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Ethics-gazing on Ayala Avenue


“Are we seeing the demise of ethics and values?”

This was the gloomy question posed by the Management Association of the Philippines in its recent forum.

Why the brooding on Ayala Avenue? This must still be a bad hangover from the last years of GMA, when we saw the blurring of the divide between what’s right and wrong. There used to be a line but, somehow, GMA and her cohorts kept moving it until, like mist, it faded from view.

One vivid example is the Office of the Ombudsman. The country’s top anti-corruption office did not have a clear idea of what corruption, the enemy, is. Instead, it entered into an anomalous deal with a general who, by all accounts, violated our laws and enriched himself.

The other examples range from pabaon in the armed forces to ethical breaches and breakdown of values in the highest court of the land (including plagiarism, meeting with litigants to discuss pending cases, and breaking their own rules) to packing government institutions with people who have a feeble sense of the public good.

On a steaming hot day, the MAP assembled a panel of experts from various disciplines to address this malaise. Talk such as this is partly encouraged by the call

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for honesty of the new administration. Mercifully, the tone of the forum, held in the Ayala Triangle, was not all negative.

My sense is: like many others, these corporate citizens want to reclaim the line and lay it out clearly and boldly. The challenge, they say, is for us to “live virtuously” in this century buffeted by a crisis of ethics, not only in our country, but in other places as well. The global financial crisis, after all, was caused by depravity.

SC Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro

SC Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro (Photo by MAP)

This kind of discussion always takes place but it has its surges. Wall Street is an easy and prime target.

Recently, in the aftermath of the earthquake that jolted Japan, reports about collusion among regulators, politicians and the Fukushima nuclear plant officials surfaced, showing that safety became a victim. The “culture of complicity,” it is said, is the culprit.

But, in other countries, ethical violations and breaking of the law are taken very seriously. These have led to resignation of high public officials and even suicides. In these cultures, they recognize that wrong behavior has consequences and they pay for it.

In our country, that is not the case. The task is thus huge. But, as the MAP forum shows, we all know what’s in our to-do list. It begins in the most basic of units, the family.

Clinical psychologist Honey Carandang, one of the panelists, put it well: “Parenting is nation building.” The values that parents embed in their children translate into responsible citizenship and good leadership.

Honey Carandang

Clinical Psychologist Honey Carandang

She reminds us that children learn values subliminally, in an “unconscious and effortless way,” as if they were breathing air. The stories parents tell around the dinner table, for example, are “powerful in invading the subconscious.” So if we talk approvingly of a cousin, who works in government, and made his wealth chopping off 30 percent from government public works contracts, and we aspire to have a brand-new SUV like his, the child gets the message.

Carandang, who was sued for libel for speaking her mind on the offensive TV blockbuster, “Willing Willie,” equally stressed the importance of telling the truth. While it’s supposed to be the norm, today, “truth telling has become hazardous to our lives,” she said. “Lying, manipulation of truth has become normal.”

Justice Teresita de Castro, the working chair of the Supreme Court ethics committee (Chief Justice Renato Corona heads it), first took the audience into a theoretical plane and landed on the ground with a lament on the societal problem of tolerating corruption. She was emphatic in saying that government alone is not responsible for fighting corruption: “Breaking the chain of corruption is our concern, not just one government agency.”

Management Association of the Philippines ForumThe two other panelists—Rex Rex Drilon, a retired CEO, and Roque Carballo, who heads the Institute for Values and Professional Development, an NGO that conducts ethics training in companies—shared their experiences in the private sector and remained hopeful that positive values will trump the negatives.

A number of companies, for example, have joined the Integrity Initiative, a campaign to reduce corruption by conducting business ethically. How? By refusing to pay bribes and not doing business with the corrupt, among others. Led by the Makati Business Club and the European Chamber of Commerce, this looks like a promising endeavor.

