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The Military and the Act of Effecting Necessary Change

“The AFP is the protector of the people and of the State.”

by Brigadier General Danny Lim (Ret)

at the French Chamber of Commerce General Membership Meeting

March 30, 2011


Permit me to share with you the reflections of a military man, a member of the uniformed service whose institution has been seen more as the enemy of the people, a source of corruption and a protector of a privileged few instead of being the defender of the people.

Let me share some of my thoughts which inspired me and has led me to a journey of arduous yet just and necessary struggles; a journey marked by persecution and incarceration.

There was a time when I was like the rest – free. Free to create one’s own meaningful life, free to pursue a respectable and decent career and free to commit to becoming a responsible citizen of this country.

Like many of my fellow Filipinos, my pursuit of these worthy aspirations has been impaired by patent transgressions that denigrate the human spirit to hope and aspire for necessary change.

The pervasiveness of the corruption in the government where I served my whole professional life as its dutiful soldier is so appalling that even the most patient and uncomplaining of us will be moved to acts of revolt.

Certainly, I could have minded my own business even as the promises of democracy were abandoned and its opportunities squandered. After all, I am part of an institution whose reputation has been tarnished because it rewards those who remain quiet and uncaring.

However, I realize that if I did nothing to contribute in rectifying the injustice and the plunder, I am partly to blame for the unfulfilled promises of democracy and for condoning, or worse, for being accessory to their unlawful and immoral acts.

I had been a soldier my entire professional life and I believed that if I stayed on the right and just path, then it would be enough to say that I gave my best to my country and that in doing so, things would somehow be better. Yet though I struggled to do the right thing, I had constantly been surrounded and haunted by the corruption that pervades government. And as the national situation worsened, I realized that if I did nothing, if I stood by while others robbed my people, deprived them of justice, or ignored their needs, then I was myself complicit in their illegal acts. It was no longer enough to “not-be-part” of the problem. I realize that if I love my country, I need to be part of the solution.

 And so, I made this journey.

I have often wondered why I wore the uniform and all its symbols. I have met, face-to-face, people who have disgraced their uniforms and yet profited from it. 

I have met others who have forgotten the principles of duty and honor in the race to be promoted. I have stood shoulder to shoulder with men and women willing to use the people in AFP uniforms to further political gains.

Yes, I continued to be a soldier.

I saw cadets trained and taught with values expected in the military profession. I trained some of them myself. And it was with sorrow that I saw many of them flounder, wondering why the virtues ingrained in them at training could come to naught.

I saw he AFP used as an instrument to maintain an unjust status quo. I saw the various corners of my country, places where the only government that was felt or seen was the soldier.  I saw the faces of poverty and neglect and I was compelled, as the only symbol of my country’s government, to help.

We are with the katutubo (indigenous people) when they are displaced by land grabbers. We are with the starving farmers, helpless in their quest for land. We are there, too, when the forest rangers try to stop illegal loggers.

I have seen the country I have sworn to defend ravaged. I continue to see to see it despoiled and my people ignored. I have seen the rise of warlords, aided and abetted by the hunger for power. I have seen all that and felt helpless.

The stories are unchanging – widespread poverty and ignorance, corrupt politicians, conscienceless oligarchs.  And in the middle of all this was the AFP, keeping the stories alive and doing very little to change it.

Even the smallest hope of change was tainted and it all came to a head finally, with the elections of 2004.

We are often told as members of the uniformed service our only role during the electoral process is to cast our votes. I agree with this unquestioningly.  But when the vote cast is tampered with, especially by fellow members of the military as confirmed by the “Garci Tapes”, then that injunction no longer holds.

 Military officers, they say, are different. We belong to a silently acknowledged class of people authorized to bear arms. In order to ensure that those arms are not used in self-serving manner, we are trained and drilled, fed and force-fed an honor code. Do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal not tolerate others who do. We are told that our work involves the highest public good. That we are sworn protectors of the republic and that our responsibilities alone are honor enough. And we swear with our lives to protect the greatest good.

We are part of the profession that bears arms, and only the most worthy are allowed in it.

