“How Good People Turn Evil” – Corruption in the Philippines

Last week’s expose by Lt. Col. George Rabusa ripped open a Pandora’s box of corruption that implicated three former military chiefs-of-staff. He is expected to reveal more including implicating former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The reason Rabuza can expose it is because he was part of it. Many more people allowed this corruption to happen in plain sight and continue to help spread it by staying quiet. By choosing to expose this endemic corruption, Rabuza performed a redemptive act, but how can he have been part of this system for so long? How can good people turn evil?

I attempt some answers. On Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, multinational company MSD asked me to keynote their national conference – a group of about 500 people, 400 of them in sales. They asked me to address ongoing corruption between medical representatives and doctors – as insidious a problem as corruption in media. The fact that MSD made it a principle to fight it and are telling their med reps to veer away from it was something I wanted to be part of. This was the speech I gave.

The Courage to Do What’s Right

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you tonight. When Marco called me, I was with my family – my parents from Florida, my sister from LA, another sister who moved to Manila from NY. We were just getting off a plane – the first real break we’d had together in six years. Because of the timing of the request, I would’ve said no to anything else but it’s very hard to say no to this topic – how to be successful AND be true to your values and ethics. Thank you to each of you – and to the management of MSD – for caring about it … and for asking me to put my thoughts together for you tonight.

I KNOW you can do both, but it’s not easy to be both successful and ethical in our country today. Corruption is endemic. It infiltrates so many aspects of our lives. Influence-peddling is the name of the game. Conflicts of interest are all over the place. I found many Filipino organizations have a difficult time even defining what conflict of interest means. It’s too easy to rationalize particularly when it means more money or influence.

Sometimes doing the wrong thing seems to be the only way to get ahead. I’ve heard so many Filipinos say that – particularly the street-savvy operators who are trying to get you to do the wrong thing!

You have to find the courage to say no. You have to do what’s right – not just for your company, but for yourself. You have to find and set this line – a line you promise yourself you will never cross – because crossing that line means you’re turning from good to evil. It’s that simple. And you must make it that simple.

Why? This insight came from a dinner I had Tuesday night with an accomplished, incredible group of five women, fellow awardees for the TOWNS – Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service. All 5 are doctors – two medical doctors, three PhDs. Everyone at the table was a teacher, and everyone had chosen to leave a western nation – from the US, London, Australia – in order to come back – to come home to the Philippines.

This group tries to get together at least once a year to support each other in our work, and to give each other feedback from our different fields. Our topic Tuesday was corruption and how we choose to fight it in our society. One woman said she was tired and needed to pull back. Another talked about how people who try to do the right thing seem to have to work so hard and get paid so little. Still a third said she was surprised at how good people can turn so evil – how people she knew from college are now so corrupt, and yet they don’t seem to understand nor feel that they are doing anything wrong!

That was the insight: corrupt people don’t think they’re corrupt. Just like evil people don’t think they’re evil. Because getting there starts with one small step across a line.

Once you take that first step and cross over, the succeeding steps become easier, and before you know it, you’re not just corrupt but are now corrupting others. This, for me, is like a reverse tipping point. You know the book by Malcolm Gladwell? The subtitle to the Tipping Point is How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The idea is that it’s the little steps that begin the change that simmers beneath the surface until the system hits critical mass, the boiling point.

When did we become endemically corrupt as a nation? The point when enough people took enough small steps to make it that way.

We have to change it. How do we do that? By understanding how we got there. It starts with each person making a choice. Draw the line in the sand. Do not cross it.

The most dangerous decision is that first one – when you move from being perfectly clean and idealistic … to being tempted … to wanting it… and then accepting it. Don’t do it. Once you do, it’s a slippery slope. Define that line and DO NOT CROSS it. If you’ve already done it, pay special attention to the four step program at the end, ok?

As a journalist, media corruption is a fact of life. Politicians, company officers and government officials have said they’re flabbergasted by the number of journalists on their payrolls. I ask, “why don’t you stop paying and expose them?” They say they can’t because they’re afraid if they don’t pay, they would be attacked. It’s so prevalent the radio guys coined a term for it – “AC-DC” – Attack-Collect-Defend-Collect.

Of course, paying also works in favor of the newsmakers: if they pay, they control what’s written or said about them. They know when it will come out, and what type of exposure and PR they can get. That certainty, for them, is worth paying journalists. So the cycle feeds itself.

Young journalists say no because they’re idealistic, but after a while, they start to see the way things really work. They begin to get disillusioned. The lines begin to blur together, particularly since so many of their elders are doing it.

Then the real test comes – the offer that’s hard to refuse. Everyone gets that. If you pass that test, chances are you’ll stay clean your whole professional career. It’s a tipping point in a positive way. You’ve already said no to the hardest offer to decline – the one you wanted the most – so everything is easy. But the tipping point works the other way if you accept.

It starts with envelopes of money in press conferences. When I was with Probe, I thought, let’s make it easier for the newsmakers and publicly state our position against what we called envelopmental journalism. So we did.

Strangely, other journalists – our colleagues – were critical of us for raining on their parade. During that time, it seemed to me that the clean journalists were the ones who were ostracized and cowed into silence. They didn’t trumpet their beliefs because they were afraid others would say they’re “nagmamalinis” – even if that really was what we should be doing. Our cultural values somehow doesn’t extend to making others ashamed to be corrupt. A friend explained it to me this way: “I have no right to take that money away from his kids.”

There are some simple truths. The more you say no, the easier it becomes. The more you do the right thing, the harder it is to do the wrong thing. It’s a tipping point approach to building your identity.

My line in the sand was defined long ago. The tipping point happened in the mid-90’s – when the fiancée of one of my closest friends offered me $150,000 to do a story for CNN. It wouldn’t be traceable, he told me, and it would be deposited directly into my bank account. He gave the offer over lunch, and although I wanted to say no immediately, he held my hand and said, please take at least a night to sleep on it and think about it. I did.

