THE LTO TOLD US when we registered our car in February that we should pick up our new plates on May 26. That’s a 45-day wait for replacements we didn’t need and didn’t want. We had to shell out P450 for them anyway, plus another P50, supposedly for the sticker. What sticker? We don’t know, because when we went to the LTO on May 26, the plates weren’t ready.
This, despite the repeated protestations of LTO officials that, except for the 45-day wait for old vehicle owners, THERE IS NO DELAY in the issuance of license plates. Tell that to the Marines. No wait, it’s better in Tagalog. Lokohin mo ang lelang mo.
Our plates end in “2” and according to the LTO functionary, only the “1” plates had been delivered. We should expect ours in July. Maybe. Sort of. They couldn’t say for certain. At any rate, we can’t have them now. Never mind that “May 26” is on our official receipt of registration as the claim date; never mind that this serves as a legitimate notice from a government agency whose public service is purportedly a public trust. It’s their word, and they can break it.
There was a time when one’s word was a badge of honor, and to break it was to dismantle one’s reputation in full view of the world, to one’s eternal shame. Shakespeare wrote,
Mine honor is my life; both grow in one;
Take honor from me, and my life is done.
(King Richard the Second, act I, sc. i, l. 182)
I recall the likes of Jose P. Laurel, who was left behind by President Quezon to face the Japanese invader and “tide the people over to better times,” as he liked to say. Despite the risk to his life and name and the wrongful charge of collaboration, for which he later suffered imprisonment and the anger of a misguided, wrathful public, President Laurel stood his ground and took the flak, because he had given Quezon his palabra de honor to protect the Filipino people.
And there was his son, Jose B. Laurel, Jr., who while a Speaker of the House of Representatives, went on a speaking tour in the United States to sue America for better treatment of her ally the Philippines, for the honor of Inang Bayan. His critical stand against America later cost him his bid for the vice-presidency thanks to the machinations of the Amboys and (it is said) the CIA, yet the Speaker took the blow with dignity, considering honor of more worth than the second highest post in the land.
There was a time when honor meant something to Filipinos, when delicadeza was practiced to preserve the honor even of a foe, and to hit an adversary below the belt was considered a matter of dishonor. Most conflicts were resolved in the arena of the mind with words as weapons, but the rules of engagement were observed and every effort made to uphold all dignity. Even political bouts were more civilized then, with the unspoken code of honor serving as the boundary no one should cross.
Today, honor is but a will o’ the wisp, a dim memory well nigh lost, the faint aroma of a more chivalrous time. Oh, how I wish for a resurgence!
Marcus Aurelius said that a man should be upright, not be kept upright, yet our halls of government are full of individuals who would not stand his imperial scrutiny. We need character from our leaders but to our national shame we elevate to office police characters instead, because in our midst there are those who have blithely surrendered their honor for mammon and favor.
There is a bully in our shores destroying our reefs and robbing our fisherfolk of their livelihood, but do we give them what for? Not loudly enough, I’m afraid. I agree with the diplomatic efforts being undertaken, but surely we can defend our honor with bolder rhetoric than that.
There is a bully within our borders, guilt-tripping us into approving a bill that lacerates our Constitution. Does our President defend the Charter? No, he defends the bill and urges us all to do the same…or else, he says, catastrophe, blood and body bags. This is a shameful manipulation of facts and emotions. This is dishonorable behavior from a Chief Executive who is duty-bound to protect the basic law of the land and ensure the welfare of the whole – and not merely one sector – of the nation.
There is the Vice President, who stands under the pall of a myriad charges of graft and corruption, yet insists on his fitness for Malacañang. Delicadeza is outside his purview; it does not apply, it is irrelevant because it is not needed. He is free of blame, he says with conviction, even though he and his lackeys are the only ones who do say it. Worse, he expresses “disappointment” in his strongest potential rival for signing the Senate resolution against him. There are no boundaries in this honor-less bid for the presidency. It is not yet the campaign period, but already the claws are out and scraping.
I do not believe any one man or woman can save the Philippines from its moral tailspin. It is too big a job for a single person to undertake with success. We have all got to want it; we have all got to make a change. We begin where we live, in the quotidian processes of our lives where honor is required. Where it is due, let us pay it. Then maybe we will see the dawn break once more.
“Our liberty will not be secured at the sword’s point… We must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it. And when the people reaches that height, God will provide a weapon, the idols will be shattered, tyranny will crumble like a house of cards, and liberty will shine out like the first dawn.”
― José Rizal
featured image: “Boy with a Horseshoe,” oil on canvas, 1989, by Roma Valles. Collection of Julius and Christine Babao.