As a young lieutenant of West Point, my first assignments were in Sulu. This was standard practice then, to send new graduates out into the field. This is what we were trained for, and much to our learning was easily put to use.

Later, however, when not fighting, I had to live among townspeople in those areas. Like most officers in similar situations,  could not help but notice the plight of countrymen in these areas and I discovered to a large extent that he only government presence felt by these people – my own countrymen – was the military.  So they came to us, for assistance or survival, compelling us to fulfill roles for which we were never trained. We became mediators, police officers, sometimes we provided instant loans, we fed the hungry, looked for homes for the homeless, provided doctors and dentists, if we could and if not, we had to make do with what we had, to answer cries for help. In some hilarious instances, we have had to be midwives in places where was no hope of institutional help. 

We helped because we are part of the noble profession of arms, and we must uphold the public good. We could not, cannot walk away.

But yes, we are different, for very few of our citizens see the country the way a soldier does. Our frequent assignments and transfers and field experiences put us in the heart of the Motherland, right into places where the forgotten live. And since we bear the emblems of government, we provide, like it or not, what is expected of government, though we can rarely provide it completely or fully.  Sometimes, the problems are beyond our minimal capabilities, and we must also deal with our own helplessness.

We see poverty in its most profound forms because insurgency takes root there. And yet, in some bizarre twist of circumstance, we are vilified too for defending the same government whose neglect has caused such suffering, hunger and war.  The soldier must provide what government fails to provide. Yet he must locate himself within the same failed government machinery that has caused much of the problem he is asked to solve. He is not allowed a political opinion other than his vote; he is compelled to obey civilian authority. Yet our own training also compels us to listen to voices that exhort honor, integrity, honesty and forces us to defend our people against oppressors, yes, even if those oppressors themselves are agents f the state. 

Can we blame the soldier for following that voice? Can we blame the AFP for being conflicted? At some point, the soldier or officer will choose to protect the highest public good. He goes back to the honor and integrity demanded of him at training. When he does, he is called a criminal. When the officer instead makes blind adherence to political expediency, he is rewarded and may even obtain high positions in a government that will continue to fail its people.

Nowadays, the voices of truth have lessened in volume and with it the meaning of the words honor, integrity, loyalty.  The government from being the highest democratic expression of the people was transformed into a plaything of the elite, to seek rent, privileges and expand power. And together with the AFP, the slide to mediocrity and despotism became a sort of a median to or national politics. 

As such, we cannot blame the ordinary people of they look at us not with respect, not with confidence but with fear and contempt. White it pains me, I will readily admit that the institution from which I hail from is an institution which has been used too many not only to protect the interest of a privileged few but also as an apparatus to exact fake consent from the public through the use of repression and subjugation. One only has to review history to see how the military establishment was utilized by the dictatorship as its personal army and again, by the Arroyo government, best demonstrated by the 2004 Hello Garci scandal.  We confess, we own up to our institution’s historical and current transgressions. 

But permit us also to be hurt, injured and sometimes offended by these things, of how people regards s, of how the military as a social construct is seen by many as an enemy that must be vanquished.

The truth is, many of us are honest and loyal to the people. Beyond the unexplained wealth of some of our leaders, the majority of us are incredibly poor and impoverished; receiving meager salaries, even as our profession demands everything including giving one’s own life. Many of us remain faithful to the values of duty, honor, country, celebrating it not only in rhetoric but more importantly, by putting flesh to the ideals, by living it every day. 

Yes, “soldiers are people too”. Like the laborers, we are also victims of summary dismissals, low wages, and much worse, unemployment. Like the farmers, many of us, sons and daughters of peasants saw how landlords and agri-business elites took their lands from them; like the urban and rural poor, we too have been forcibly displaced by illegal and violent demolitions. We are no different from the man in the street demanding social justice, yearning for a better future. We too desire change.

 I guess many among you will ask, what is precisely “the change” I am advocating, what is “change” according to the military’s viewpoint. I cannot speak in behalf of the institution which itself is an arena of different if not competing perspectives.  What I will share are my own alone, which hopefully many among you will agree with.

