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Building a Culture of Integrity and Excellence By: Alvin T.


Countless studies dealing on the determination of the root cause of poverty in the Philippines have often pointed to the deeply-rooted corrupt practices as among the main culprits to our present social malaise. Treatises on that matter have even went as far as identifying certain individual motivations underlying acts of corruption such as, but not limited to, underemployment, dearth in information, ignorance, greed, lack of concern, economic necessities, and personal security, to mention a few. Institutional factors spawning such nefarious practices also exist such as inadequate laws and regulatory measures, bureaucratic red tape, lack of serious law enforcement efforts, and

discretionary powers exercised by public authorities.

Some of these studies, however, have pointed to the following adverse effects as of corruption: when the wastage execution of of



infrastructure projects are not in accordance with the approved specifications and do not reach their projected useful lifetimes; low revenue collection, as when bribes are paid in lieu of taxes in revenue collecting agencies; tax evasion and smuggling; increases in the cost of doing business in the country; cronyism which is the highest form of corruption, expressed in cartels and monopolies that reduce industrial competitiveness; and waste in the

development resources which postpones poor Juan Dela Cruzs escape from poverty.






notwithstanding, the man-on-the-street, the common tao, the know-it-all bureaucrats, the holier-than-thou spiritual leaders, the wily and cunning politicians, nay, the political fence-sitters and kibitzers, have invariably yet

oversimplistically attributed the state of corruption in the country to such pervasive archetypal practices as utang na loob and padrino systems, sige lang and bahala na

mentalities, culture of reverence to the powers-that-be, abject poverty and materialism.

Each day, we see vivid images of vices and corruption in the workplaces, in the streets, in the frontpages of the newspapers, in the boob-tubes, and, mind you, even in our own domiciles. Pejorative words such as lagay, kotong, kurakot, dilihensya, patong, intelihensya, padulas, and the not-too-subtle overtures like wala ba tayo dyan?, pansigarilyo mo, akong bahala sa inyo, por da boys have taken on less-than-derogatory connotations and, much to our chagrin, have attained heretofore unimaginable levels of social acceptability and tolerance.

Of late, eager-beaver journalists and celebrated media personalities have been hot on the heels of government officials who have amassed wealth allegedly beyond their means, or of civil service employees who have been going to the malls, restaurants and beer houses using governmentowned vehicles. Spy and hidden cameras have been put to

optimum use and abuse by the dogged paparazzi-like press to the point of invading heedlessly even the privacy of individuals -- a sacred right supposedly guaranteed under the fundamental law of our land -- in the guise of exposing the ills of graft and corruption.

But should we really put to the scourge and publicly embarrass a few suspected grafters just to satisfy our insatiable craving for persecution as well as our penchant for trials by publicity. Arent we in the process swatting a fly and hitting the carabao instead? Do we not realize the irreparable impact such unjust public expositions violative as they are of the constitutional presumption of innocence upon our growing children, and upon our image as a people in the eyes of the world?

If we should move on as a nation amidst a world of ever-increasing challenges, it is but imperative that we now, as a people, refrain from constantly finding our own faults and gawking at our own imperfections, let alone our so-

called culture of corruption, and look beyond and fix our gaze on our inherent opportunities and strength as a nation. For from the shambles of cynicism and distrust, we can rise up like the mythical Phoenix and build anew a national character that is productive, constructive, unifying and strong, one that holds on to its virtues than to its vices, and clings to the vine of moral and spiritual values than to its overarching material and pragmatic concerns.

When we are to veer away from the nauseating portraits of graft and corruption, it does not and should not be taken to mean that we shall altogether desert and forsake our struggle or lower our guard on our fight to eradicate such a societal malady. Far from it. On the contrary, we should be more vigilant and proactive in our national crusade to combat corruption at all levels, but this time, the thrust shall be geared more towards prevention than punishment, or discouragement rather than

condonation by inaction.

