THE BIBLICAL BOOK OF PROVERBS says there are only two paths before us: the way of the wise and the way of the fool. The way of the wise takes the enlightened path of God, while the way of the fool slogs through the murk of prideful choices. There is no middle ground.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction,” Pr. 1:7 tells us. A fool’s idiocy is gauged by his hubris. Simply put, the more arrogantly self-reliant a person is, the farther from God and therefore the more of a fool he is. Also called scoffers, scorners, and mockers, some fools are more foolish than others.
The eight Hebrew words for “fool” in the Proverbs feature the various degrees of folly. They describe “the naive and untutored, the innately stupid, the obstinate person, the persistent fool, the crude individual, the brutal and depraved person, the irrational madman, and the foolish talker who inordinately values his own opinions.”*
It’s quite clear that in this proverbial context, we’ve got fools all around us.
They have especially populated government.
There are the “naive and untutored” who have been appointed to executive posts merely to pay off political debts. Rodrigo Duterte has admitted it.
Perhaps the most insolent example of his largesse was the appointment of Mocha Uson first as MTRCB board member, then as PCOO assistant secretary. The public hailed both moves as unwise. Duterte dismissed this, saying, “Utang na loob ko yan sa kaniya because they offered their services for free.” She has since paid this forward by prolifically authoring fake news and errors on her “blog,” which she insists does not render her officially culpable because it is “personal.” She is both obstinately and persistently foolish.
Last July, singer-actress Michelle Ortega was appointed assistant secretary of the DOT while former Quezon City Councilor and singer-composer Anthony Castelo was named member of the board of directors of the Bataan Shipyard and Engineering Co. Inc. Previously, Duterte designated singer Aiza Seguerra as National Youth Commission chair, actor Cesar Montano as COO of the Tourism Promotions Board, and TV personality Arnell Ignacio as Asst. Vice President for Community Relations and Services, among others. None of these celebrities had extensive prior experience for the high posts they were given.
Duterte owned up to being indebted to the Marcoses as well. He made partial payment on November 18, 2016 when he allowed the kleptocrat dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite strident public resistance. Marcos shall desecrate that hallowed ground until his ultimate exhumation (hopefully soon). Meanwhile, students and boy scouts were taken to his tomb last National Heroes Day in a brazen effort to school them in his “heroism.” Scandalously foolish.
There also seem to be quiet attempts to help the Marcoses out of their plunder cases. Former PCGG Commissioner Ruben Carranza has exposed how Solicitor General Jose Calida made strategic shifts in the New York suit for the return of Imelda’s priceless art collection. Carranza says the change is preparatory to withdrawing the case entirely, following similar moves in other Marcos lawsuits. Calida is a Marcos loyalist who, before his appointment, served as the head of the Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong. He is also responsible for the recent acquittal of pork scam queen Janet Lim Napoles.
Duterte’s repayment will not be complete, though, until he successfully maneuvers Bongbong’s installation as vice president. The current impeachment plots against COMELEC Chair Andy Bautista and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno may be acts in this complex drama. Last October in Beijing, Duterte said, “Kung manalo siya sa protest niya baka bago ang ating bise presidente.” This was an egregiously foolhardy statement, even for him. But Duterte will do as he pleases, regardless of the counsel of the wise. He is innately foolish.
Duterte knows that whatever he says and does can be “creatively imagined” (i.e., “syntactically retooled”) to pass muster. That’s the ceaseless task of presidential spokesman Ernie Abella, whose mellow baritone makes even the most asinine statements sound profound. In this he is assisted by PCOO Sec. Martin Andanar, who helps most by keeping quiet and out of sight.
However, Andanar appeared on CNN after the hash tag #FireMocha trended on social media recently. Prodded by Pinky Webb for a reaction to Uson’s notorious tweet, Andanar replied, “…it shouldn’t be ‘fire Mocha,’ it should be ‘Mocha on fire.’…you know, Mocha enjoys the trust and confidence of the President. And the fact that she is always…most of the time, with him in activities, malaki ang tiwala ni Presidente sa kanya.“ Which is Andanar’s complete justification for not handling the issue and leaving Uson alone.
There are countless other instances of official foolishness, not the least of which are the continuing corruption at the Bureau of Customs and the clumsy cover-up job being attempted by Tito Sotto and Dick Gordon at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. (Hardly anyone believes you anymore, senators. Sadly, you expose yourselves as “talkers who inordinately value your own opinions,” whose pomp and bluster contribute nothing. You are betraying the public trust by protecting the Dutertes instead of the truth. Man up and allow Sonny Trillanes his day with Pulong and Mans. It is the wisest option to take. )
But the most heinously foolish policy adopted by this administration is its hallmark murderous war on drugs. It is the brainchild of a “crude individual,” a “brutal and depraved person,” an “irrational madman,” whose vaunted national narco-purging is looking increasingly like the elimination of rivals. Bato dela Rosa and Vitaliano Aguirre merely parrot his arguments; who can hope for justice there? They are as innately foolish as he is. But will an appeal to wisdom prevail? Duterte has not listened to reason thus far, and he is not likely to. This is to be expected. “A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind (18:2).”
Duterte has taken this country down a foolish path that will only end in grief. Is there a way out? Yes. Pray. Repent. Humbly appeal for divine intervention and the courage to resist this folly. Then speak against it, push it back, stand up to it. If the God-fearing are “the wise,” then their politics must depend on their relationship with God and obedience to His word. Our allegiance must be to righteousness, no matter how quixotic that may sound. For the sages say, “Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, Even strife and dishonor will cease” (Pr. 22:10).
If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
– Proverbs 22:10-12
* James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), 81.