The path to meaningful change is an arduous and complex terrain. Many aspects of the change will not be realized by mere passion and enthusiasm alone, intelligent and viable alternatives must be presented if we are to realize a progressive society under a strong and developmental state. However, there are essential changes that are so obvious and immediate and yet for the longest time have not been actualized. These are the changes I want to speak of today.

If we want to see a professional army beholden and faithful to civilian rule, then we must fight for good and democratic governance, we must put into office civilian authorities that could govern effectively without resorting to military intervention to extract consent and exercise leadership.

We must put an end to electoral misconduct, grand scale fraud and vote padding-shaving by introducing important electoral reform laws to democratize the electoral process and insulate it from the machinations of traditional politicians and elite families. 

Poor leadership from civilian authorities puts the soldiers and their institution in a tongue-tied situation. Let us remember the ascension of military establishments do not happen in strong, legitimate and democratic governments, they happen when civilian authorities are weak, when there is an absent of strong political parties, when democratic institutions are anything but democratic. 

Furthermore, the military must be isolated from politics – that is, partisan politics of politicians who knock on our barracks for armed support. We call for another form of politicalization among our ranks, a heightening of their social consciousness, and an adherence to the politics of the people – namely, to defend human rights, political liberties and democracy.

Subsequently, all private armies must be dismantled especially those utilized by warlords and politicians to sow fear and terror among their supposed constituents.  While these are primarily regarded as the AFP’s allies in promoting peace and in counter-insurgency, truth is, they are obstacles if not enemies of democracy, peace and the rule of law. We must learn from the horrific Maguindanao massacre.

Lastly, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must be made accountable for the transgressions it committed against the people. There must be a day of reckoning. We are not a vindictive people. However, we know that justice must be extracted to restore the dignity and humanity of those deprived and oppressed by Mrs.  Arroyo and her cabal of corrupt leaders.  

Hence, our immediate challenge, military or civilian is for us to promote and put into practice effective democratic governance, to deepen democracy and further the potentials of our political system, flawed it may be in so many ways, not to blind our people that there are no real alternatives but simply to reclaim basic things that were deprived from them.

And from there, let us build a new vision of a better future outside the limitations and the paucity of economic and social development as seen and felt by our people in the current juncture. Together with the progressives, students, workers, peasants and the academic community, a more democratic and humane society could and must be achieved. 

As what progressives usually say, “Another world is possible.”

I thank you all for inviting me to share in this great occasion with you. PARA SA BANSA! 


                                           Ms. Sri Mulyani Indrawati
                                Managing Director of the World Bank
                                                 A Forum on Good Governance: From Vision to Action
                                                                             Manila, December 6, 2010


Text: Speech of World Bank Group Managing Director 

at Forum on Good Governance

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much, Secretary Robredo, for that kind introduction. 

Thank you also to the Asian Institute of Management, Makati Business Club, and the Movement for Good Governance for the partnership in organizing the event, and to Ateneo for the use of their facilities.  It is a great pleasure and honor for me and the World Bank to be associated with such respected organizations.

I enjoyed the opportunity to travel to the Philippines on a number of occasions in my previous capacity.  It is nice to be back on familiar turf, albeit now in my new guise as Managing Director of the World Bank. 

This event comes at a time of renewed vigor here in the Philippines to tackle the country’s long-standing governance challenges.  The well-known catch cry of the President’s election campaign “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (no corruption, no poverty)” has, in many ways, come to define the new government’s agenda and perhaps its greatest test. 

Speaking from personal experience, I know that translating that vision into action is a tremendous challenge.  Reforms, both at the policy and implementation levels, do not become reality overnight.  Purely technical solutions, no matter how correct, are rarely successful.  Vested interests, history, competing demands and varying expectations must be understood and managed.  A country can move only as fast as its politics allows.  The World Bank has engaged in this challenge in many of its member countries.  Today I hope to draw on this experience as well as my own to discuss some of the ways in which the vision of good governance can be put into action.

