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What About That Culture of Corruption in the Philippines?

Corruption! Yes. What about this terrifying culture of the Filipinos?

In 2013, I wrote this post “Corruption Kills Filipino People - Let's End Corruption in the Beautiful Country Philippines”. I think it is a good time to remind people about it once again.

If you’re one of the millions of Filipinos who wants good changes for the Philippines, our beloved country, then this post is for you. If you’re foreigner who’s looking to visit (or maybe settle for good) the Philippines one day, this is an interesting piece that will guide you on your stay.

Let me start this with these questions.

Is the growing population of the Filipinos poses serious threats to the quality of life in the Philippines 10 or 20 years from now? Would the present administration’s “War on Drugs” really save millions of lives of the future Filipino generations? Will the militant groups or so-called “leftists” ever side with the government for peace and order sake? Can the traffic problems in EDSA and across Metro Manila and nearby cities still be resolved? Would the "Death Penalty Law" help in eradicating criminality in the Philippines?

A Banner Posted in Front of a Catholic Church Opposing the Death Penalty Law

Questions like these could be your questions too. But sometimes, even the best answers we’re getting from the most reputable government people are way beyond our comprehension. It’s either we’re looking for better answers or we agree with the answer but we just cannot accept it. Fact is, in this country, there are always two sides to every question or statement. The correct answer depends on which political side you’re after.

I bring up those questions for I want to make them as premise to the ideas I am going to share in this another truth-revealing post. With a culture of corruption, it is really a struggle to find answers that could lead Filipino to truth. Why? Because Filipinos will lie out of that self-denial that he or she is corrupt.

What about Filipinos being corrupt? Why are we like this?

This is a basic question everybody should fully understand for that understanding will help explain why many of the Filipinos are what they are today: corrupt, OFWs, poor, drug victims, oppressed.

Allow me to explain. Here’s a look back.

Period of Colonialism
Before the Japanese invasion of the country in the 1940’s, Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards for over 300 years, then by the Americans for about 50 years. Revolution against colonialism and rebellion against tyranny finds its way towards freedom for the Filipinos. But that was part of history, of world wars that brings havoc to many nations in the world. We were freed from loud canyons and gun powders, at least for some decades, but not from the battle of the minds. Another force of evil rattles our peaceful land.

Picture of the Then President Emilio Aguinaldo - President of the Philippines During the American Colonization

Decades of Prosperity and Martial Law
During the time of Ferdinand Marcos, many says Philippines is a progressive nation, at least in an economic perspective. We are the one exporting rice by that time. The pricey Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was built during that period. Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, was considered the most beautiful city in Asia during those years. All of a sudden, “Martial Law” was declared and it brings too much chaos nationwide, something that Filipinos will never forget.

A Picture Portraying the Life During Martial Law Where People are Lining Up for Rice Ration

Then things changed afterwards.

Impact of People Power
EDSA People Power Revolution marked the beginning of a new Filipino society. Freedom of speech, freedom of writing, freedom to rally; these are what characterize democracy in the country during the post-Marcos days. Even freedom to welcome different nationalities to conduct business in the Philippines came to be. Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) was born in 1995. Many Indians, Chinese, Americans, Europeans, Japanese, and South Koreans started to settle in the Philippines for good, with a business as their forefront. Freedom to conduct business was made available to many, including to the non-Filipinos.

In other words, a healthy economy with great cultural diversity made the Philippines progressive. But that didn't last for long.

Corruption Enters the Scene
What could have happened is that many Filipinos got confused that if during the Marcos regime Philippines is this rich, it could be even better when that regime is overthrown. In a more democratic nation, everyone has the freedom to live freely far from abuses and oppression. But the problem is, it didn’t go on well like that.

Philippines suddenly make headlines in international media as “one of world’s most corrupt countries”. In the mid 2000’s, Philippines even became the “most corrupt out of any Asian nation”.

Why Filipinos became corrupt? What went wrong? Let’s digest it.

OFWs - A Response to Unemployment
Hardships in living in the Philippines becomes very obvious when more and more Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) flock across different countries in the Middle East and neighboring South East Asian nations during the mid-1980’s to 1990’s. Because unemployment in the country is getting worse, even worse with the fast-increasing population, the solution is to grant Filipinos the right to work abroad and become contract workers there. Did this trend makes the Filipino lives in the Philippines better? No.

Clearly, unemployment stirs the minds of many Filipinos. The idea to work overseas was just an alternative option with unforeseen consequences.

Burdens of Value Added Tax
Apparently, foreign-blood businessmen thrive in the country during those decades. Philippines in fact was then considered as the “Tiger Cub Economy in Asia” during the term of Fidel V. Ramos. Jobs were created. Foreign investors poured their money on the land. Then something happens. During Ramos’ term, the restructuring of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and imposition of the Expanded VAT laws happened. That was great for the economy but not to the Filipino consumers. Paying taxes after taxes then becomes a burden on their shoulders.

Hefty taxation is something Filipinos can’t fully understand. Business are flourishing yet price of commodities made the Filipinos perish.

Illegal Drugs
In a sense, because of the influx of foreign businesses in the land, Philippines’ economic ranking became better over the past decades. Impressive GDP, plausible stock index; we should be good. But the problem is many businessmen started to commit grave abuse of connection over the economy. Philippines becomes a perfect spot for illegal opportunities. Some businessmen with the backing of politicians in power, because of the freedom they’re enjoying, introduced illegal drugs trading to the whole nation. That is when business and politics blending in a very wrong way put millions of lives at risk.

