The Inquirer says. In AIG’s fall, we sinned all



Doctors tell you only half the story of Cancer. That’s the half you know. Economists tell us only half the story of Corruption. Do we know which half?
2 assumptions, 2 sets of data. One, the Philippines is the most corrupt in the world. Two, the Philippine media is the most free in the world. If your mind is statistically inclined, if you go by correlation, you’ll go crazy. Ergo, the Philippines is most corrupt because the Philippine media is most free. Ergo, if you want to control corruption, control the media.
Control yourself!
I don’t believe the Philippine media is most corrupt, and neither do I believe the Philippines is most corrupt. No, I’m not part of the traditional media. Yes, I’m a Filipino and I love my own, my native land.
Mind you, Cancer is not the Big C; Corruption is, and nothing is bigger. Cancer is individual; Corruption is social. While American authors like to write about individual rights, I, Filipino author, like to write about social wrongs. I don’t believe in human rights; I don’t believe in social wrongs either. Human rights is individualistic; social wrongs can never be right.
In the Philippines, if I remember right, from the time of President Elpidio Quirino and up to now, still corruption tops the surveys, corruption tops the news, corruption tops the letters to the editor, corruption tops the columns, corruption tops the TV and radio talk shows, corruption tops the emails. Today, corruption has become an ubiquitous, obtrusive infomercial selling the story of the opposition running for office 2 years from now. Corruption is the breakfast of champion crusaders for consumers’ attention – and the media is very accommodating. It’s disgusting.
Know what? The Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial ‘Cost of corruption’ of 12 February 2008 (opinion.inquirer.net) says, ‘Graft and corruption has been a fact of national life since post-Liberation days. Almost every administration has had its big and sensational graft cases.’ The Inquirer says.
So, according to the Inquirer, no President has been exempt from corruption. Did you know we have had 13 Philippine Presidents since Manuel Luis Quezon (1935)? I believe the Inquirer, so, why complain about corruption now, and in multimedia presentations yet!?
‘Corruption’ covers a multitude of sins, a legion of sinners. It covers a lot of territory, much more than the oracles of corruption have covered. In my country, or elsewhere. So far, corruption has not been covered completely; it has only been covered up.
Lo and behold, I found corruption in an unlikely place where I wasn’t looking. In the Inquirer, of course. The Inquirer says, Filed under Government, Civil unrest.’ That was the line entry above the first paragraph of ‘Vindication for a soldier,’ the article by Ramon J Farolan under his column Reveille (22 December, opinion.inquirer.net). The Inquirer and/or Farolan just gave me a headache: I’m in Manila and with my Perry Mason-CSI-whetted instinct, I have looked and listened hard here and there for the civil unrest and so far I’m clueless. Government? You don’t have to look for it; everybody’s talking about it, except that many people, including many media including the Inquirer, treat Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as The Government, no more, no less.
Looking at the Inquirer webpage again, I find it very revealing. I’m referring to both the article and the 2 tags (Filed under). I find that ‘Government’ is going too wide and ‘Civil unrest’ is going too far. In handling products, that would be ‘mislabeling.’ Now then, that is a double lesson in tagging an Internet article: Over-enthused, you can over-tag.
The Inquirer should file ‘Vindication for a soldier’ under ‘Corruption’ to vindicate itself. Farolan writes about Philippine corruption and its relation to the threat, or treat, of US Government economic assistance. The MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) of the US of A has announced that it will not extend such assistance to the Philippines because she has failed, in the view of MCC, in her ‘control of corruption.’ My country is helpless. If I understand Farolan right and the MCC right, the MCC is not going to help the helpless. The Inquirer says?
On top of all the sad thoughts he has about his own country, Farolan writes that the World Bank has announced that the Philippines ‘ranked worst in corruption among East Asia’s Top 10 economies.’ It’s Farolan’s country, and he’s ashamed of it.