In my remarks today, I am going to discuss some of these positive developments on promoting good governance, some of which might be relevant for the Philippines.  I have to say from the outset, though, that it would be neither appropriate nor feasible for me to make any recommendation for the specific circumstances the Philippines is in—it is up to the Filipinos to decide the appropriate strategy for improving governance in the Philippines.

What is Good Governance?

People have different visions of “good governance.”  The concept is hard to define and difficult to measure.  Indicators of good governance are not without controversy.

By the World Bank definition used in our Governance and Anti-Corruption Strategy, governance refers to, “the manner in which public officials and institutions acquire and exercise the authority to shape public policy and provide public goods and services.”

Corruption is one outcome of poor governance, involving the abuse of public office for private gain, but good governance is far broader than anti-corruption alone.

We could debate the definition of good governance at length, but at its essence, to me good governance is about fairness and equity.  It means that when government officials apply laws and policies, they do so impartially, not influenced by personal relationships, likes and dislikes.  A good governance agenda, therefore, needs to reach beyond efforts to tackle corruption to build strong and sustainable institutions of the state.  It also should empower citizens through transparency and participation. 

Good governance is a high priority around the world.  In a global opinion poll conducted by the World Bank in 2008, opinion-makers rated governance and anti-corruption as one the of top three development challenges.   Opinion-makers in the Philippines rated the link between governance, corruption and poverty highest among all countries.  This serves perhaps to emphasize the extent of the challenge you face here, but in my view also reflects a constituency for change – nobody in the world recognizes more starkly than Filipinos that governance is a central development challenge.

To the World Bank, good governance is first and foremost a means to improve development outcomes.  At the macro level, our research suggests a two-way causality between development and governance: governance improves with per capita income, but better governance can also accelerate development.  At the micro level, numerous studies show a direct link between less corruption and better development outcomes such as infant mortality, health care services and road quality. 

If indeed equity, fairness and impartiality are the essence of good governance, then creating good governance involves all that goes into treating people impartially.  This includes clear rules, laws and policies; a disciplined civil service with the capacity to implement the policies as intended; a transparent budget process that allocates public resources according to priorities; oversight mechanisms to monitor official actions; and the ability of individuals to seek effective redress when impartiality is not respected. 

Governance therefore encompasses a multitude of actors:  government agencies; formal oversight institutions, sub-national governments and local communities, civil society, the private sector, and political actors and institutions.  In a well-functioning governance system, accountability relationships between these different actors help ensure that public policy supports development, that services are delivered efficiently and equitably, and that corruption is held in check.

With weak governance, policy can be captured, service provision and regulation distorted to favor the well-connected, and corruption can run rampant. 

Improving Governance

Given the complexity of actors and accountability relationships, how can one improve governance?  I want to discuss four major categories of reforms that can improve governance, and can be considered elements of a strategy for good governance:

  1. The first category comprises reforms to improve the capacity, transparency and accountability of state institutions. 
  2. A second category comprises reforms that increase opportunities for participation and oversight by civil society, the media and communities. 
  3. A third category is reforms in the economic environment to create a more competitive private sector and reduce opportunity for corruption.
  4. Finally, a fourth category is reforms to strengthen political accountability

Let me elaborate on each of these reform categories to illustrate what I mean.

On the first, changing the way the state operates can make a big difference in the quality of governance.  This includes rules on how it spends its money and accounts for it, procures goods and services, and hires, trains and rewards its civil service and judiciary.

During my time as finance minister in Indonesia, I focused on the way the state manages its money, from collection of taxes to accounting for spending.  Legal reforms were part of this, but the more difficult aspect was rebuilding the organization of the Ministry, and investing in people.  In particular, tackling corruption in the tax administration took a major redesign including new procedures, a new organization and renewal of human resources. 

Similarly on the expenditure side we reformed the Ministry’s organization, made considerable investment in information systems and implemented changes in human resource policies.  As a result, we rationalized the budget process, made those in charge of taxpayers’ money more accountable, and established the audit trails necessary to do so.

