What delicadeza means

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, April 5, 2014

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – Last week, Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon tendered his resignation after he was served with a copy of the complaint by agents of the US Federal Bureau of investigation.

Cannon was barely six months into office when he was accused of accepting more than US $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to invest in Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city.

It is a given that corruption exists anywhere in the world hence it isn't a monopoly of the Philippines. Even the church is not immune to corruption, which takes many forms.


It is becoming a menace in society since it not only affects the poor but also destroys those it’s most ardent practitioners whose reputations and families are destroyed.

And every country in the world has laws that deal with corruption in their own way. But rather than go on about corruption, I'd rather talk about this trait that Filipino politicians are bereft of which the Spanish call “delicadeza” or roughly, decency.

What Cannon did was but expected of public servants in the US who are caught committing corruption. What is delicadeza by the way?

In governance, it means having the grace and courage to resign from public office when there is even a whiff, a sign or an iota of impropriety involved or associated with him or her.

I don't know if Cannon is honorable because he resigned from office after being implicated in corruption charges. But what he did was miles apart from what I've observed in my country of birth.

In the Philippines if a public servant faces a plunder case many things would happen. First this public official would invoke the criminal principal that one is innocent until proven guilty.

By invoking this it would mean the respondent stays in office, hires lawyers and spends money dragging the case in court until kingdom come. Worse, said public official may use public resources and wield political clout to pressure judges to submit a decision clearing him or her of any guilt.

Even the serving of the complaint or the administrative sanction is hard to implement because the lawyers of the accused public official would file a Temporary Restraining Order or qua warranto in court and drag the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The accused public official will even hire or mobilize supporters to stage rallies in streets as a public show of support for his or her administration. Those rallies may even influence the public into re-electing him or her to another term in office which means he or she is cleared of charges due to the Aguinaldo legal doctrine.

The Aguinaldo doctrine for the unfamiliar exonerates a public official from charges filed during his or her first term since re-election meant he was given a vote of confidence by the public.

How many truckloads of cases were filed against the past mayor and his council in Cagayan de Oro? The charges ranged from plunder, anti-graft cases to even technical malversation and administrative cases.

All of these cases were dismissed on technical grounds. Not one case prospered beyond the prosecutor's office. But dismissal doesn't mean the respondent isn't guilty.

The dismissal of charges according to fans of the past mayor and his cabal of councilors is an indication that their beloved idols are innocent. But not one of them resigned even if their names were tainted with doubts.

It's not only the local officials in Cagayan de Oro; the stink goes way up the hierarchy. Look at Janet Lim-Napoles cases and those senators, they remain and thrive in the corridors of power.

I saw the post of Ingrid Chavez-Agudo a few minutes ago in the Facebook page Talk CDO that cases would eventually be filed against three senators including Napoles and lawyer Gigi Flores.

If we go by the honest to God definition of delicadeza, those three senators should have resigned or taken an indefinite leave until their names are cleared.

But what we see now is those public officials who cling to their posts like bloodsucking leeches even if what remained of their reputations have already been flushed down the toilet bowl.

They are what we Filipinos call “kapal mukha” or in Visayan “baga og nawong (thick-faced).” Delicadeza as we learned from the Spaniards is a time-honored tradition, an important lesson parents should pass on to their children.

Having delicadeza means your integrity and honor are intact. You insist on doing the right thing even if other people are doing it. I don’t condone corruption and I believe that public officials should resign if they are charged with corruption.

What I am saying here is “ayaw paugat (don't cling)” and step down. As the Chinese philosopher Confucius said, virtues should originate from inside us. There are still people who have delicadeza, but sadly in Philippine politics, it is a virtue as rare as a blue moon.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 05, 2014.


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