It’s my country too, in case anybody asked, as it has been for the last 68 years; I never left it, and I have never been ashamed of it. Not that I remember, not now, not ever. In fact, I’m proud of it. Why, the venerable World Bank itself has just said that the Philippines ranks quote among East Asia’s Top 10 economies unquote! Glad to hear that, and from the proud World Bank too. I say the level of corruption is a direct indication of a country’s propensity for amassing wealth and, you know, you cannot steal what isn’t there. Yes, I’m sick and tired of hearing that the Philippines is The Sick Man of Asia. And yes, I believe in the World Bank.
I’m Ilocano, but I never lost my faith in the Filipino. Otherwise, I would have gone to Brunei 44 years ago when my older and only brother Emilio wanted me to join him, another agriculturist. He was making good money as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). Don’t they all? I would have been an early model of an intellectual OFW, a William Shakespeare-quoting OFW, a writer making very good money on talent and good intentions, would you believe? In the Philippines, a John F Kennedy-quoting writer makes good copy, yet he makes precious little. I can quote you George Bernard Shaw if you like, and Christina Rossetti, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning – and Romans 12, if you dare. Good quotes don’t earn you income; they only earn you praise.
As an OFW, my brother was then sending us, the honest aggie I believed he was, enough British pounds – it might as well have been gold – to make the neighbors green with envy. If I had gone to Brunei, I would have stayed and never ever had to worry about corruption in the Philippines. Or worry about writing and starving.
I’m not starving now, but I’m worried because, like I told you at the beginning, it’s been all over the media for years but actually we haven’t heard enough of corruption. Or, as far as I know, so far the story is only half-told. And you don’t know which half.
So, I’d like to tell you The Other Half Of The Story of Corruption. Here, in the Philippines. There in the rest of Asia, in Africa, in the Americas, in Australia.
Let it be known that the ADB (Asian Development Bank) is much concerned; this bank launched its ‘Second Governance and Anticorruption Action Plan’ in July 2006 yet (adb.org). Remember, the ADB is based in the Philippines, a country notorious even among Filipinos here and abroad. ‘The Philippines is a basket case,’ you hear earnest Filipinos say that. So, if the ADB people are ashamed of my country, I don’t blame them. If the Filipinos are ashamed of their own country, they are welcome to blame themselves.
Corruption stinks! And the odor is transferable.
So you will have to excuse me if I talk about it as if I could do something about it.
Where is my own, my native land in the list of corrupt countries? According to PERC (Political and Economic Risk Consultancy), according to Steven Rood, this year, ‘for the 2nd consecutive year, the Philippines has the dubious distinction of being the worst rated country’ (22 March 2008, lifepositive.com). We’re #1. Thanks for the information. With PERC, today you don’t have to be good to be rated tops.
Accordingly, the MCC of the US of A has insisted (advised is the word used) that the Philippine Government ‘intensify efforts to fight this evil’ (Jose Katigbak, 15 December 2008, philstar.com). There is only one problem there: The fact is that they claim Government is corrupt, so I say she cannot fight herself.
That’s a fact. Now, let us look at more facts.
In 2006, the TI (Transparency International) came up with a new measure, its international ranking in corruption, and placed the Philippines down at#121 by way of CPI (Corruption Perception Index), where #1 is up, Highly Clean: #1 Finland, #1 New Zealand, #4 Denmark, #5 Singapore, #9 Australia, #11 United Kingdom, #14 Canada, #16 Germany, #17 Japan, #18 France, #20 USA, #23 Spain, #34 Israel, #34 Taiwan, #42 South Korea, #44 Malaysia, #63 Thailand, #70 India, #70 Mexico, #111 Vietnam. Also #121 were Benin, Gambia, Guyana, Honduras, Nepal, Russia, Rwanda, Swaziland. #130 was Indonesia; #160 were Iraq and Myanmar,#163 Haiti (transparency.org). Yes, Russia is in league with the Philippines. Thanks for the info, TI!