Accountability can also be exacted through prosecution of those who abuse power.  Effective law enforcement is crucial for building public trust and increasing the opportunity cost for corruption.  Effective anti-corruption agencies can play an important role and examples from Hong Kong and Singapore, among others, demonstrate this. Similarly, in Indonesia: the anti-corruption commission, the KPK, has made huge progress and now is an institution that Indonesians are proud of and can trust, and in which the state has invested considerable authority and resources to make it work.   Unfortunately, there are numerous examples around the world of low-capacity anti-corruption agencies with limited authority, little means and consequently little impact on corruption.

The second category is about providing citizens with access to information.  Involving those affected in decision making and decentralizing decision-making to local governments and communities empowers people and limits the discretion of those in office. 

Access to information can fundamentally alter the relationship between citizens and the state.  India and Mexico are recent examples where far-reaching freedom of information acts has begun to empower citizens through systematic disclosure of government information.  From my own experience, the World Bank just went through a major change in the way it releases information—from a disclosure policy, where we determined what got released, to an access policy—where everything is available, unless the information is restricted according to specific rules.  I note here that, again, capacity is important: for the World Bank to be able to make this move required investing in information systems and staff training.  Similarly, Mexico’s information access law is made operational thanks to a fiercely independent Federal Institute for Access to Information in charge of enforcing the law’s provisions.

Partial access to information can be effective as well: publishing more information on the budget was a good entry point for reforms in the new South Africa when it moved to majority government in 1994.  In the Philippines, the procurement law gives civil society the right to observe procurement processes and participate in bids and awards committees.  This limits backroom deals and corruption in contract awards.  I know that in the Philippines the Makati Business Club has been very active in this arena together with other civil society organizations.

Decentralizing decisions to local governments can be a powerful tool to improve governance, if well designed.  In principle, local governments are closer to the people who can more easily supervise them, and competition among jurisdictions promotes efficiency and accountability.  Sub-national governments such as the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil and the City of Bogota in Colombia, have become beacons of good governance after decentralization.  The Philippines itself is full of local examples of good governance, including the City of Naga under the stewardship of now-Secretary Jesse Robredo.

The challenge in many countries is to find ways to scale up these islands of good governance and sustain their progress over time. 

What has been successful in our experience is direct involvement of communities in government programs.  Countries as different as Bolivia, Zambia, China, Vietnam and Bangladesh have implemented community-driven development programs. These programs, apart from delivering on development objectives of the community, also seem to be a good tool to promote good governance beyond the program itself.  The programs show high rates of economic return as well as less corruption and lower construction costs for community infrastructure.  In the Philippines, the principal-led school construction builds schools at little more than half the costs it takes the Department of Public Works and Highways to build the same school. 

On the third category, increasing competition in the economic environment can be a powerful tool to improve governance.  How can this be done?  Abolish unnecessary business regulations that may give rise to abuse of power.  Reduce high tariffs that make smuggling tempting.  Or establish competition policies that limit monopoly powers of the well-connected.  All of these make economic sense and reduce the opportunity for rent-seeking.  The dismantling of the License Raj system in India from the early 1990s onwards marked the country’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, while reducing the opportunities for corruption throughout the economy.  One of the most successful middle-income countries for the last two decades is Chile, which consistently ranks among the highest in terms of low corruption and high state capability, and is one of the most liberalized economies in the world.  Again in my country, during the Soeharto era, major trade liberalization in the 1980s not only gave a boost to manufacturing industry and exports, but also cut the benefits from smuggling and rent seeking in customs. 

Finally, on political reforms.  This is not an area of expertise for the World Bank.  It can be a powerful tool in improving governance through increasing competition for office, improving transparency in the political system and ultimately making politicians accountable to people.  The Philippines itself went through major constitutional reforms more than 2 decades ago, much like my country at the end of the 1990s.  These ground rules of the state and how the state can and cannot exercise power do not change that often.  But reforms of specific political institutions such as election laws and party finance can advance the quality of political decision making, increase the trust in the state, and improve governance.  Even relatively mundane, technical reforms, such as the automation of vote counting recently introduced in the Philippines, can transform the election process and limit opportunity for abuse.  Countries such as Brazil and Mexico ensure fairness of elections by maintaining political independence and technical competence of authorities charged with overseeing elections.

