For a change, 2010 now!


Filipinos Syracuse

It is always nice to see compatriots in a foreign land! This is the first meeting of Filipino Fellows and Scholars in Syracuse, NY. From R-L: Atty. Rene Pacaldo from the Fortress City of Iligan; Mr. Ryan Villar from the Salt Province of Pangasinan; Ms. Jaclaine Mercado of Pampanga, the Land of the Beauty; Lt. Col. Al Jaji of the River City of Cagayan de Oro and Sultanate Province of Sulu; and Dr. Ronnie Amorado of the Durian City of Davao. Rene is faculty of the MSU-Marawi City while Al works with the Intelligence Division of the Philippine Army. Both Rene and Al are Fulbright Scholars finishing their PhDs on environment with the State University of New York (SUNY). Al specializes on environment and conflict, while Rene studies carbon sequestration of willow shrubs as alternative source of energy; he is also studying US environmental laws. Ryan is a Central Bank Fellow taking up instructional designs, while Jac is a Moynihan Scholar taking up international studies. Both Ryan and Jac are taking up their second MA degrees in Syracuse University; both respectively earned their first MA degrees on government administration and political science from the Ateneo de Manila University. Ryan works with the HR Group of the Philippine Central Bank, and Jac a full time scholar. Ronnie is a Hubert Humphrey-Fulbright Fellow doing his anticorruption research at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Syracuse University.

The meeting was sponsored by Al in celebration of Eid'l Fitr last September 20, 2009 at the Fuji Asian Buffet Restaurant in Syracuse. As of last account, there are about 13 Filipinos studying in Syracuse.

What is good with meeting compatriots in a foreign land is the joy of a lifeline -- we all easily connect like we have known one another back home. We can also speak our home-grown language, and discuss current events and issues affecting the country. The lifeline actually provides sanity. In the words of Al -- "
magaling ka nga, sige'ng aral, basa at sulat, palaging English, pero para ka na rin namang sirang ulo!"

We plan to hold a monthly Filipino Day, just an informal fellowship day among Filipino compatriots, to provide lifeline and sanity!

Mabuhay ang mga Pilipino!
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!


Common good, common greed

Leaders train for the lofty aim of the common good
and then act out in life on the basis of common greed!

- Saul Alinsky (1909-1972)




The Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) saw it coming as early as the 1500s, when he declared: “what are we in power for!” This was not a question, but a pragmatic pronouncement about the skill of acquisition and utilization of power that leaders ought to learn, perpetuate and protect. Profoundly, Machiavelli’s evocation depicts the downfall of many great leaders across the globe – among governments, corporations and even cause-oriented social movements. More than 400 years later, the English Baron Lord Acton (1834-1902) unleashed his popular dictum against Machiavellian pragmatism: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

The use of cunning and deceitful tactics in politics and society in general, aimed at protecting and propagating vested interests (can be personal interests, class interests, party interests, business interests), has become a major source of tension as management and leadership theories evolve. The basic tension arises from the lacuna of an operational ethical framework that could have served as one of the firm foundations of effective managerial and leadership styles. This lacuna explains the many controversies and scandals that hound the world’s leaders. Thus, there is a need to privilege ethical leadership as an urgent theoretical and practical tool – a kind of ethical leadership philosophy that promotes integrity, credibility and ascendancy, and that which provides a meaningful normative function for effective managerial and leadership skills. In resonance, Lee Bolman and Terence Deal (Reframing Organizations, 2008) fittingly espoused: “If we choose to banish moral discourse and leave managers to face ethical issues alone, we invite dreary and brutish political dynamics. An organization can and should take a moral stance. It can make its values clear, hold employees accountable, and validate the need for dialog about ethical choices. Positive politics without an ethical framework and moral dialogue is as unlikely as bountiful harvests without sunlight or water!"

I adhere to the belief that intelligence without integrity will result in impunity. Without integrity, intelligence and competence will just become effective instruments for undesirable conduct of managers and leaders. On the other hand, integrity without intelligence will simply yield to mediocrity. Mediocre people cannot serve as good and inspiring leaders. Integrity flourishes best when it works with the other ingredients for effective managerial functions and leadership skills.

Leadership without intelligence or integrity gives rise to kakistocracy – a government or organization that is ruled by the most unprincipled, unethical and unqualified managers and leaders. Kakistocracy comes from the Greek kakistos (to mean worst) or kakos (to mean bad) + kracia (to mean rule, power, government). If unchecked, kakistocracy results in kleptocracy . Kleptocracy comes from the Greek kleptos (to mean theft) + kratos (to mean rule).

Kakistocratic and kleptocratic leadership behavior explains the world’s woes in government corruption, corporate scandals, desecration of rule of law, and even the persistence of illegitimate authoritarian states and despotic rulers.

