streets and get away with murder, as long as he settles with the right amount.

If Sen. Lito Lapid cannot even distinguish the criminal liability for patronizing a prostitute and moreover, if he recognizes a different application of the same law for citizens and legislators, what is he doing being amongst people who are supposed to be in the serious business of lawmaking?

The real Jose Rizal and Ninoy Aquino and the whole lot of other Filipino greats are certainly not characters of the make believe world. We have put the qualifications of showbiz stars running for public office in question because we know that the cinema screen can create superheroes even from real life stooges. We’ve seen proof of this truism in the case of Joseph Estrada playing the lead role as President of the Republic. Luckily, FPJ’s electoral defeat spared us from yet another horror movie blockbuster. Enter Sen. Lito Lapid – do we need further proof that there indeed is a big difference between film fantasia and the real world?

Lito Lapid – always depicted in action flicks as the champion of the oppressed, the principled man-of-the-hour who can tell black from white, good from evil and stand up for the right no matter what – is now the same Lito Lapid as Senator playing out life without a script and a director to follow. Alas, what would be obvious to plain Citizen Jose – that patronizing prostitutes violates the law – doesn’t seem to be so obvious to the Senator.

Plain Citizen Jose will also tell you there are no exceptions to the law and that nobody is above the law, in this particular case, the law that prohibits prostitution and its patronage. Above all, Citizen Jose will tell you that it is a graver offense for a public official like a congressman to be patronizing prostitutes.

It is easy for me to understand how Lito Lapid can come up with such a blooper. In Lito Lapid’s lack of academic preparation coupled with the decadent permissiveness of the showbiz environment we should be able to explain the obvious. But as far as I am concerned, there are greater issues involved here.

Considering the high audience ratings of GMA Network’s 24 Oras and its subsequent late evening newscast Frontpage, how come nobody had even bothered to take Sen. Lapid to task for that sound bite that formed part of the hot news on escort girls? Have we become so inured and so jaded that we no longer have the energy or better sense to react to aberration?

At the very least, I would have expected the political opposition to raise the issue – unless they too are guilty of having patronized “escort girls” themselves. Not surprising really considering that sex scandals and corruption make good bedfellows. I would have expected Church leaders – any church for that matter – to have raised the alarums. Maybe the Church too could not cast the first stone, what with their own share of sex scandals. And what about those civil society leaders who mouth reform and reap dividends from NGO bonds? Maybe they are too engrossed with their activities in their private rooms at such high end joints as Café Malate?

The biggest question that has to be asked is how can a Lito Lapid be foisted upon us as a senator? Did anyone bother to screen him when they drew up the senatorial slate for K-4 during the May 2004 elections? Worse, if they knew his ilk, then how come he was given a slot in the K-4 senatorial lineup? Did anyone among the administration political leaders consider the country when they drafted Lito Lapid into the K-4 lineup? Or is it because “winning is everything” – to hell with the country?

In more mature democracies, Lito Lapid would have been driven out of the Senate. But before such right thinking citizens will do that – they would have first driven out of office the ones responsible for making him a senator.

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