I was shocked. I didn’t even tell my friend. That night, I thought about it. But then reality stepped in. My sense of self is tied to being a professional journalist, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I accepted the bribe.

I had drawn the line clearly, and I knew that accepting that money would make me a fundamentally different person. On this side of the line, I’m good. On the other side, I’m evil. It’s that simple.

How do I define evil? I like the definition from a book I’d encourage everyone to read: THE LUCIFER EFFECT: HOW GOOD PEOPLE TURN EVIL by Philip Zimbardo. He did the famous Stanford Prison Experiment – when he took a group of ordinary students and put them in a mock prison, randomly assigning some as guards, others as prisoners. In less than a week, he had to stop the study when the ‘guards’ became increasingly sadistic and the ‘prisoners’ pathological. He analyzes these findings in the context of what American soldiers did in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons.

It shows how situations – culture if you will – can make good people do bad things because they conform, comply, obey or are seduced by the circumstances. They join the group. They justify. They rationalize.

These findings helped explain many things about Philippine society to me – endemic corruption and election violence, particularly heinous crimes like the Maguindanao massacre.

Zimbardo gives evil a psychologically based definition: “Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others – or using one’s authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf.”

The second part is as important as the first part because it means that you can’t turn away and pretend you don’t see evil done when you have the ability to stop it. It’s a culture we need to create.

How do you do that? Let me jump a little here because it reminds me of the Princeton Honor Code, which each Princetonian writes on every single term paper, every single exam: one single sentence that says you have not cheated and – this is important – you promise to turn in anyone who does.

Teachers leave the students alone in a room, hand out test papers, and put them on their honor. It’s brilliant in part because it uses peer pressure. Even if you tried to cheat, can you be sure everyone in the room will cheat with you by not turning you in? Even worse, are you willing to compromise not just your honor but everyone else’s? You’re part of a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, and you can’t let the institution, your friends, and your family down. It was always with a sense of pride and great honor that I signed that pledge.

In my six years as head of news, I tried to bring that culture in – to use peer pressure to redefine up rather than down – to live according to our ideals. So we wrote a Standards & Ethics Manual.

We took a zero tolerance approach to corruption. No matter who you are, if you accept a bribe, you will lose your job. Instead of accepting offers, our people started reporting them. We proved peer pressure can also work in a good way!

I discovered a lot more than I bargained for. One employee reported an offer for about P12 million for a series of stories on one issue. It uncovered a systematic attempt to influence policy through news reports. Once you become aware, you can pick these stories in our major papers.

Elections were another matter. In Nov 2009 – months before the May 2010 elections, several people at our desk reported political candidates who offered sizeable monthly atm deposits in exchange for stories. We met with the candidates who made those offers and told them that if they didn’t stop, we would do stories about their bribery attempts. We would start a series called corruption watch. I told them they didn’t need to pay for stories.

Several of the candidates candidly said you know if we didn’t do this, other journalists would be upset and write against us. “We’re only protecting ourselves,” they said. One talked about having to run a covert media campaign and asked for help finding someone who could run black ops. We gave them a grace period to stop and said we would run stories exposing these practices.

So let’s go back to Zimbardo’s definition of evil. He summarized all of this in one sentence: he said evil is “knowing better but doing worse.”

Knowing better but doing worse.

What does that mean for you? I’m told most of you are med reps – what MSD calls Professional Healthcare Representatives. Two questions for you to think about. What is your relationship to the doctors you deal with? What role do you play in giving quality healthcare to Filipinos?

At dinner Tuesday, the two TOWNS doctors were very vocal about this controversial relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession. They talked about how doctors accept free trips, junkets, expensive gifts and favors.

They said doctors rationalize: “Everyone is doing it.” “I’d be stupid if I didn’t take it.” “The budget is there anyway.” I like this one -“I don’t have to do what they want anyway.” I’ve heard the same excuses from journalists who accept bribes – and encourage others to do the same. It’s like a virus that spreads.

Corruption cuts across our industries. This is a challenge for all of us. You know your reality better than I do. You have your business targets. So the question only you can answer is – what are you willing to do to get what you want? Where do you draw the line you will never cross? Where on this side you’re good, on the other, you’re evil?

How do you define your own individual battle for integrity?

The tipping point starts with each of us as people. Then it goes to your company. Merck’s values include these statements: “We are committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. We are responsible to our customers, to Merck employees and their families, to the environments we inhabit, and to the societies we serve worldwide. In discharging our responsibilities, we do not take professional or ethical shortcuts. Our interactions with all segments of society must be transparent and reflect the high standards we profess.”

Fantastic. A question for all of you: does MSD live up to its stated values? If you do, how do you fight against those who take shortcuts, who are unethical, who do evil?

Let me end with four ideas that have helped me find the courage to do what’s right:

1. Be excellent at what you do. Work hard. Everything begins there.

2. Be self-aware. Ask yourself the tough questions and give honest answers. Be aware of how your actions affect others.

3. Take responsibility for what you say and what you do. Will you act this way if everyone can see what you’re doing? Statements like “only following orders” or “everyone else was doing it” abdicates responsibility. Remember, how you behave is completely under your control.

4. Find your allies. Once you find the courage to say no and take responsibility for your actions, you reverse the tipping point for evil and begin to tilt the balance the other way. Fight the group that will drag you down. Find the group that will raise you up. You’ll need help.

I wish you stamina and much courage for the battles ahead. If each of you decides to draw the line, you make a choice for good. It will make a difference for you, your family and your company. But it goes further – and gets much bigger – than that. When you put all our efforts together, we can push the tipping point for our nation.