And in 2008, TI reports that the Philippines is now #141 by CPI, slipping down 20 pt, bad; Russia is down by 25 pt, badder. Going up is #121 Vietnam, going down is #126 Indonesia. #178 are Iraq and Myanmar, down by 18 points. #180 is Somalia, baddest of all (transparency.org).
As I do the World Bank, it should be apparent that I believe in Transparency International. However, it should be clear that what TI is coming out with is data on perception, based on what people (their respondents) think, not based on records; that is to say, the TI data is not transparency but apparency, if I may coin a word. Thanks but no thanks, TI. The Philippines is much deeper in corruption than the US of A, apparently. Looks deceive.
A self-styled Asia Political Risk correspondent, Andrew Marshall has a very ingenious way of measuring the developing countries’ ‘propensity for corruption’ – just count the number of parking tickets issued to foreign diplomats in Manhattan. And the number shows, according to Marshall, that ‘many Asian nations fare very poorly in upholding the rule of law’ (17 December 2008, abs-cbnnews.com). That’s based on the records but, I don’t see how violating traffic rules is an indication of corruption. If you say they are correlated, again that’s apparency.
And, wait a minute, when we say ‘corruption,’ are we thinking the same thoughts? No, I don’t think so. So, let’s define our terms. Transparency International defines it this way: ‘Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain’ (transparency.org). Thanks, TI; I think it’s a good definition. In fact, I love it!
To test that definition, let’s apply the Case Method of Harvard Business School and analyze what I shall call here ‘Money or File?’
I park in a non-parking zone, and here comes a policeman in proper uniform. He is smiling, polite. ‘Good morning, Sir. Your driver’s license please?’ I am feeling bad, not polite. If I hand over to him my driver’s license, he will file it at the police precinct with his report, and I will have to take it from there. Not bad but inconvenient. I don’t want to bother myself any further, so I simply bribe the policeman; richer and poorer by $10, we call it quits. ‘Good day, Mr Policeman.’ ‘Good day, Sir. Nice talking to you.’
My Question: Who is corrupt: the policeman or I am? My Answer: No, not me. The policeman is corrupt; I am the corrupter. Between the 2 of us lies corruption. I am the more guilty, because I caused the corruption; I am the Tempter, the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. The policeman did not corrupt me – I corrupted him. Eve did not corrupt the Serpent – the Serpent corrupted her. So, if you have 1 million cars in Metro Manila and half of the drivers are like me, that’s a population of 500,000 corrupters. Imagine that!
Inconvenience leads to corruption. And that’s small c, small change. The Big C comes from the small c. So, we have to redefine our terms. Now, in the Philippines maybe we can learn from Manila Times Editorial Consultant Juan T Gatbonton who says (1 December, manilatimes.net):
Political corruption is the saddest example of the well-known ‘tragedy of the commons’ – the despoiling of a collectively owned facility that provides public goods.
Gatbonton’s declaration looks all right and bright to me, but it’s too vague. It doesn’t explain. And I don’t want to limit the discussion to political corruption. It doesn’t expand.
So, from the Philippines I roam the world and in a Google instant I reach India, where Swati Chopra is saying, ‘Let’s explore the solutions’ about corruption (May 2001, lifepositive.com). He also says:
The fact remains that the individual can certainly not shirk responsibility. For the individual is the smallest unit in this complex web of interrelationships we call ‘society.’ If we are all interconnected, how can a minority (or a majority, as the case may be) only be responsible for a phenomenon as widespread as corruption?
Everyone is related to everybody else. So, you cannot tell me you are not involved in corruption. We all are. So, combining American, Indian and Filipino ideas, I believe I can now provide the more intelligent definition and it is this:
Corruption is the act as well as the cause of the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.
Now then, with this new definition of corruption, I gain 3 insights:
(1) It takes 2 to corrupt.
(2) The corrupter is more guilty than the corrupt.