A Police Post Displaying War on Drugs Report on their Locality

Drugs proliferation in the country is the culprit for mental health abuse and criminality. Drug lords, drug pushers, and drug users flawed the system of society.

Blending of Business and Politics
Business is doing great. Many politicians became richer. Political dynasties were built and became strong foundations of business congregations. Even bigger business opportunities welcome foreigners for investments due to the unbreakable support from many politicians in the country. But the big issue here is that only a few elite benefits from this formula of success.

More political parties were born and a brand-new system of political-business-organization atmosphere in the country erupted. Hearing from news businessmen backing politicians on their campaigns is not anew. It should have been a good partnership (which is a common political strategy in many countries) but the bias is that in return, winning politicians should give those businessmen big favors when they’re already in control. Low-cost to multi-million-peso projects became the milking cows of both sides. Funds supposedly for projects in the communities were disposed to the wrongful organizations.

An Ad Campaign Calling for Responsible Voting in the Philippines

Business conducts favoring the interest of a few is another red flag. Conglomerates, joint ventures, and international trading convinces many to enter the dirty world of bribery and extorsion. This system even worsens the corruption in the country. Philippines turns into a divisive nation.

Another Revolution

People start to get mad, and out of frustrations many decided to rebel in different ways. Even more Filipinos leave the country and became OFWs (counting up to millions today). Some immigrated for good in other countries. Street protests became a weekly routine across Philippine streets. The before fight for democracy of leftists became an outcry of the masses for social justice, wage hike, oil price roll back, regularization on jobs, lowering of income taxes, and impeachment of corrupt and bias government officials.

Photo Courtesy of KMU. Filipinos Exercising their Freedom on Public Demonstration

Shouts for fairness and equality were falling on deaf ears. Even higher-level and hard to decode level of corruption emerges in the Philippines, oppressing majority of the Filipino families.

These factors all has its own impact to the culture of corruption in the Philippines.

The Aftermath of Corruption

The Filipino masses are working hard and paying the hefty taxes while the one-sided politicians and greedy businessmen keeps on juicing the people’s pockets. These decades of corruption culture resulted to what is obvious today: poor families, street children everywhere, illegal drug trades, informal settlers, unemployment, and chaotic communities.

A Devastated Community in Metro Manila

Many could not withstand the pain and sufferings. Many Filipinos decided to take revenge. Distrust in government manifests on the streets and communities. The inconvenient truth – poor people then starts to violate laws. That aftermath of a typhoon when people steals food, water, cash, and anything they could take to their family; that is exactly what’s happening in the country in the past decades until today.

That bully, abusive, inconsiderate attitude of many Filipinos seen on the streets or public places and even in social media we are witnessing today, that’s the by-product of decades of corruption.

Notice and many Filipinos don’t care much about the simple laws of “no littering”, “observe traffic rules”, and “respect the authorities”. That culture of disrespect to men in uniforms, probably Filipinos earned that out of their disappointment to awful government services. That culture of “ fixers”, “kotong cops”, and “suhol or lagay” system, they are the hardest to correct mainly because they are the practices that literally provide food to the table of several Filipino families right now.

Office of the Social Security System - an Agency in Charge of the Filipino's Pension Plan

One Filipino would dare to lose his integrity by doing a corrupt practice in exchange to an amount of money she and her family can enjoy for a short period of time. A corrupted Filipino will instead swallow his remaining integrity rather than continue to witness more unfair practices over and over again.

For many, the solution to corruption is to enter the game itself, in small or big ways.

Yes, young or old, lower or upper class, blue collar workers or top executives, barangay kagawad or a provincial governor; anyone can be a doer of corruption in this beautiful land. It just happened like that! Many Filipinos get corrupt! The extent of corruption even drilled down to various members of the society – church leaders, charity foundations, homeowner’s association, learning institutions, NGOs, etc. No wonder that our jails and correctional facilities today are detaining a wide mix of offenders.

Corruption, look what you’ve done to my beautiful nation!

But then, let’s try to move forward. I believe the best question to raise now is this:

How can we correct now this completely wrong and unacceptable Filipino culture?

Despite the alarming wrong doings, what makes Philippines still a good nation is that we still have those local manners of being hospitable, kind, and happy no matter what. We are not the maddest people on earth just because we have this indecent culture of corruption. Remember that we too are victims of decades-old corruption of a few demonic people. We are not the only corrupt nation. A significant number of us are corrupt but Filipinos as a human race are still the kindest, hardworking, and smart people you can depend on. Trust me on that.

Filipinos Volunteering for a Mural Painting Promoting the Good Culture of the Filipinos

Corruption continues to happen. But fighters also never stop and will never be.


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About the Blogger
Noriel Panganiban is a Filipino observer on the things happening around his country. The goal is to convince people to bring good changes to the Philippines by doing their part. Everybody is encouraged to contribute for the betterment of a nation. The idea behind every Noriel’s post is to induce that mind-awakening substance of honesty, integrity, and patriotism. The intention is not to harm or shame anyone but rather to expose truthfully the wrong doings of a few and how can they be corrected. Noriel is like many Filipinos out there who’s aiming for a first-world country Philippines. He firmly believes his blog can be a key to achieving that.

To get to know more Noriel, you may visit his education website, www.knowriel.com. You can also contact him at norielpanganiban@gmail.com or by leaving a comment below.

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