Thank you.

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156 Responses to “How Good People Turn Evil” – Corruption in the Philippines

  1. Junn Duque says:

    As we reach the tipping point where we must bravely say – enough is enough. We must have the courage to do what is right.

  2. michael dave campoamor says:

    i would gladly share this to my classmates. Lalo na dahil kami ay nasa field ng accounting. Nakakatakot isipin ang hinaharap sa larangang ito, it bothers me how my teachers have left the field because of the coruption they have had endured watching and doing. I hope i could draw that line as clear as you’ve drawn yours. And i also hope to help my classmates draw theirs.

    Thank you.

  3. 13065 says:

    Hi Maria, you may want to check this out Doing the Right Thing — pfmbreakpoint youtube (can't copy paste link so please just google). By the way, i hope you received my email on the questions. Hoping you will not be too busy to reply. Thanks.

  4. 13065 says:

    Hi Maria, can you give me an email address that you can check (old school)? i'd like to send you an email concerning my questions on your article. I can't seem to copy paste (from Word) it here. It's rather long and it's too laborious for me to rewrite it, sorry. Same guy 13065

  5. 13065 says:

    I can't seem to copy paste my extended questions. Anyway i'll try to look for an email to send it. I hope there's an email address here somewhere. πŸ™

  6. 13065 says:

    Hi Maria,

    Love your article and in fact i've used it to speak to a group of college students at a debut party (of all occasions!). And i'm also using it for my saturday morning coffee group. Let me just say that if most Pinoys would simply take to heart what you are saying in this article then the country will experience salvation!

    However, i felt something lacking in what you wrote. Now i know that you did not write this as an academic or philosophical piece. But then there will be people who will ask these questions especially in these modern or postmodern time we're living in. I'd like to submit to you my questions (playing the devil's advocate). And if you do have time to waste please give me your thoughts. I'll submit it after this post.

  7. Paul Morfe says:

    Hi Ma’am Ressa,

    Ang hirap ikwento ng kwento mo.. How did u explain a very complicated matter on such a nice, comprehensible way.. Galing…How did u do that.. To explain it so simply and yet so deep into our conscience.. You explained it so well just like how Malcolm Gladwell wrote his Tipping point. More power to you Ma’am.

  8. jean manuel says:

    i have always liked you in a strange way, you seem so right yet so wrong .

    right in the sense that your real, your unbelievably believable and that you always make me pause when i finish reading your article leaving a smile on my face and a dry tear on my cheek.. wrong because your you, how i wish you were a politician, how i would wish you were the author of harry potter or the head of the UN meaning it would mean a lot to the Filipino people if you were known and heard by every man in this desperate nation .. where were you all this time?? why do people do not know you??? i know this thing are signs of my frustration and non of these are your fault, its just that our country needs people like you, we need people to believe in, people that does not demand leadership status, but supports the leader in each one of us..we are but weak, i remember reading machiavelli he said that the weak would naturally follow the strong, you are weak and strong,you are you..

    i wish you could read this, and i hope everybody could read your speech, as a country i think the first thing we need is not Foreign Direct Investments,nor Nuclear Weapons, stronger International and Regional ties, or another Pacquiao, what we need first is a moral compass, a compass that does not belong to any leader or figure but the compass within us, to do the right thing and to be the right man ..we need to realize that that compass has been within us all of our lives.

    i know you are like many of us..that you are frustrated at things in our country too, but you also have faith and hope left in you, i know sometimes late at night you wonder if you make a difference in this world, if you had change a single life in this world, ill tell you a story, i had a girlfriend back in college in baguio, she was a masscom student you remind me so much of her, she was very idealistic and true to her profession as she was a working student for a television show, she did all the right things and stayed true, she had a moral compass of steel, i on the other hand was a political science student, i was trained in the fields of power struggles and horse tradings, sometimes over cups of coffee i would explain to her about the mechanisms of politics and we would argue i accusing her of being unrealistic and she accusing me of being political..looking back now i know she was right, and to tell you the truth i think you would be happy to hear that she still has that compass and she taught me to use mine, all because of you, i remember we were watching a documentary on television by you and that was the time i really like you for being so right yet so wrong, you did not only change my view of the window, you also kept her idea firm, you were and still is her hero .. for that i thank you we had become better persons..

    the article was really elegant and personal, i felt the connection, only thing i regret is that you missed the portion where your suppose to mention how evil people can still turn to good, how to re cross that line and that it was never too late to do so..

    i know this is becoming like a personal letter , its actually a first for me , its just that i really admire you as a person to think that i dont even know you that well..you really connected with me and i hope you continue connecting to others..this speech will now become a school reference for my students, ill help you spread the word..

    keep em coming Ms. Maria, we have a nation to change!!
    Godbless you and the people that support you

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Wow. Thank you so much for letting me know what you think and feel. I'm writing on deadline through the night, but I'll take some time and respond as soon as I'm done with this chapter. Thank you again for taking the time to read and write!

  9. sofia says:

    I may have come across this article just recently, but still, the message of Maria Ressa is timeless. Corruption had become widespread in the Philippines because the culture of indifference already permeates the moral fibers of the Filipinos. Maria Ressa's article is a good reminder that playing blind and deaf to the evils that we see in the society and tolerating it and accepting it as a part of life is also evil. As aptly stated by one writer, corruption thrives because good man does nothing and tolerate it before their very eyes. Kudos Maria Ressa

  10. Ferdinand says:

    thank you so much for the best article I've ever read. Brilliant, excellent I can say. Though I just want to add that the courage to do what is right must begin from the highest leader of our land. He's good and no doubt about it. But his goodness is not enough to build a disabled nation. He can't do it alone. He must need advisers, great advisers, advisers with great sense of urgency in their hearts, to uplift the very difficult conditions of many. working altogether, they can do a better change in our nation. Still hoping for the best., again, thank you.

