Ramos clean-up hits sex snag

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The Independent Online
A CAMPAIGN by President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines to examine the probity of government officials' lifestyles may backfire because of newspaper allegations that he is an adulterer.

Asians are not normally as puritanical as the British about the sexual indiscretions of their public figures. But the story of Mr Ramos' mistress has come back to haunt him just as the illegitimate child of Tim Yeo has compromised John Major's high-minded call for a return to traditional family values.

Mr Ramos called for the 'lifestyle probe' because of a perception that the bureaucracy is corrupt and not serving the public as it should.

But on Saturday a senator, Francisco Tatad, said the inquiry should include gamblers and 'those who are illegally keeping paramours, mistresses and extra households'. He did not mention names, but it was a clear swipe at Mr Ramos, whose alleged extramarital affairs were revealed by a newspaper in October. Not only did the Philippine Daily Inquirer claim that Rose Marie Jimenez-Arenas was the President's mistress but also said she attempted to influence presidential decisions to favour her business interests.

Mr Tatad belongs to the austere Catholic Opus Dei group and in the past has caused some discomfort in parliament with a proposal that any MP found to be keeping a mistress be disqualified from his seat. Not a few MPs felt threatened and, not surprisingly, it was never adopted. But Mr Tatad felt he was on strong ground with his 'support' for Mr Ramos and the lifestyle inquiries. 'We must examine at depth how immoral personal relationships and addiction or exposure to vice have fostered influence-peddling and corruption in government and affected public confidence as well as the morale and output of the bureaucracy,' he said.

Neither Mr Ramos nor Ms Arenas have denied she has been his mistress but Mr Ramos strenuously rejected the claim that he has allowed his presidential judgement to be impaired by any pillow talk. 'In the sex-appeal department Mr Ramos has finally hit the ground running,' said the Inquirer. But no proof of influence-peddling has been forthcoming.

Just as well. Last month, in response to a crime wave, the Philippines brought back the death penalty, abolished after the fall of Ferdinand Marcos. Crimes punishable by death include misappropriation of public funds. Mr Ramos said he would have 'no objection if any public official, so convicted' were executed.