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Leila, Leni and ‘delicadeza’

I think we can all agree that democracy hasn’t died. But what seems to be deader than the victims of extra-judicial killings is delicadeza, or a sense of propriety and ethical behavior among some of our public officials.

I was watching the Senate investigation into the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa when Senator Leila de Lima jumped into the fray and started asking questions directed at the resource persons from the national police. And I asked myself: Why is De Lima even in the Senate at this particular time? 

Shouldn’t De Lima be in church somewhere, on her knees, praying for deliverance from the Duterte administration? Or shouldn’t she be visiting the Supreme Court again, questioning the immunity from suit of President Rodrigo Duterte?

She could have been anywhere except at the Senate. And she was there because she is sorely deficient in delicadeza.

(By the way, delicadeza, while it is routinely taken in this country to mean a sensitivity to what others consider moral and ethical behavior, is simply defined as gentleness, softness and delicateness in the original Spanish. Thus, the Oxford Dictionary defines the Spanish phrase “con mucha delicadeza” as “very gently.”)

I’m not saying that delicadeza, especially the supposed trait that Filipino officials must have, has altogether disappeared. De Lima may not have it (including the original attributes that the Spanish ascribe to the term), but others still do.

To cite just two recent examples, Supreme Court Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes displayed delicadeza when he inhibited himself from the deliberations regarding the directive of Duterte to have the late President Ferdinand Marcos buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. Reyes administered the oath to Duterte upon his election in May and is a fraternity brother and personal friend of the president.

In the Senate itself, Senator JV Ejercito did not ask his colleagues to grant him a reprieve after he was suspended for 90 days by the Sandiganbayan for his involvement in a gun purchase made when he was still mayor of San Juan City. Ejercito simply announced that he would serve out his suspension even if he was still contesting the charges.

De Lima is also engaged full-time in parrying charges made by Duterte and his justice secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre, that she is involved in the illegal drug trade and benefited hugely from the proliferation of drug syndicates in the national penitentiary. But she could not even stay away from an investigation that directly leads to her alleged involvement, according to Espinosa’s sworn statement.

* * *

On the other hand, the original Spanish sense of delicadeza, I think, is what Vice President Leni Robredo is trying so hard to convince everyone that she possesses, when she took offense over the salty jokes directed her way by Duterte earlier this week. Why it took Robredo a full day to realize that she should take umbrage at the president’s sexual innuendoes is something I can’t really understand.

Robredo, bless her gentle and delicate heart, explained that it took her that long to understand the unsavory tone of Duterte’s off-color jokes because she was distressed at the time, since the Supreme Court had just ruled in favor of the Marcos burial. I watched the footage, though, and I thought Robredo was either a) taking the jokes in stride, like a trouper and a member of Duterte’s Cabinet, b) didn’t understand the jokes or c) was just smiling even if she couldn’t hear the president speaking very well.

Yes, Robredo was smiling throughout what she later described as an ordeal for her. She certainly didn’t look like she was grievously hurt or bothered at the time Duterte narrated how he was “stalking” her, describing her legs and knees and asking her if it was true that she already has a boyfriend.

But I think, now that Robredo has declared that she doesn’t relish being the butt of the President’s overtly sexual jokes in public, that she shouldn’t stay one moment longer in his Cabinet. Why give Duterte the opportunity to make her the target of his usual tasteless jokes by remaining in his official family, when she can leave and join those calling him an insensitive, chauvinist pig?

Since Robredo will probably never respond to those questions herself, allow me to offer my own conclusion: Leni, for all her wounded feminine pride, simply cannot risk losing her Cabinet post and becoming politically irrelevant.

These days, especially, Robredo must be feeling a wee bit paranoid about her housing czarina post­—and even about the security of her tenure as vice president. No wonder she was distressed by the Marcos burial ruling; anything that favors someone with that family name must cause her to have anxiety attacks and bring on bouts of smiling incomprehension.

Now Robredo wants to make it known that she’s offended­— but not offended enough that she would leave the Cabinet. Like I said, some people just don’t have delicadeza, no matter how much they pretend to have it, in all senses of that word.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Senator Leila de Lima , Vice President Leni Robredo , delicadeza
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