  11. jun says:

    kailangan mabasa ito ng mga anak ko, more power to u maria

  12. emPong says:

    Corruption among people gets its roots from the society, the environment, the moral stability and the opportunities surrounding it. We are tolerant of corruption and we even admire people by the fact that they have vast amount of worldly riches regardless of the source. Yes, we tend to admire them a lot. We tend to go with the flow and the society does not get irritated to that disease.

  13. Tess says:

    Dear Maria,
    Well said… I believe that it starts also within the family exerting peer pressure. My hope is that goodness to be contagious, to work hard, to believe in oneself, take responsibility for our action and take pride and honor in the truth that we do these things… we need these to be contagious… let this virus spread !

  14. adhielyn says:


  15. Placido Penitente says:

    Maria Ressa…. you're an enlightened one. I already like you then but with this stuff you've shared, l like you all the more. Count me as one of your supporters on this fight against corruption in our systems. May the Lord put you under his care and protection all the time.

  16. pinoyleonardo says:

    Very inspiring. Interesting fact about the "Princetonian code"- why can't there be an AFP code? Or maybe we can have some Filipino code?

  17. purple says:

    i just wish the new generation has the opportunity to read and reflect this article.
    Despite the catastrophe we are experiencing even in the smallest government agency, there would always
    a chance to change if will start it in ourselves

  18. zhorai says:

    corruption in the military is one thing. what about the "SOP" that local government officials make with every government project or new businesses in their cities/municipalities? same with the "SOP" that government agencies charge at every project bid. everybody knows about it. almost everyone has experienced it. yet nobody talks about it.

  19. shalemar says:

    I admire how you actually took this opportunity to educate these med reps. I'm not gonna wash my hands and declare myself clean (for selfish reasons I've bribed a traffic cop more than once – not proud of it, but I did it anyway). I remember a conversation with family about the factors that make a person commit a crime – motive, opportunity, lack of integrity and capacity. The absence of one of these factors will actually prevent it.
    I suppose it's safe to say that i guess these factors are ALWAYS present in most situations.

    I've heard that everyone has a price.

    I think you're doing great about disciplining media. One thing hard in the government is that many good people try to clean the system but they either die or they don't win elections and create enemies.

    Good luck!

  20. roger says:

    salamat po ng marami sa mga taong tapat sa tungkulin at taos pusong nanunungkulan sa magandang pamamaraan tungo sa ikagaganda ng ating bayan at sa mga taong matapang at mayibay ang panininidigan ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,ganon po din kay col.rabusa na nagtapat tungkol sa corrupt na yan mabuhay po kayo sana nmn po ay d na maulit ang ganyang sistema ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  21. mfp says:

    Ma'am,i'am from MSD Philippines.It's an honor for us to hear your speech during our national conferrence.We would like to thank you for spending your time & sharing your article to us.More power.God Bless to you & your family.

  22. Lorenzo says:

    We had a company policy regarding gifts received from customers, contrators, vendors, etc., during Christmas time. The value of the gift should not exceed $10. Anything over $10 should be refused, and the violator reported up the chain of command.

  23. art says:

    Thank you so much for sharing such a very enlightening article!

  24. J_ag says:

    “evil sometimes seems good
 to a man whose mind
 a god leads to destruction.” anonymous

    Purportedly the last words of General Reyes on the issues hounding him. The mans was obviously conflicted by his own internal contradictions. He talked the talk but failed in walking the walk.

    "Honor, truth, but there must be justice. And justice can be served if laws are applied evenly and well – not favoring the rich and powerful. I hope my case/situation will not be used as something that would bring closure to the issue of military corruption. The fight to reform the system and the entire country must continue; the sad part is that they are selectively targeting individuals and institutions."

    "I did not invent corruption. I walked into it. Perhaps my first fault was in having accepted aspects of it as a fact of life."

    "While I am familiar with finance, I must admit I had scant knowledge of military comptrollership. Personally, zero experience. Never been assigned as disbursement officer, etc., no stint. It’s a military field of specialization that I do not have."

    "No system is perfect. The AFP system needs a lot of systemic solutions…And the same might be true of some other institutions."

    "Tinyente pa ako, ganyan na ang sistema (i.e., “conversion” system, etc.)… I can perhaps be faulted for presuming regularity in a grossly imperfect system. As CS (chief of staff), a big landscape, presume regularity, convenient to ignore it, accept it as part of the system. It’s easy to say, institute reforms after the problems have erupted."

    "I joined EDSA II at great risk. Jumped into a void. Coming from a place that was high and comfortable. Without any regard for compensation or recognition or reward. I thought what I did – being loyal to the Flag and putting the national interest above all else – a right, but I was faulted for not being loyal to the commander-in-chief, that I should have stuck with him to the end, however that end might be. I stuck it out with the GMA administration for 9 years, not under the banner of loyalty; I could have deserted GMA, but I did not want to be branded as someone who abandoned his superiors…”

    "When we participated in many military campaigns, I would like to think that I showed courage…”

  25. Elpidio says:

    This is such a inspiring piece, Maria!

  26. iamLiNDA says:

    One who's on a situation like bribery needs strength coming from God to give him/her courage to say 'NO', bec it's not easy but one has always a choice.

    Good read! Thank you for sharing..

  27. Terry says:

    Very impressive article…Kudos!

  28. Mitch Mamites says:

    True: Some people receive less and had to work hard to prove their worth in an honest way. It's easy to give in to 'turning evil' when you are able to say "Just this one time"- eventually, there is always next time.

  29. Jason Tan says:

    Excellent speech.
    Your message reminds me of a few lines from My Creed, by Edgar A. Guest

    "To be the same when I'm alone
    As when my every deed is known;
    To live undaunted, unafraid
    Of any step that I have made;
    To be without pretense or sham
    Exactly what men think I am."