Integrity, after all, is the big catchword. As Carandang said, integrity is something “solid and cannot be swayed.” It is not just honesty but a “wholeness” that will remain with a person inside out. – Newsbreak


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  1. One of my favorite authors, F. Sionil Jose put it more positively when he said that the country has lost its “ethical moorings”. I say, we have don’t have it in the first place. We cannot lost something we don’t have.

    But yes, we have to build moral values within the family and let this “ethics” inheres in every family. And despite the unpalatable appendage the Supreme Court had associated my name with, I am happy to say that I have raised three hard working children with proper values and they are working with private employers and not with the government where bootlicking and “padrinos” are two major components for one to get ahead in the pack.

  2. i mean “lose” something we don’t have.

  3. Johnny Lin says:

    Ethical problems of government employees, military, jurists and politicians are beyond rhetorics presented in the forum. Lying is so pervasive among us becoming part of our inate culture. Hearing interviews of certain people obviously lying defending themselves make listeners cringe though seemingly normal to the speakers. The culprits, Filipino cultures of tolerance, “padrino system”, camaraderie, kinship and debt of gratitude. When people are absolved during the first offense by obvious lies, next time becomes norm to them. When superiors commit the sin of corruption, petty or large, it becomes easy for the lowly employees emulate them. Those caught in the acts are easily exonerated thru the cultures enumerated above. How about building a culture of NO SECOND CHANCE from initial offense? It gives a good lesson not only to the guilty employee but also to others. More so, if the guilty party has connections. Drastic but always fruitful! People learn from mistakes the hard way, inculcate deep into their soul, become better workers when they find new working place. People rarely squander a providential second chance in another working place. This is wishful thinking yet hoping it would happen in our lifetime. It works in Singapore! We also could say Cong Eric Singson was a good example when he expressed his remorse statement upon learning his fate in China.

  4. Johnny Lin says:

    Government jobs are also decent, it’s the system that stinks, “whom you know” and employees corrupt ways that demean the positions. An acquaintance of mine probed PNoy administration. He does not need a job, retired early from his personal business, willing to receive one peso a year of salary, so he applied out of curiosity to PNoy office directly on one of the supposed thousands of government positions vacated when Arroyo left. My friend was hoping at least a formal letter of rejection or receipt to his written application. He never received any nor did he follow up on his application, in fairness. Private enterprises are better on this aspect. Applicants are treated fair and equal. To my friend, it speaks highly on the quality of people hired, mostly classmates and acquaintances, by PNoy. When simple procedures are neglected, what would be expected of them tackling complex problems?

  5. johnny, done jetsetting? i am glad you are back! :)

  6. Johnny Lin says:

    Thanks, nice to be back in homeland, no better place on earth. BTW, just read PDI opinion of former CJ A. Panganiban about Sandigan ruling on PBA of Garcia. Should be a primer not only to law students but also to every layman to better understand what’s the meaning of State as the Plaintiff or Offended Party in plea bargain of plunder cases. Very clear and concise.

  7. justice teresita de castro talking about ethics? that’s a scream. she belongs to the arroyo bloc that has subverted, perverted and inverted the justice system to favor their evil benefactor. her voting record is 100% pro-GMA. another scream is CJ Corona heading the court’s ethics body. he is gloria’s midnite appointee and will be seen forever as an illegal chief justice, one who has a shoddy record as well on the ethics front. (his wife was gma’s dummy in the milking-cow camp john hay development agency, a very clear breach of the law.) Q: why are victoria’s court & the supreme court alike? A: because you get screwed in both.

  8. Harry S. Truman after his term of office as U.S. President lived a frugal and simple life in Independence, Missouri. He said that when he was a boy he only dreamed of being a piano player in a whore house and not a President in the White House only to find out that thre is difference between the two.

  9. i mean – “there is no difference between the two”.


    Mar, just read your feedback now. your last line is a punch! hahaha!

  11. I agree, Mar. De Castro and the rest of the GMA puppet at the Supreme Court do not have the moral authority to speak on ethics because they have none. Unless and until they cut the strings that ties them to GMA, then moral recovery at the SC begins.

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