Towards a Strategy for Good Governance

Reforms in each of these categories are far easier said than done.   Each of them will encounter resistance from vested interests or those benefitting from the status quo, or simply intransigence and ignorance.  Each of them will require spending political capital as well as money and resources, and can be technically challenging.  In addition, each of them will require political will and the mobilization of interest groups that would benefit from better governance.

What is needed, therefore, is a strategy to translate the vision of good governance into action.  With this, I do not mean a comprehensive strategy that encompasses all possible reforms. A comprehensive strategy may be appealing, but is neither realistic, nor feasible in most countries.  What I mean is a set of strategic choices that make improving governance feasible, realistic and, in the end, successful.  These choices will of course differ from country to country and from time to time.

I certainly do not pretend to have the answers to what this strategy should be for the Philippines.  Rather, let me just share some thoughts on what strategic choices I believe are crucial to make for any country.

First, selectivity is crucial for success.  A sensible approach to improving governance is to target key areas, such as specific government agencies, where openings for change already exist. This may be the case because there is high demand in specific areas for reforms, or because the pay-offs of reform would yield more support for subsequent reforms elsewhere.  More ambitious reforms, if political support is strong, could target some of the more disreputable agencies in government to demonstrate the government’s determination to reform.

In Indonesia, we chose to focus only on a few agencies, including the anti-corruption commission, because we believed a strong agency that was a credible threat to corruptors was essential in achieving results.  We also targeted the revenue agencies, not only because we needed the money, but also because tackling reforms in agencies with a reputation for high corruption.  This signaled that we were very serious about anti-corruption.  Furthermore, those agencies had much interaction with citizens and businesses and their reputation affected the image of the whole country.  Cleaning them up could therefore boost Indonesia’s image in international rankings such as Transparency International’s corruption perception index.

In the Philippines, there may also be opportunities in government finances.  Demand for better governance is very high in this area, and scope for improvements is considerable.  I understand, and applaud, existing government initiatives to empower citizen oversight of public finance, by increasing transparency of the budget, promoting civil society participation in budget deliberations, and preparing a roadmap for reforming public financial management.

Second, building on past success creates success.  Efforts to improve governance that succeed most often take an incremental approach.  Early successes can serve to build momentum for reform by convincing government officials, businesses, and citizens to join the movement.

Building on past success may well be a good strategy for the Philippines.  Procurement reform is arguably the most coherent and sustained governance reform in the Philippines in the last decade.  Sustained efforts to deepen this reform, including rolling it out to the local government level, will help to solidify one of the basic building blocks of public sector governance.

In a similar vein, the government could build on the strength of existing agencies or programs by reallocating money towards better governed ones.  In Indonesia, for instance, we moved away from ill-targeted oil subsidies, a program prone to corruption and smuggling, and instead provided the intended recipients with cash transfers.

This moved considerable resources away from an organization with a checkered past in administering a government program at considerable budget savings. 

I note that this is an area where the Philippines is making great strides, particularly in terms of targeting government programs for the poor.  This morning I had the pleasure of visiting a community benefiting from the 4P program—the conditional cash transfer program administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development—the department that ranks highest in public perception for fighting corruption.  This program is effective in targeting the poor and improving MDGs.  Together with the National Household Targeting System it has the potential to replace several inefficient programs prone to leakage and patronage, and can therefore improve governance. 

Third, emphasize activities that build trust in the government’s commitment to the reform agenda.

Governments often encounter a healthy degree of skepticism when they announce plans to improve governance.  A lack of trust in government can greatly reduce the willingness of citizens and officials to work towards change.  It is important to find ways in the near term to enhance trust in government.

Recent research in Africa suggests that improving trust also depends on good service delivery in people’s everyday life, such as the ability of citizens to get the simplest formal documents like birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, and land titles.  The government’s drive in the Philippines to simplify the processes to register businesses is good example of this type of reforms.  Systematic efforts to maximize transparency and information disclosure can also be a key element of trust building. 

Fourth, organize and coordinate the Strategy for Good Governance

Formulating, coordinating and monitoring a strategy for governance reforms require an institutional structure or “home” in government to translate vision into action. 