  30. Imelda Ablir says:

    Well said Ms.Maria Ressa !

  31. jose ramon albert says:

    great article! unfortunately, we keep making excuses about our ways of doing things, and when someone gets into the news, we gang up … legislators pontificate in their inquisitions on corruption, but who investigates them? indeed, corruption pervades every segment of society, and we have become too permissive and justify that 'everyone is doing it anyways' … we need to change… enough is enough is enough

  32. Maria Elena says:

    The issue is INTEGRITY: the alignment between values and action. We as a people seem to merely pay lip service to our values. Is it because we are hungry? Those below the poverty level are hungry for food; those who are above it, for moral aspirations. We don't dare dream as a people.

  33. dondie says:

    nice one… May i repost it?

  34. roy says:

    Don't be too greedy! Just a little but not too much. Where you draw the line? Everybody are doing it why not?
    Is it guarranted we will not be caught? You think too much. Don't worry this will pass.
    Yes, this are the things that always play in your mind. Very tempting when money is concern.

  35. Julia Carreon-Lagoc says:

    Excellently written, Maria Ressa. Saludo ako! It should be given widest publicity. Yielding my space in The News Today and in Panay News for this very inspiring, uplifting, thought-provoking speech.

  36. J_ag says:

    Permit me to clarify your analogy of your model between evil and corruption.

    The story of evil as depicted by your example is one of men being given absolute power over others. There have been many observers who are still today perplexed by how a civilized educated society like Germany and some others could revert to such evil by perpetuating an institutionalized genocide against the Jews. The Nazis pushed a narrative that then became an institutionalized policy for extermination. It happened again during the Balkan conflict recently. Maguindanao massacre recently is another case.

    However the roots of the problem came about when an economic crisis came that was so severe that it allowed a dedicated fringe group then to rise to power by blaming a certain marginalized sector of society for their problems and used brutal methods to silence their opposition at a time when the state was failing due to a massive failure of economic governance.

    Economic philosophers Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes called it by different names. “Invisible Hand” “Animal Spirits.” But this refers to man’s drive to accumulate material possessions.

    Most people are clueless that organized communities got together for the purpose of economic governance. Hence the primary function of tribal councils and then government’s was one of economic governance. The foundational role of political power is economic governance. If government itself is clueless about its primary function and the gatekeepers for economic governance are not economically sustained the government will fail since it loses sight of its primary function, which is regulating and managing animal spirits.

    When this degredation of state power happens economic based constituencies will compete to replace and capture state power. This will begin the process of decay of civilized societies.

    How could men in authority plan and murder over 50 innocent men and women in Maguindanao in a cold-blooded manner? A familial tribe was given absolute power (political and economic) over a section of the country. They could deliver command votes in exchange for autonomous absolute power.

    They became demi-Gods unaccountable to no one. The result: a complete lack of empathy most especially to their political competitors. They evolved into pure evil on a moral level. Now on a legal and practical level the State will have to seek redress on behalf of the victims. The proximate cause however was a political and economic system that gave rise to perverse incentives.

    A large number of those killed in Maguindanao were journalists. The sorry state of journalistic integrity in the Philippines is also due to the system of perverse incentives. They are also infected with the virus of institutionalized corruption.

    The words of the witness, Heidi Mendoza are testament to sorry state of affairs when she cried out that she did not get support from the specially design institutions to prosecute corruption and from the very special office for economic governance over state funds for whom she worked for. Who do I run to?

    The only smart thing that Ronald Reagan had to say about government was “Trust but Verify” The representatives of government are running amuck. Ignorance and stupidity reign in this country. We have a broken state. How does one reform a broken state?

    You recommended a political correct word for political organizing to push a tipping point. How many people are aware or even have a little understanding of the roots of the deep problems affecting this country?

  37. vincentfrancisco says:

    a very great article! thank you for inspiring us. more power! God bless…

  38. jocelyn s. baclit says:

    This the best article i ever read because it was so bravely written. It showed the real scenario in politics or in any organization where corruption is so "cheap" and how weak people were when power and money is already in their hands. They tend to loose their conscience.

  39. Jeanina Casusi says:

    I definitely agree. I think it’s very important also for the youth today to know the value of integrity. Because in my opinion, being a corrupt official or professional may be a result of being a dishonest student in one’s academic years. As a youth and as a student, I always see rampant cheating and dishonesty in academic institutions. They cheat on examinations, course exercises and papers. It’s so frustrating to know that even in prestigious colleges in the Philippines, these things happen. Schools should really put effort on teaching their students how to become excellent in an honorable way. Family is also a great influence one’s value of integrity. These social institutions would really help mold one’s personality… Just want to share some thoughts. Thank you Ms. Ressa for a very inspiring blog. I’ll share these to my peers. πŸ™‚

  40. _houzat says:

    Good is being perceived as being liked, having a lot of friends or helping others etc etc. and being good doesn't necessarily mean doing right… We dont like offending others and this can mean suppression of truth and whats right just because we want to be liked.

    The basic desire of a Pinoy is this – "I will do good to my family." But this could be the very root of corruption. Trying to provide enough for our loved ones from a third world country with very limited resources would be almost impossible and is only enjoyed by a few

    So, Pinoy will try to look at resources where she/he can get more to give his family. If you have one of your hands sa kaban ng bayan- its easier to just dip it there and somehow you also sympathize and understand others who get their own share sa kaban ng bayan.. kanya kanyang diskarte na.. Kaya pati position ng Barangay Captain papatay ang isang kandidato dahil dito.

    Another option is for Pinoys to get it from another country.. so mag OFW or mag migrate..