(3)
More often than not, we are the corrupter.
It takes 2 to tango. To paraphrase Jose Rizal, my hero: ‘There are no corrupt where there are no corrupters.’ My name is Corrupter, and my number is Legion.
Big or little, we are all guilty of corruption! So, stop pointing at people, because when you do, 3 fingers are pointing at you.
Embarrassed? Oh, please don’t go. I’m not finished.
Let us go back to Andrew Marshall, the measurer of the developing countries’ propensity for corruption, implying that the developed countries have less corruption or none at all. This is plain and simple elitism. Or nonsense. If the developing countries were the only ones corrupt, then the United Nations is not very smart declaring 9 December as ‘International Anti-Corruption Day,’ is it?
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon should know better. Corruption is all over the globe, the bigger the economy, the bigger the corruption. And yes, the corrupt gets his due; the corrupter gets greedy. ‘AIG got greedy,’ says Shah Gilani (18 September, marketoracle.co.uk). Greed leads to corruption. So now AIG is selling everywhere its insurance businesses in Hongkong, China, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines (Cathy Chan & Co, bloomberg.com). Now we’ve seen that in AIG’s fall, we’ve sinned all.
Corruption example from Europe: Stephen Webb (9 October, abcnews.go.com) reports that some Barclays executives went on a luxurious ‘all-expenses paid’ business trip to Italy the day after the UK Government put up $865 billion to bail out the banking system. Of that, Eliza from London writes, ‘We need to stop their greed before they have squandered all our money on pay, bonus and flights of fancy like this.’
Corruption example from the US of A: I do declare that the amount of bailout is a direct measure of the developed countries’ propensity for corruption. The $700 billion bailout of the banking system indicates the amount involved, in the words of Richard C Cook, of ‘bad loans made previously with credit which the banking system created out of thin air (globalresearch.ca). Cook should know what he’s talking about: he’s been a US Federal Government analyst. I was reading his 19 September essay ‘Impacts of the financial crisis: The US is becoming an impoverished nation’ – I can send you the text I downloaded if you like. The title alone of his forthcoming book, We Hold These Truths: The Hope Of Monetary Reform, reveals his expertise.
Cook explains:
You see, the catastrophe was accomplished with money lent on margin. Only a small fraction of funding by investment banks, mortgage companies, brokerages, equity funds, hedge funds, commodities futures speculators, etc comes from actual investor capital. The rest – up to ninety-seven percent, in the case of commodities futures contracts – is credit self-created by the banks.
Credit self-created by the banks, not based on actual investor capital. This is Corruption; it’s so huge it’s the defining corruption in the world. The Big C.
The financial crisis is all corruption is all bad loans, and I mean it both ways. Applying our definition of corruption, the one extending the loan he created out of thin air is the corrupter and he knows it; the one enticed to obtain that loan is the corrupt, even if he claims he doesn’t know anything at all. I memorized this quote more than 50 years ago, and it’s pertinent today:
Ignorance of the law excuses no one; not that everyone knows the law, but ‘tis an excuse everyone will plead, and no one will know how to confute him.
Question: Now then, which is the most corrupt country in the world?
Answer: From where I got that quote. Certainly not the Philippines, not Finland, not New Zealand, not Denmark, not Singapore, not Australia, not Canada, not Germany, not Japan, not France, not Spain, not Israel, not Taiwan, not South Korea, not Malaysia, not Thailand, not India, not Mexico, not Vietnam, not Honduras, not Nepal, not Russia, not Indonesia, not Iraq, not Myanmar, not Zimbabwe.
You don’t need a survey to find out; just use your head. Or read the papers.
About the smaller c, the case of the Philippines, the Inquirer says, ‘Graft and corruption has been a fact of national life since post-Liberation days.’
You don’t believe the Inquirer.
Actually, what the Inquirer says is only half the story. I have just told you half the story. You don’t know which half?

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