In fact, we should not at all remain as passive smokers unknowingly inhaling secondary smoke, that is, witnesses of corrupt practices who merely opt to shrug their shoulders, gag their own mouths or blindfold their eyes, in the face of daylight robberies and unjust enrichments being

perpetrated under their very nostrils. There is perhaps nothing more degrading and humiliating for a morally upright person than for him to turn a deaf ear or to look the opposite way when acts of corruption are being committed by any of his superior, peers or underlings with his full knowledge and in his presence. The seeds of corruption, it must be stressed, do germinate not only from the lush soil of overt acts but also from the fertile grounds of apathy and lack of personal concern. Indeed, to paraphrase an old axiom, for corruption to flourish, it is enough that righteous men do or say nothing.

Indeed, the favorite breeding grounds of corruption are not those places where there are men in complete cahoots with each other, all or a great number of whom are willing to

get their respective shares of the bounty. Quite the reverse, it is those places where one could pull off a heist and nobody would get hold of the whistle and dare to blow the same where corruption grows in great abundance.

Corruption, in truth and in fact, is not about something confined to palpable acts of of plunder, wealth, unlawful and




malversation, misappropriation, fund misuse, fraud, stealing, cheating, bribery, extortion or similar reprehensible

practices. It is something more than the physical wrongful disposition or treatment of public money; it is more of a state of the mind that cuts across the grains of our cultural psyche.

A person not predisposed to committing corruption may be deemed to have committed it by indirect participation when, by his silence or manifest inaction, he allows another to perform and consummate any of its essential elements. Or an employee who was not a party to any corrupt practices

may still be considered as morally responsible for such if he is eventually benefited by any of its poisonous fruits -- no matter how minuscule they may be -- or if he derisively looks at an official caught with his loot in flagrante delicto and merely blurts out nonchalantly: Gago, di kasi nag-ingat!

For us to be able to build a culture of integrity and excellence, we, Filipinos, must collectively work for it, and with great effort and a more positive outlook. We must, for once, try to look beyond our political biases and prejudices and have full faith in the capacity of our leaders to lead all of us to the shortest and swiftest way to progress. Past experiences have taught us that too much distrust and indifference upon our duly constituted authorities have almost always pulled the scales of our national progress down.

It is thus suggested that, for now, we should desist from unnecessarily busying our minds with the thoughts of the unexplained wealth stashed away by certain military officials

or that almost P400 billion pesos or nearly half of the government budget is lost through corruption yearly, or that the public sector employees provident fund is being gravely mismanaged and the money thereof being squandered by its top officials. We can do better than fretting about things which we could not do anything about, or simply put, crying over spilled milk.

Pretend to forget at this juncture about customs or internal revenue officials pocketing large shares of duties or taxes, or about some public works officials and engineers compromising the structural integrity of newly constructed roads which, after a few years and after spending hundreds of millions of pesos for it, a great portion thereof would be damaged because contractors did not follow the technical specifications for the project and instead paid a share of the budget to said officials.

For the moment, why dont we just refrain from talking about the wire-tapped tapes, the botched impeachment try,

the jueteng pay-offs, and the rest of the sensationalized media stories which have catered to nothing but the downside of the social and political spectrums. Would it be asking too much if, in the meantime, we put behind us the fact that our country has earned the dubious distinction of being the number eleven most corrupt country in the world?

Just think about the brilliance and excellence of the Filipinos. Owing to our skills and education, coupled with our ingenuity, industry and honesty, the Filipinos have been the preferred workers or employees by most nations of the world. In the United States, Europe and the Middle East, for instance, millions of Filipinos have been deployed to various industries and a great number of them have been entrusted with top-level and managerial positions. Noticeably, Filipinos have not only blazed a trail of economic success abroad but have also revolutionized the various Filipino communities into formidable blocs in the economic, social, cultural, and political mainstreams of the countries in which they work.


Character-wise, the Filipinos have time and again proven themselves to be a cut above the rest. We have myriad accounts and voluminous documents of honesty at work wherever Filipinos may be situated. Who has not heard or come across the story of Filipino nurse Melitza Anne Chan, 27 years of age, who reported a bank error in her account. The Saudi Hollande Bank in Jeddah had mistakenly credited some 10 million Saudi riyals ($2.6 million) in her account in February and detected the error only after Chan informed them about it. The glare of gold obviously did not blur her vision and eat up her moral fiber as to make her run away with the money that she knew was not hers in the first place.

