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Atty. Sta. Maria is the resident legal analyst of TV5. He is a professor at the Ateneo School of Law, and dispenses free legal advice on "Relasyon" on Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM, between 12 noon and 2 p.m. daily.
In one family dinner during holy weekend, I told my children that I wanted to discuss "the presidency and marriage" in my next article. There was amusement and disbelief. They suggested I write on something more... substantial. My youngest daughter said nobody will be interested in the topic.
I asked my wife, a lawyer-academic and a human rights advocate, about my debate with my children. She smiled and said: "You cannot win an argument with your children. It’s a discussion between intelligent young people and an old idiot."
This old idiot enjoys talking to his wife and children. They make me laugh even at myself. Our discussions are a blending of jokes, debates, story-telling, reminiscences, and a lot more. Most of all, these family-times give me invaluable insights about my own family, other people, various issues, my responsibilities, my work, my day-to-day-decision making, and indeed life itself.
My wife is my best critic. And despite their knee-jerk (sometimes funny) reactions to some of my "ancient" views, my children teach me about important things. Many times they make me realize that the complex may in reality be very simple, and that problems may not be problems at all. They unfailingly give me ideas and options. They remind me not to take things for granted. In this crazy world, my family maintains my sanity.
But let us go back to our bachelor-President. At the outset, let me say that I do not personally know the President. But surely, being the son of Ninoy and Cory and having four loving sisters, the President has personally witnessed what a great marital relationship and a principled family can be. And considering his previous and present dating-interests, I think having a family is also his dream. From this limited information, I ask the question: Can marriage and having a family make our President better, or at least make him appear to be better?
Historically, a First Lady can do a lot of things positively for the President. Hilaria del Rosario Aguinaldo helped her husband during the revolution by caring for the sick and wounded. Aurora Quezon campaigned vigorously to give Filipino women the right of suffrage. Pacencia Laurel involved herself in socio-civic activities. Esperanza Osmeña inspiringly chose to be in the Philippines during the war to suffer with her countrymen.
Trinidad De Leon Roxas immersed herself in charitable institutions with emphasis on orphans. Luz Banzon Magsaysay worked in many socio-civic projects. Leonila Dimataga Garcia busied herself with cultural activities that promoted the Filipino-First-Policy of her husband. Evangelina Macaraeg Macapagal spearheaded activities showing Philippine culture. Imelda Marcos was the First Lady who immersed herself in almost everything in government, from politics to culture. We positively remember her for the Cultural Center and the Philippine Heart Center. Amelita Ramos started the campaign to clean up the Pasig River. Luisita Pimental-Ejercito became known as the First Lady ng Masa.
Certainly, the works of these first ladies did not just come about instantly. I am sure that husband and wife talked about them during dinners, before going to bed, in their private letters and telephone conversations, or even on occasional meetings during a busy day. The ideas and the inspiration may have even come from the wife and not from the husband who is burdened with so much work.
It is likely that the husband-President on many occasions gained valuable insights from the discussions with his wife. As separate endeavors of husband and wife can reflect on the good side of the other, a noble project undertaken by a wife can redound to the husband's benefit even if only by mere perception. And in the world of politics, perceptions are important. For example, a First Lady's concern for the poor can reflect positively on the President. He will be liked (or disliked) for what his wife is doing. The grassroots-advocacy of a First Lady can enhance the popularity of a President.
And if the First Lady is sincere, intelligent and honest and truly cares for the people, she may be the President's direct link to the people. There are times when official presidential advisers are so intensely immersed in their beliefs that they are unable to give the President other options to serve the public. A wife, on many occasions, can unofficially ventilate those other options without being meddlesome. She may not be heeded but, at least, the opportunity to informally hear a more common-sense approach in resolving problems is available to the President through his wife.
Take for example Republic Act No.10158, the law which decriminalized vagrancy signed by the President on March 27, 2012. It removed a pimp as a vagrant but maintained a prostitute as a criminal. It retained prostitution as applying exclusively to women who must be punished by imprisonment. (See my earlier article, "Condeming Women on Women's Month")
Would the president have resisted signing the bill if he had a gender-sensitive wife who told him that the law was discriminatory against women? I wonder. Or regarding the "Noynoying" tag, what if it were the President's wife who told him that he must not take this label for granted? Would he have reacted differently? I also wonder. Would he have not altered the timing of the "holiday economics" started by GMA and realized that its purpose is not merely economic-based but also family-based so that people can have more bonding time with their immediate families? I wonder again.
Some official presidential advisers do a great disservice to the President by telling him only what he wants to hear. A wife can be candid without fear or favor and just tell the President that his policy is garbage. The President may or may not do something about it, but an opinion coming from a loved-one whom the President knows has the purest intention to see him succeed is definitely worth the consideration. Moreover, the kind of psychological and spiritual boost he can get in feeling the concern of a supportive loved one can be immeasurably energizing, inspiring and uplifting. It can provide him with a lot deeper discernment on so many things.
And so, is President Noynoy Aquino losing out on this "good side" by maintaining his bachelor-status? My humble biased opinion is "Yes". If he will call up RELASYON, the TV/Radio show anchored by Luchi Cruz Valdes and myself, and ask my advice, I will say, "Go ahead Mr. President, choose your partner well, experience the moment of talking to a loved-one before going to bed, bantering with your own children after a hard day's work, and having those family-dinners together discussing just about everything." And based on my personal experience, I will further add, "Mr. President, for your own sanity because it is a crazy world out there, it may only be in a loving family that you may joyfully laugh again even at your own expense, and continue to make a lot of sense in your life."