Political prostitution — two similar professions? Philippine Star

Political prostitution — two similar professions? Featured

SHORTLY after the opening of the 19th Congress, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers filed House Bill 1536, an act seeking to ban political turncoatism. Flamboyantly titled the "Anti-Political Prostitute Act," this bill is a watershed on two counts: an affirmation that political party turncoatism is prevalent and a blight on our political system; and more importantly, the acceptance by a member of legislature himself that political prostitutes proliferate through the hallowed halls of Congress. But don't jump to conclusions yet. Comparing political turncoats to prostitutes may be incorrect. In Philippine politics a turncoat "shifts allegiance from one loyalty or idea to another — betraying or deserting an original cause by switching to the opposing side or party; selfish only unto oneself and family," while a prostitute grants clients direct sexual access to one's body agreeing to engage in sexual conduct for a fee. Both common practices in the Philippine, their nuances may appear clearer when seen through the reality of recent developments and through the lens of each one's respective clients or constituency.

Political turncoats — a new profession

The Philippines adopted partly our American colonial structure of government and therefore the behavioral patterns emanating from it. We elect our political leaders through political parties, the primary vehicles to gain political power by engaging in political contests, primarily elections. The members and their leadership are expected to adhere to a set of principles and strategies written in a platform unique to that party. This espousal of a vision of governance defines the ideological identity of that party — and therefore, the electorate must be permitted a patent choice — as to who must govern them based on what the candidates and their respective parties stand for. Their adherence to their beliefs could be a guarantee on how they will behave in office after we vote them in. This, we call integrity — which political turncoats are bereft of.

A case in point. Within weeks of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s election, 27 district representatives abandoned their political parties to join Lakas-CMD, taking their oath before Speaker Martin Romualdez of the 19th Congress and President BBM's cousin.

This is not new. Many of these officials were once members of the 15th and 16th Congress under the late president Noynoy Aquino (approximately 31 at first, then eventually 75 congressmen) who transferred to President Duterte in the 17th and 18th Congress.

In 2016, candidate Duterte ran under the PDP Laban having one senator and only three congressmen. After he won in 2016, 77 went to PDP-Laban with 47 coming from the Liberal Party and 32 governors (Julio Teehankee, research article).

These turncoats switched parties weeks after an election. In his bill, Barbers seeks to ban these balimbing with appropriate sanctions; disqualification from current office, ban from future elections or from future appointments to government offices. Accordingly, Barbers' bill will "ensure a genuine party system and promote party loyalty, discipline, and adherence to ideological principles."

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the present political setup has become embarrassing for the country because it opened itself to so-called political butterflies who switched loyalties. The good congressman who himself was a member of the LAMMP party (1998-2001), Lakas-CMD (before 2021), Liberal Party (2012-2018) and currently a stalwart of PDP-Laban, is among those who want the 1987 Constitution revised to prevent such anomalies — and good for him too!

Prostitution an old profession

In the olden days, aside from being the oldest profession, prostitution was an honest-to-goodness, even exalted occupation. John Philip Jenkins, a history professor at Baylor University in the US wrote:

"... Perceptions of prostitution are based on culturally determined values that differ between societies. In some societies, prostitutes have been viewed as members of a recognized profession; in others they have been shunned, reviled and punished with stoning, imprisonment and death... In some cultures, prostitution has been required of young girls as a rite of puberty or as a means of acquiring a dowry, and some religions have required prostitution of a certain class of priestesses ... Hebrew law did not forbid prostitution but confined the practice to foreign women."

Antecedents

Prostitutes have their unambiguous utility to society and were thus widely accepted. If one cares to do google search, the history of prostitution dates back to 2400 BCE, first recorded in Sumer where Sumerian priests ran brothels and where the kings "performed religious rituals or sacred marriage." Thus, the antecedents of prostitution are religious where brothels or temples are "houses of heaven" sacred to particular deities. The Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, is replete with stories of prostitution practiced during the era.

In ancient Greece, both women and men engaged in prostitution and in some temples thousands of prostitutes plied their wares. In ancient Rome citizens of stature openly engaged the services of prostitutes where it was legal and where opprobrium and moral censure were unattached to the arrangements. But over time, although the practice has its religious roots, the natural proclivity for carnal pursuit went beyond religious rituals, changing drastically the nature of the procurer, purveyor and the transaction itself. As Imperial Rome grew and conquered the known world, foreign slaves were substituted for purely sexual pleasures and foreign men, women and even children were captured and recruited for prostitution. Although Roman mores did not attach any stigma to the whole process, the onslaught of another religious creed came to erode the practice.

Not until the reign in AD 306 of Constantine, the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity, did prostitution undergo a complete facelift. The Christian moral suasion began to render such practices as unchristian — and thus shameful — though the practice persisted and continues to exist to the present time with ambiguous scruples in different societies. In many European countries prostitution is legal and regulated. In the Netherlands, the De Wallen red light district of Amsterdam is famous for its international sex tourism; and the prostitutes, mostly women have organized strong unions and are considered as professionals. In Switzerland, licensed brothels cater to customers though forcing people into the profession is illegal.

Today depending on where you live, prostitution may be viewed as haram and violence against women as in the countries practicing Islam — though their treatment of women leaves much to be desired; or various shades of morality and legality as practiced in the countries of Christian faith; and even morally neutral and perfectly legal in others. Some supporters of the practice decriminalize prostitution leaning toward the "Nordic model" — a concept that started in Norway, Sweden and the northern countries which has begun to spill over to Canada, Iceland and even France.

The difference

Surely the old profession has societal uses though now buried in a murky veil of morality. But the prostitutes received money for services rendered. This is integrity!

In the Philippines, political turncoats have no such fealty to their party from whom they were elected by their clients. Only to themselves do they owe fealty. No integrity! In this sense, turncoats are not prostitutes. Yet we allow them and shun prostitution. Their behavior is in fact an insult to prostitutes.

 

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