And what about the honest Filipino taxi driver in New York City by the name of Nestor Sulpico who returned to its rightful owners black pearls worth about $70,000. Sulpico was earning only $80 a day for a 12-hour shift, and could have, if he were tempted to be dishonest, profited much and extracted himself out of the marginal existence that he was


leading in that American city. He chose the morally right option.

Think about our world boxing champions like Manny Pacquiao who have successfully invaded the international square jungle; Efren Bata Reyes and other great cue artists who have lorded it over their foreign rivals and have earned a veritable niche for their country in the world billiards scene; and Precious Lara Quigaman, the youthful Filipina lass who recently bagged the Miss International crown in Tokyo, Japan, along with other Pinay beauties who have been crowned in other international beauty tilts before her.

Let us not dare forget the selfless efforts and sacrifices of our soldiers who willingly and voluntarily served as part of the peace-keeping force contingents in war-devastated Iraq and East Timor; the hundreds of thousands of overseas contract workers who have reluctantly left behind their families to eke out a living on foreign shores and thus


contribute immensely to our economy; the rural doctors who opted to forego money-spinning practice in the urban areas in favor of attending to the medical needs of the

marginalized sectors in our remote barangays; the pitifully small number of lawyers who chose to stay on and serve the Office of the Ombudsman despite the meager pay and great risk to their lives attendant to their graft-busting functions.

Against the grim backdrops being painted by the prophets of doom, the Filipinos are not a hopeless lot. They have great innate potentials and resiliency to bounce back and emerge from the rut they now find themselves in. Save for a few scoundrels and rotten eggs here and there, the great majority of the Filipinos have yet to compromise their culture of integrity, honesty, adherence to truth, and honor and excellence. Passive as they are, they are a force to reckon with if only they are properly motivated and made to realize their vast untapped collective potentials as human resources who are capable of altering the present state of


affairs and set into motion the needed improvements thereon.

In todays ever-changing global economic environment, matters of public trust occupy the highest level of priority. Integrity and excellence are the underpinnings for building and maintaining public trust which are indispensable to both nation-building and interrelations with other states. The Filipinos have constantly shown to the world that they have what it takes to be globally competitive as well as the positive values which have earned them the trust and confidence of the community of nations.

But to fortify further those intrinsic pillars of strength of the Filipino race would by no means be an easy, trouble-free task. Much is to be expected from the each and every stakeholder in ensuring that extra efforts are exerted and the full cooperation and involvement of all concerned are enlisted to achieve the desired results.


Rome, as they say, was not built in a day, and so is building a culture not a simple puzzle that could be pieced together and solved overnight. The good thing though is that we are not taking off from scratch, considering that the Filipinos have throughout their history as a people have laid the strong foundation of integrity and honesty upon which the moral and political structures of the nation firmly rest. Besides, we have -- despite recurring fiscal constraints -afforded our citizens ample academic opportunities and quality education at par with our more economically well-off neighbors.

The trust and confidence reposed upon the overseas Filipino workers by foreign employers are reflective of the kind and quality of work they have been rendering and the kind of work attitude they have been demonstrating to both their employers and co-workers. They are, at best, living testimonials of the good moral values they have imbibed from way back home and their seemingly unending quest for


excellence and self-improvement wherever in the four corners of the globe they may be found.

Ninoy Aquino was perfectly right when during his last days on earth he said: The Filipino is worth dying for. Indeed, the Filipino, for all his frailties and weaknesses, is worth laying ones life for. He is a person built and moulded on a culture of honesty, truthfulness, honor, integrity, and hammered out of a tradition of eminence and the exacting standards of excellence and brilliance. He is the epitome of an upright and no-nonsense individual who would stop at nothing to perfect his craft and at the same time earn the trust of his fellowmen. Given the proper atmosphere and ample motivation, he could be made to bring out the best in him and outshine even his own self in the midst of adversities and harsh conditions. He is culture personified and his integrity and excellence, once properly built within his system, will be beyond reproach.