    Good needs to be redefined .. And if i may – this is good from the Bible " He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

  41. alynn says:

    thanks for this article.is it ok if i repost this on my facebook?thanks!

    • Maria Ressa says:

      There's a share button for FB that will post it on your page below the post. Would love it if you do! Thank you.

  42. Greg Elmenor says:

    bla…bla…bla…bla…bla it's easier said than done. Are talking about the goverment employees, CBCP Bishops (damasos) and media employees (good kuno)? hmmmmm…

  43. quicksilver says:

    Corruption is insidious. That's how it happens isn't it? Bit by bit, seductively, slowly but surely chipping away at your soul. Like a frog in water who doesn't realize he's getting boiled. Is it strange to say that as a Filipino, I seem to have developed this desensitization to conflict and tragedy? Not to say that I don't care, or that it doesn't break my heart, but the site of flooded streets, or politicians bickering, is a normal occurence to me. (Plus we trivialize our issues by cracking jokes about our misfortunes all the time – it's how we cope.). I guess the reason I'm saying this is because the news hasn't made me cry in a while. But the news of Heidi Mendoza – and the realization that she had chosen to do the right thing, despite the difficulty and fear – now, that gave me a lump in my throat. You know you've been in the dark a long time, when a flicker of light moves you to tears.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      She quit two jobs to stay true to her ideals: with COA and ADB. Now, she's risking her anonymity and her family's safety. These are principles she believes in – and that makes her a ray of hope, a force for good! After she did her presentation and she articulately expressed why she's doing this and what she's willing to do, it brought tears to my eyes too.

  44. juliana alampay says:

    I’d like to subscribe to your posts.

    May I know how?


    • Maria Ressa says:

      Thank you for asking. I didn't realize we didn't have that widget. If you look now, it's on the page. Just type in your email address and subscribe. Thanks again!

  45. bunsongpayat says:

    Hi, I'd like to ask if I can repost this in my blog? And would also thinking about copying and pasting it as an email? (like a forwarded email type) I'd like to send it to my colleagues and friends. Your article is a good reminder and a clear explanation about corruption in all possible areas. I'm a young professional and am just concern about the prevalent spread of this kind of mindset, fearful but staying safe in an “accepted” corrupt culture in my generation.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Thank you for reading and for caring. Please do share it. It would be great if you could link to it here so people can leave their thoughts as well!

  46. Vic de Gorostiza says:

    Corruption well spread and counting. We need to improve the Justice system in the Philippines. Trials are
    mostly delayed because of corrupt judges. Why not create special courts that will handle only corruption
    cases, and start sending those corrupt politicians to REAL jails. As long as there is a climate of impunity
    in our society, corruption will never be eradicated from from our system.

    Here in the United States, when somebody is being investigated by the Justice Department for any violation,
    that person is in deep trouble. But sad to note that in the Philippines when someone is under
    investigation for any possible crime commited, that same person will call a Press Conference to deny
    everything that he is being accused of and that's the end of it.

  47. monching says:

    nice to hear again from you mam…. keep the standards high ebvn if theres only a handful who believes in it

  48. KiddyET says:

    Well, when it comes down to it; people only look out for number 1! We all know who our number 1 is; ourselves. So you ask why good people turn evil…good people turn evil to do themselves good.

  49. ronuniverse says:

    dapt tong mabasa ng lahat ng tao lalo na ng nasa gobyerno.

  50. aisasky says:

    The Bible is very clear in this issue…"No one is righteous, Not even one (ROMA.3.10.23, Psalms 14.1-3, 53.1-3)…ALL are SINNERS (ROMA.5.12-14)… Though they are fully aware of God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to DIE, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who PRACTICE them. (ROMA.1.18-32)…. Even the so-called- RELIGIONS ("modern day-Pharisees & Sadducee") are corrupt & corrupt others also (Jude 10)…they manipulate, amass wealth, and deceived people (Matthew 23.13-33)…these will ALL go to Hell-Lake-of-Fire (Matthew 7.21-23, 2Thessalonians 1.8-9, Revelation 20.15, Revelation 21.8)…

    The ONLY solution to the problem is: (1) REPENT from your SINS (Luke 13.3-5, Acts 3.19) (2). BELIEVE in the Lord JESUS CHRIST (John 3.16-17, Acts 16.30-31) (3). RECEIVE Jesus Christ as your Lord & Savior (John 1.12-13, ROMA.10.9-10)…

  51. J_ag says:

    "I found a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak." Alan Greenspan

    Greenspan off course was talking about the one belief system that ties all humans. Material self interest that drives markets. Selfishness vs. values. The belief is that we should not regulate rational selfishness. This has transformed money making with wealth creation and idolizing money makers no matter the source. We idolize those with money and wealth w/o question. Wealth creation implies the convergence of private returns with social returns. Making money simply as an end is wrong.

    Unbridled greed (making money simply for making money) on a massive scale almost brought the world down into a major economic/political crisis. Today Egypt is at a tipping point into the unknown. It's causes – hunger caused by rising food prices. The top simply making money for Themselves. Autocratic states normally do not have institutions to seek redress. There is no feedback mechanism for the top to know the distress at the bottom. result an "off with his head moment." Now everyone is struggling to put an orderly transition of power.

    Here in the Philippines Pinoy's vote everyday with their feet leaving their country and come election selling their votes to put food on the table. Morality and ethical values do not stand a chance when it comes to maintain not only a standard of living but a means to live. The unethical becomes ethical and the moral guideposts are moved.

    How does one moderate the greed when the gatekeepers are themselves the greedy?

    • Maria Ressa says:

      It's a tough question to answer – something I've thought about for a long time. Many will say we need a Lee Kuan Yew. Certainly, the right leader is the easy answer -someone who will truly reform (who has both the will and competence to do so).