In Indonesia, we established a committee comprising the Ministry of Finance, the Supreme Audit Agency and the Anti-Corruption Commission.  The committee met on a regular basis to assess problems, set targets, review progress and revise our approach.  Other countries in the region have appointed a senior official as an “anti-corruption czar” to lead and coordinate good governance and anti-corruption efforts. 

There is no single “correct” way of organizing governance reforms, but there is no doubt in my mind that an institutional home is needed to tackle what is likely to be the most difficult challenges a government faces.


I believe the prospects for governance reforms in the Philippines are very good at this point in time.  A new administration is in place with a clear mandate to improve governance.  Public opinion, civil society and important parts of the business community are behind the government in this endeavor.  The Philippines has a number of key policies and programs in place that can make a real difference.  The skills and solutions are here.  The key challenge then is to capture this positive spirit and translate it into action – to pull together a strategy to achieve the government’s vision that has clear targets and a management structure to keep reforms on track. 

In closing, let me say that, the World Bank is eager to further support the Philippines in improving governance and my sincere hope is that you can turn the vision of good governance into a reality.

Maraming Salamat Po!






Siemens has launched a global US$ 100 million Siemens Integrity Initiative which will support organizations and projects that fight corruption and fraud through collective action, education and training. One of the first grants consists of $1 million to the Makati Business Club in Manila

"How Good People Turn Evil"
by Maria Ressa | January 31, 2011

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 shows he's a good man, but how can he have been part of this system for so long? How can good people turn evil?

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.

"You cannot deal with a government where the right hand is offering a handshake while the left hand is trying to pick your pocket. In the recent campaign, I put forward the analogy of our country facing a fork in the road, where it could choose to tread the straight path to success or continue negotiating the winding, rocky road of dishonesty." -        

        - President Benigno S. Aquino, III

Click here to read the President's full speech to investors at Infrastructure Philippines 2010 Conference

State-of-the-Nation Address of President Benigno S. Aquino III before the Joint Session of the Congress

Inaugural Speech of President Benigno S. Aquino III

11 February 2010

2009 SWS Surveys of Enterprises on Corruption:
Most managers say renewal of local business permits is getting easier;
31% expect companies to donate to election campaigns

Social Weather Stations

The annual renewal of local business permits and licenses is easier now compared to three years ago, according to 70% of enterprise managers in Metro Davao, 67% in Cagayan de Oro/Iligan City (CDO-I), 61% in Metro Cebu, 48% in CALABA, and 47% in Metro Manila, based on the 2009 SWS Surveys of Enterprises on Corruption, conducted from November 3 - December 5, 2009 [Chart 1].

This is reported in a new section on Transparency of Local Government Procedures in the 2009 SWS Surveys of Enterprises on Corruption.

In another special section of the survey, dealing with the 2010 elections, 31% of managers expect companies to donate to political campaigns.

Highlights of the 2009 SWS Surveys of Enterprises on Corruption, presented today by SWS President Mahar Mangahas at the "Forum on the SWS 2009 Surveys of Enterprises on Corruption and Anti-Corruption Strategies" organized by The Asia Foundation, Social Weather Stations, and the Hills Program on Governance- Asian Institute of Management at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City, include:

1. Managers consider public sector corruption to be high and stagnant. The farther from the local level, the more that corruption happens.

2. Sincerity in fighting corruption varies across agencies. It was notably up in trial courts, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Department of Justice (DOJ), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Commission on Elections (Comelec), and Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). On the other hand, it was notably down in Commission on Audit (COA), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Presidential Anti-Graft and Corruption (PAGC), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Office of the President.

3. On government efforts to fight corruption, half of managers see improvement in transparency in bidding for a government contract.

4. The proportion of enterprises solicited for a bribe was below the 2008 peak, but still a high 60%.

5. Majority of managers find transparency in local government procedures. At least two-thirds do not use intermediaries in local business permit renewals.

6. Two-fifths of managers sense improvement in public access to information; three-fourths support passage of a strong law on right to information.

