This piece was first published on on June 17, 2011.


SAN FRANCISCO–For American politicians, perhaps just as bad as being caught in bribery schemes is being caught with your pants down. Ask Bill Clinton. Or Governors McGreevey, Spitzer, Schwarzenegger and Sanford. Or Senators Vitter, Craig, Ensign and Edwards. Or Rep. Foley. Time and again, politicians from both parties have been humiliated by the public exposure of their sexual shenanigans, straight or gay. But now, thanks to dizzying technological advances in mass communication, sex-based political embarrassments instantly become unprecedented viral spectacles for the snickering multitudes.

Take the married Republican Rep. Christopher Lee, now an ex-congressman. He had to resign only days after being exposed soliciting sex from a female acquaintance by uploading a photo of his gym-toned shirtless bod on Craigslist. And now, married Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner just became an ex-public official. He was caught sending pictures of his erect penis (“This thing is ready to go”), as well as sexplicit email messages, texts and tweets to female admirers. Although the Republican Speaker of the House is having a Boehner over Weiner’s disgrace, what we have here is clearly a bipartisan cry for help.

As expected, the U.S. commentariat is abuzz with pop-psychological analyses on why grown congressmen would act like youngsters in pubescent heat on the Internet. Some say the behavior comes from the “insecurity” of men of a certain age who fear they’re no longer being noticed by the opposite–or same–sex. I think it’s more a case of extreme narcissism blinding powerful men to the likely consequences of risky, egotistical behavior.

Anyone familiar with American popular culture knows that young people have been sexting, posting and exchanging X-rated messages and images of themselves for a while now. But for many older folks in committed relationships, who are just discovering the pleasures of illicit online congress, the activity raises a new question: Does extramarital virtual sex–like tweeting on your spouse or significant other–amount to cheating? Meta-infidelity is the newest conundrum to rattle the American psyche, which is constantly nagged by the contending voices of Puritanical moralism and sexual permissiveness.

Here’s the thing though: As a foreign-born observer of life in these United States, I used to think that sexually daring behavior on the Internet was a distinctly American pastime. Surely, I thought, Filipinos wouldn’t be so bold as to email or upload images of their genitalia unless they had to do it for a living. That’ll be the day when a Pinoy politico is laid low by meta-infidelity: Many of our male politicians prefer to fully commit the real thing. No pretend or meta sex for our philanderers. Indeed, their very real mistresses are usually very open secrets. We’re very French that way.

Besides, I thought, Filipinos of all classes were too protective of their sexual privacy to freely exchange lascivious e-mash notes. After all, when I left the Philippines many decades ago, you had to go to a dark movie theater loge to kiss your girlfriend “lips to lips.” Here, people neck openly in bars and parties, then say “Bye, nice to meet you. What’s your name again?” So imagine my surprise when I was recently proved wrong about Filipinos and online sexcapades.

My contacts in Anonymous, the international hacker underground, sent me copies of salacious exchanges involving some of the Philippines’ prominent personages and officials. I was so shocked by the brazen, non-gender exclusive online hanky-panky I nearly peed my pants.

Here’s the transcript of a risque Skype exchange between a Filipino bishop from Butuan, who goes by the alias “BishopBoy,” and Pope Benedict XVI.

POPE:  Are you going to dispense with the condoms, my child?

BBOY: That’s really the best way to go, Your Holiness. We just have to push really hard. There’s just so much friction around it.

POPE: Condoms are not acceptable. Except for male prostitutes.

BBOY: Wisely put, Your Holiness. By the way, more and more of our sheep are using natural rhythm.

POPE: Uh, what do you mean sheep?

BBOY: Members of our flock, Dear Holy Father.

POPE. Oh, okay. Whew.

And these are men of the cloth! They’re not talking about punishing President Noynoy for supporting birth control, but about “rhythm” and such. Like if the car’s a-rockin’ don’t come a-knockin’–know what I mean? What we’ve got here is a failure to excommunicate. Instead of discussing the implications of the Reproductive Health bill, and defending the Church against charges of taking something that belongs to Caesar, they’re talking about pushing really hard, sheep and members. That’s just disgusting.

And you’ll be shocked to learn that our President Noynoy himself is always using the Internet to reach out and touch someone (wink, wink). Here he is texting, titillating a female reporter about a fivesome—not just a threesome but a fivesome(!)–that he enjoys:

REPORTER: u got shooting buddies n other friends all around u.

PNOY: like unsec Puno, LT chief Torres, xsec Ochoa, finance czar Purisima n sweepstakes chr Margarita Juico?

REPORTER: uh huh some ménage u got there. Um, I guess b-n friends w/ u has its benefits.

PNOY: C’mon, all friendships r beneficial in 1 way or nother. Hope u r my friend 2.

There you are, “friends with benefits”–from the horse’s mouth. Aren’t you shocked, shocked that your president has friends with benefits? I thought that kind of kinky arrangement only happens in America, where some people even swap wives and swing.

And wouldn’t you know it, Vice President Jojo Binay and the widow Imelda Marcos are also going at it with intimate messaging. Here’s a private exchange:

IMELDA: Jojo, your proposal falls short.

BINAY: But it’s firm and it will stand if you want it. Just say you want it. This thing is ready to go.

IMELDA: I want it. But the kids, you know, they think I’m too soft and giving at my age.

BINAY: Say yes, and I’m ready to bury it good and deep. In Ilocos Norte.

IMELDA: Umm, will it be satisfying?

BINAY: C’mon, my package is big–trumpets blaring, cannons firing, and fireworks going off all at once. Full honors. You’ll feel the earth move under your feet when it happens.

IMELDA: Your package is impressive. I’ll think about it.

Holy mausoleum! Vice President Binay and Imelda? Instead of making a final decision on whether Ferdinand Marcos will be buried in our cemetery for national heroes, Binay is scorching the Internet with the widow, talking about his package.

So there you have it. What a Pollyanna I have been all along. Filipino public figures are not immune to the lure of sexting and online dalliances after all. And if our leading citizens are vulnerable, I bet ordinary citizens are too; dirty-minded ordinary Filipinos like you–and me.