      My solution is not to rely on those in power to do it. Crowdsource and push a tipping point.

  52. hroark says:

    I walked out of my old job because the company duped me into paying a bribe in some undisclosed park. It was stupid and unprofessional for me to walk out of the office. I could not explain to my boss face to face the reason why i left.

  53. ljamorin says:

    A lot of people attempted to explain the meaning of corruption in the Philippines. Maria Ressa's article/speech sums it all. It explains the root cause of corruption in the simplest way possible. Job well done Maria. I hope that your article will serve as an eye-opener for everyone.

  54. Maan Espinosa says:

    Ms. Ressa, this was the same lecture you gave last Saturday in UP School of Economics. The Junior Social Scientists' Conference of the Philippines was a success because you selflessly shared your wisdom to us. We are truly grateful for your presence. We hope to hear more inspiring words from you in the future. I become more proud as a Filipina because of people like you. Thank you so much.

  55. Vince Gasmin says:

    Thanks so much for this blog.

  56. AreUblind says:

    As i see News on TV on television on the philippines now is being held some kind of A news block out favor to the new administration. Why not the IIRC result was not even punished for the crime they committed. Until now the innocents lives was not justified.

  57. missjusticia says:

    This is a very well-written piece. Integity is the word we should put in the vocabulary of our children. I believe that we could be a better Philippines, should we coninue to support this cause- the tipping point towards a graft-free nation.

  58. maimai says:

    im proud to say that my uncle who's an ex AFP chief of staff, stood by his principles.. He refused millions because he knows that it's the right thing to do..

  59. darylslimshady says:

    Thanks for this, Ms Ressa! Your insights — especially on corruption in media — will help our readers on http://peopleformedia.wordpress.com. πŸ™‚

  60. Dennis C. says:

    Just want to share some generalizations. This present culture is one of the major reasons why me and my family decided to migrate to another country. I used to be a practicing surgeon in manila, and about ten years ago, I was already telling my friends and relatives that the socio-cultural situation in the Philippines would turn to worst in the future because more and more Filipinos are turning to the darkside. But, most of my friends did not care or, probably did not understand what I was talking about.

    Just FYI…The Zimbardo Experiment at Stanford University took place 40 years ago. This was adapted into a movie, Das Experiment and was remade last year in the movie, "The Experiment", which starred Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker. If your readers don't want to read the book, they can look for this 2010 movie. It is about a psychological prison study that ultimately twisted out of control.

    It is extremely complicated for this generation to change this evil culture to what it should be. But, Filipinos could always revert back to basic education and good teachings for the next generations.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Philip Zimbardo defended one of the US soldiers implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He used that prison study to help defend the soldier. I actually picked up the book to understand terrorism and the prison scandals. Instead, I found a paradigm to help me understand why so many good Filipinos just can't seem to do good collectively as a nation. Yes, it will take education, a look at our sometimes twisted values – and a lot of Filipinos who care. For me, I wanted my own action plan. How can I still have hope? Why should I stay? This is what I came up with. Thank you for reading!

      • Dennis C. says:

        Thank you for replying, Ms. Ressa. I totally agree with your values. Hope, care, proper ethics, strong convictions, good teachings and adequate action plans are indeed very important.
        The questions you asked MSD and your audience should be repeated to others who care for changes and equally to those people who doesn't.
        Keep up the good work and good luck to all of us.

  61. Norhaini says:

    "this article is very much inspiring to us- soon to be college graduate. Thank you for writing this one! It will serve as our guidance when we begin in struggling between being good and evil. Otherwise it will lead us into establishing ourselves in the line of good than evil. As a student, thank you for this wonderful knowledge that we will treasure and use as our weapon when we are in the middle warfare of right and wrong…Thank you!

  62. Garry Fabros says:

    Kudos Maria Ressa! You wrote an excellent piece that will enlightens not only the mind, but the conscience of each and every person who will get a chance to read this. Hoping you will continue to carry your crusade against evil things through the power of your words and as a respected journalist.

  63. ghelosophy says:

    It was a great read… My only question is about the politicians who were offering bribes. What kept you from exposing them in the first place?

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Great question. We felt it was fair to tell them first the rules had changed. Otherwise, it's random punishment. Apparently, it was conventional practice in past elections. The book I mentioned, by the way, is written by a psychologist who defended one of the US military soldiers implicated in Abu Ghraib.

      • J. Tan says:

        My question naman,… when you tell them your stand, how did they react to it?

        I am also in an uphill climb as far as corruption in society is concerned. I accepted a position in a company because I know that this company will not get into corrupt business practices. And indeed, to this day, we have stayed on course, paying millions in taxes no matter how much it hurts. If it belongs to the government, we have to give it to them. You do it bec it is your duty as a citizen to do so.

        The first step to help eradicate corruption is doing our share of not committing it.

  64. Amie says:

    So timely, Ms. Ressa. Thank you!

  65. Gina Hechanova says:

    Hey Maria great piece! Just thought i'd share with a research we did a couple of years ago on the psychology of corruption (this was after the GTZED scandal) in case you have any use for it. Godspeed and hope to run into you again during one of the TOWNS events.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      This is fantastic! Can I ask you for a copy of the actual study? My email is info@mariaressa.com. The breakdown of reactions by economic classes parallels what focus group discussions have said in our past studies. What else was done with the study? I'm also curious: do you think anything will happen after Rabuza's revelations?