7. Managers consider private sector corruption to be less than public corruption. However, the trend is flat.

8. Willingness of enterprises to fund an anti-corruption program is back to 5% of net income, similar to 2005 and 2006 after a slump in 2007.

9. Managers reporting honest business practices in their sector remain few.

10. In voting for President, "fighting corruption" and "creating jobs" are first and second priorities of both managers and the public. Third priority is "promoting a good business environment" for managers, but"eradicating poverty" for the public.

11. Managers consider the business climate to be better than 2008.

The forum also featured Prof. Michael Johnston, who presented his ideas on key strategies in fighting corruption in the country. (Prof. Johnston's recent book, Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy, won the 2009 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He was also cited as one of the '100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics 2008'.)

Donations to election campaigns

Compared to 2004, donations from companies to the 2010 election campaigns are expected to come from fewer contributors, to be smaller in size, and to be more voluntary.

In 2009, 31% of managers expect that enterprises will donate to political campaigns, consisting of 17% saying companies will donate to more than one candidate for a single position and 14% saying they will donate to only one candidate for a single position [Chart 2].

In 2004, 45% of managers expected companies to donate to political campaigns, consisting of 33% saying they will donate to more than one candidate for a single position and 12% saying they will donate to only one candidate for a single position.

In 2009, 44% of managers estimated the amount of company donations to political campaigns to be less than Php50,000, 15% estimated it at Php50,000-99,000, 19% at Php100,000-499,000, 6% at Php500,000-999,000, and 12% at Php1 million and above [Chart 3].

In 2004, 41% estimated it to be less than Php50,000, 15% estimated it at Php50,000-99,000, 25% atPhp100,000-499,000, 6% at Php500,000-999,000, and 9% at Php1 million and above.

In 2009, 24% of managers say the company donations to political campaigns are voluntary, 64% say they arepartly voluntary and partly solicited, and 12% say they are all solicited [Chart 4].

In 2004, only 11% say these donations are voluntary, 75% say they are partly voluntary and partly solicited, and 14% say they are all solicited.

Managers reported that the two most important reasons for companies to donate to political campaigns are"the company believes in a candidates' platform" (68%) and "the company might need help from a candidate in some future problems" (50%).

Two problems, in particular, have plagued the civil service: corruption (especially in the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue) and the natural tendency, in the absence of a forceful chief executive, of cabinet secretaries to run their departments as independent fiefdoms. Bribes, payoffs, and shakedowns characterized Philippine government and society at all levels. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimated in 1988 that one-third of the annual national budget was lost to corruption. Corruption also occurred because of cultural values. The Filipino bureaucrat who did not help a friend or relative in need was regarded as lacking a sense of utang na loob, or repayment of debts. Many Filipinos recognize this old-fashioned value as being detrimental to economic development. A 1988 congressional study concluded that because of their "personalistic world view," Filipinos were "uncomfortable with bureaucracy, with rules and regulations, and with standard procedures, all of which tend to be impersonal." When faced with such rules they often "ignore them or ask for exceptions."

From 2007 TI Regional Overview - Philippines: 
Despite efforts by the government and civil society corruption remains a serious problem in the Philippines. According to a recent country report, the National Integrity System in the Philippines faces two major problems. Firstly, legislation tends to under-legislate (as in the lack of protection for whistleblowers) or over-legislate (like, for instance, in government regulations). The second problem is ‘more disturbing’: the study found that all the integrity pillars are ‘tainted by internal corruption and are therefore heavily compromised’, ‘unable to perform their functions and operate effectively’. For example, the constitutional commissions are not independent and the public procurement system is plagued with misappropriation problems.



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Ehem -- the anti-corruption initiative of the Philippine Jesuits echoes the urgent call for cultural reform against corruption in the Philippines.
Ehem aims at bringing people to a renewed sensitivity to the evil of corruption and its prevalence in ordinary life. It seeks ultimately to make them more intensely aware of their own vulnerability to corruption, their own uncritiqued, often unwitting practice of corruption in daily life.
Ehem hopes to bring people, in the end, to a commitment to live the way of Ehemplo --- critical of corruption, intent on integrity!
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