“To have delicadeza is to have the sensitivity to avoid any appearance of impropriety. To have this value is to have the sense that even if you’re really not doing anything wrong, if it appears as such, you should not do it.”
– The Business Mirror Editorial, October 20, 2013
I often wonder whether young people today even know what this means. Judges voluntarily inhibiting themselves from cases where their mere presence could cause injustice because of their relation to either the defendant or accused is delicadeza. So is keeping one’s celebration low-key after a calamity hits your community. When relatives of network employees are kept from joining raffles or contests sponsored by the company, that’s “imposed” delicadeza.
When a Mexican soap about an orphan was airing, many people said she looked like my daughter who was about her age then. My daughter was often told to join a look-alike contest as the resemblance to the little orphan was strong. I explained to her that since her father translated the lyrics of the theme song, his name appears at the end of each episode, thereby disqualifying her from joining. I told her that even if we hadn’t known those behind the contest and she wins, people would ask how she is related to that person whose name appears on the closing billboards.
I happened to visit Roxas City around Christmas season in 1984, just a few weeks after Typhoon Undang crossed the coastline of Roxas city, Sapi-an Bay, Aklan, parts of Iloilo and other areas. Many of the houses had no roofs and people cooked meals outside their homes. None of the children went caroling the way always have in Christmases past. There were no Christmas lights either. Those who could afford to put up Christmas lights did not, out of delicadeza.
It is also out of delicadeza that a judge inhibits himself from hearing a case assigned to him when he feels that it is improper for him to preside because of strong connections with either party. But it is not merely out of delicadeza that those in office should use our taxes properly— bids must be for real, costs must not be “padded” and there should be no collusion between contractors and the officials who hire them to cheat us of our hard-earned money! These acts are not merely “improprieties” but are actually crimes. As such, they are punishable, while lack of delicadeza is not.
I believe that delicadeza has something to do with rules against nepotism, too. After all, what is to prevent close family ties from putting private interests over the welfare of the nameless, faceless public? Perhaps, it should also be out of delicadeza that entire clans desist from running for office, thereby creating a political dynasty.
Let me emphasize though, that delicadeza and “pakitang tao” are not the same. Delicadeza applies whether or not people are looking. One does something out of delicadeza, not to earn “pogi points” but because that is what is right. Some say only those with (proper) breeding understand and have delicadeza. Whether or not people are looking, improper behavior is improper.
I am reminded of an incident back when we used to attend parent-teacher conferences. An emergency meeting was called as many students faced suspension because of having posted disrespectful statements about a teacher. Someone had screen-captured part of the conversation and it spread, prompting the teacher involved to seek action. It later turned out that another parent who did not see eye-to-eye with the teacher instigated that conversation. This parent said that because it was a closed group, the parent who screen-captured the conversation had no business being there in the first place, so the students should not be suspended. We had to point out that indeed, the statements were disrespectful and that whether or not the parent who leaked the conversation had the right to be there was not the issue. Stealing is wrong whether or not you are caught. So being disrespectful, whether or not you are caught is still being disrespectful!
If that overpriced building had been overlooked and no investigation was ever begun, it did not make the act of overpricing it right. So for me, delicadeza is real only if there is also integrity. If those in power had delicadeza, there would be no need for investigations, hearings, the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan—perhaps judges would have less cases to hear!