Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Last year, Philippine President Arroyo lamented that our nation was the second most corrupt in Asia. This year the Philippines took top honors away from Malaysia. We are now “officially” the most corrupt nation in Asia.

The obvious question is: Why do we even list the most corrupt nation? Such a list does nothing to solve the corruption problem and may even make things worse. I also challenge the method used to determine which nation is most corrupt. Basing such an important and far reaching derogatory label on a statistically small handful of questionnaires seems irresponsible and potentially bias. In addition, to acknowledge this dubious title gives it credence and not only hurts us economically but wounds our pride and self confidence. It gives ammunition to our competitors and critics.

Is there graft and corruption in the Philippines? Of course there is; graft and corruption exist in every nation. Graft and corruption is a human condition not a Pinoy condition. America went through a comparable period of rampant graft and corruption. The American public was so disillusioned with our nation’s massive corruption that when a handful of police officers refused to take a bribe, they became national heroes. We even made a movie and a TV series about the “Untouchables” courageous fight against crime. America resolved almost all of its massive corruption problems and so will the Philippines.

TWO MYTHS: The first myth seems to be that Filipinos have a special affinity for graft and corruption. One of my Filipino friends once joked about how America taught the Philippines about graft and corruption. Sadly that may be closer to truth than just a joke. I have repeatedly listed real life examples which revealed the true nature of the Pinoy culture and it’s penchant for honesty. A perfect example can be found along almost any country road. As you travel through the countryside you will see bags of rice and other valuable items just laying beside the road. In a land where the police are hard pressed to prevent horrendous major crimes you might think random petty crime would be impossible to stop. Yet the theft of these valuable items is a rare occurrence. Even local petty thieves have a sense of honor and usually only steal from “outsiders”.

The second myth is that the graft and corruption is so institutionalized it can not be eliminated. Corruption erodes self respect and destroys natural values. Even people who are basically honest are sometimes forced by the system to be part of the problem.

I read a local columnist who told of his own personal graft and corruption test. He had worked hard to get a high paying job in the government only to find out he was expected to accept his cut of department bribes. If he did not take the bribe others could not trust him. Rather than sell his integrity, he quit and started a new career.
He sacrificed personally rather than be part of the scum that is destroying his country. He is a Philippine “Untouchable” and my Everyday Hero.

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