  66. Atsirk says:

    Kudos πŸ™‚ This is awesome πŸ™‚

  67. jobelizes says:

    Dear Ms. Ressa,
    Can I have your permission to print this article in my forthcoming book, Writings No. 9? Please visit http://www.amazon.com under "tatay jobo elizes" to see my recent books. Please visit http://www.jobleizes.wordpress.com to see why I publish writings of selected authors. Pls give me you email address so I can show you pdf file draft of Writings9. My email addy is job_elizes@yahoo.com. Hoping to receive your permission and your support. Jobo, age 76, Brooklyn, NY

  68. Jade Butanas says:

    I strongly agree with you Maria. It’s really scary when you don’t realize you’ve become one of them. I think the only thing we should keep in mind is that someone up there is always watching our every move and knows our every thoughts, that way you will always do the right thing.

    I super love this article…

    May God bless you.

  69. robceralvo says:

    Moral compass is first set to true north at home. It gets calibrated in schools, and gets regular maintenance from the community. Tune ups are provided for by occasional spiritual retreats. It is very delicate and could easily lose its bearings in turbulent times.

    Please always keep your moral compass in top shape. It helps to have a properly calibrated and well maintained moral compass when travelling in roads full of potholes.

  70. Ann Mayuga says:

    Such a great article!

  71. EvelynJ says:

    Bravo Maria! Very insightful…I totally agree with you. And that's the scary part… when you don't realize you've become one of them. It helps a lot if you have the fear of God and a strong sense of what is right and wrong. You will do good even when no one is looking because you believe someone up there is always watching you.

    About Rabusa. Do you really think he's a good man turned bad?

    • Maria Ressa says:

      I don't know him and am looking only at his actions. It took courage to disclose what he knew. If he was only out for himself, he could've easily kept it and – perhaps blackmailed – people. We've certainly seen worst behavior. Why do I think he's a good man? He was acting with consent and order of his supervisors. When the spotlight focused on him, he decided to tell the truth. No one is perfect. It's what we do after we make a mistake that defines character, and he did the right thing.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      I'm still thinking about your question. I think he's a good man turned bad who's now performing a redemptive act.

  72. Carlo Briones says:

    Thank you for this article Ms. Maria Ressa. I will share this to my classmates and friends for them to realize the idea on where to draw the line they should never cross? One must take a step for change. It is a long march, but progress is being made against corruption.

  73. mele2794 says:

    The corrupt people always justify their wrongdoings by using another valued moral tradition we have…that of taking care of their families. You nailed it right there! How can you really genuinely take careof your family
    if the money came from bribery? It is greed and selfishness to the core…no such love there.
    Thank you for this, well written, and I am sure well executed during your speech. Mabuhay ka Maria!

  74. Jesse says:

    Nice piece, Ms Maria. It is not easy to learn how to say No and gauge one self worth. Your recommendation No 3 and 4, could be the game changer. Our culture needs a lot of cleaning and scrubbing, what we see in our own home when we were growing up and the friends we associates with defines us in our adult life. It takes a lot of practice but it can be done..

  75. Cito says:

    WOW! Indeed, a brave piece in this brave new world… Thank you for sharing. And for revolutionizing the Philippine broadcast media, hoping they'd continue what u started in ABS-CBN.

  76. francisjimtuscano says:

    Nice! Thank you for this article πŸ™‚

  77. imreflecting says:

    Corruption should be dealt with first personally, by asking oneself, "am I corrupt?" The answer can comfort me or disturb me. Be at peace with oneself.

  78. quicksilver says:

    Thank you for this article. It reassures me that you can be idealistic, but realistic at the same time. That good values must find themselves rooted and alive in the real world. That good intentions must be coupled with conviction and action. It's a message of hope and empowerment – something we all need in today's trying times.

  79. quicksilver says:

    I remember having a disturbing conversation with one of my professors (who also happened to be a journalist) when I was in college. I forget how our talk got to that point, but we were talking about what I wanted to do after graduation and the challenges that were waiting for me. Anyway, I was 18 and very idealistic , and I said something like, "I don't want the "system" to eat me alive. I promise to hang on to my values." My teacher gave me this strange look, and he said, "When you go out there, your values are the first to go. In times of expediency, you bend your values until they break." I remember falling silent after that, excusing myself, going to an empty classroom and crying because I was so angry. I'm not even sure why I was so angry. Maybe it was the way he said it, like it didn't matter at all. Like he was stating a fact of life, and I had no choice but to accept it.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Thank you for sharing this. This is exactly the problem. I'm so glad you stayed idealistic. I don't want to be Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I want to be realistic. I think these four steps crystallize a very do-able action plan, and somehow, just by beginning this discussion, we make more people aware that they can not only say no but also encourage more people to do the same.

  80. @littlemissbuyer says:

    Well written, shoot right to the heart of it all. I head the procurement department in a company – and I am trying hard to push the ' zero tolerance to corruption' to quote the article. It is easy to fall into the ' everyone is doing it' , and 'this is not a bribe, but a mere appreciation for the business this year' traps. I can imagine how it is with the government procurement – when projects are worth million – billions of pesos – and where there is simply no immediate audit for transactions. Unfortunately, in private companies, even the bosses do not realize accepting gifts from a supplier in front of the employees is already a signal that the culture is accepted. Last year, i proposed ' return to sender' policy to get the message across to suppliers and this policy include gifts for the big bosses for whatever occasion. It has yet to be discussed with Human Resources and the bosses themselves.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Thank you for sharing! You've taken a position and are pushing in the right direction. More power and good luck. If I can help in any way, please let me know. πŸ™‚

  81. Greg Navarro says:

    Media is of great help in exposing corruption, and they get killed for it …but they should be supported. We need to, as a people, reach a tipping point where we say enough is enough!

  82. hinugasangtubig says:

    dili sayon ang pagsunod kang Kristo…

    it's not easy to be morally upright, but it's not impossible with will and God's guidance…

  83. Madison says:

    best article i've read in years. exactly what's ailing in our society.

  84. gangcentral says:

    Thanks for this Maria! May I repost? -Gang

  85. dan says:

    I love this article….

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