Kenneth Shaw (The Intentional Leader, 2005) was unequivocal: “Make no mistake about it – ethical leaders are good leaders... most sought after and admired leaders around the world were honest, forward-looking, confident, and inspiring. In most international surveys conducted over the past thirty years, honesty is valued first... because we don’t want to be lied to; we want to be told the truth. We want a leader who knows right from wrong...when we follow someone we believe to be dishonest, we come to realize that we’ve compromised our own integrity. In time, we not only lose respect for the leader, we lose respect for ourselves!"

(Photo courtesy of Irregular Times; visit the site for socially-oriented t-shirts and stickers).


2 polls closed

Two polls are now closed at this blog's polling station. The first poll has to do with the presidentiables for 2010, and the second poll is about Sen. NoyNoy Aquino. We are completing and closing these polls because of the new political realignments in the Philippines as well as the formal decision of Sen. Aquino to run for the presidency.

We will monitor the coming weeks as new configurations will emerge. Let's watch out for the tandems; this could be our next poll on the 2010 elections.

The first poll is: Who should be the next President of the Philippines?

We have been running this poll for about 2 months, and 64 voters participated in the poll. How did these 64 voters vote?

  • Sen. Manny Villar - 17 votes (27%)
  • Sen. Mar Roxas - 13 votes (20%)
  • Sen. Dick Gordon - 8 votes (13%)
  • Bro. Eddie Villanueva - 5 votes (8%)
  • Metro Manila Chair Bayani Fernando - 4 votes (6%)
  • Fr. Ed Panlilio - 3 votes (5%)
  • Chief Justice Reynato Puno - 2 votes (3%)
  • Gov. Grace Padaca - 2 votes (3%)
1 vote each (1%):
  • Vice President Noli de Castro
  • Sen. Loren Legarda
  • Sen. Ping Lacson
  • Civil Society Activist Nick Perlas
0 vote each (0%)
  • Sec. Gibo Teodoro
  • Councilor JC de los Reyes
Others - 6 votes (9%)

Mar Roxas, Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca all withdrew their plans in favor of Sen. NoyNoy. Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno is very unequivocal in his position not to run since the very beginning. And other potential candidates are expected to re-align in the coming weeks.

The second poll is: What do you want Sen. NoyNoy Aquino to run for in 2010?

We run this poll for 2 weeks only, and there were 23 voters who participated, 23 souls who believe that Sen. NoyNoy Aquino should:

  • Run as President - 12 votes (52%)
  • Run as Vice President - 4 votes (17%)
  • Not Run - 4 votes (17%)
  • Not Sure - 2 votes (9%)
  • Others - 1 vote (4%)

So these two polls are now officially CLOSED. The other polling questions are still open (we will close a polling question when there is a major change in directions). Just go to the polling station in this blog!


Laughing Money, Crying Money

For these past years I have been conducting integrity development and anticorruption seminar workshops, this phenomenon of laughing money and crying money keeps cropping up. This is especially pervasive in almost all government offices and has been identified as an important element of the whole gamut of graft and corruption issue in the Philippines.

For anticorruption research, this phenomenon can also serve as a very useful analytical tool. The challenge now is really to conduct more empirical studies and conceptual scrutiny of how laughing money and crying money really pervades and reinforces widespread corruption in the Philippine bureaucracy in particular, and the Philippine society in general.

What is laughing money and crying money? One needs to first understand the latter to appreciate the former.

Crying money, also known as blood money, is understood to cover all and any resource that is due to government, and if somebody steals the resource it results in government loss. Some examples of crying money are:
  1. Public funds, government loans and grants
  2. Taxes, fees, collections, levies, permits, duties, tariffs, excises, tolls, duties
  3. Government time (officials and employees paid by government)
  4. Government supplies, equipment, vehicles
  5. Government facilities, buildings and infrastructure
  6. Government services
On the other hand, laughing money refers to any resource that is not due to government, and if somebody steals the resource, there is no loss to government. Some examples of laughing money are:
  1. Gifts from contractors or private individuals
  2. Tips, commissions and other perks (in kind)
  3. Donations and contributions
  4. Free travels, free club memberships, gift certificates
It is important to note that stealing in both cases are taken liberally, and could also mean in the broader sense. Stealing may imply diverting, undermining, withholding (in the case of public service), loafing (in the case of government time), sneaking, accepting for personal use, embezzling or pocketing among others.

How does this phenomenon of crying money and laughing money relate to or reinforce widespread graft and corruption?

There seems to be a general acknowledgment that crying money directly correlates with graft and corruption since the resource is really owned by government. There is no debate that those who steal crying money are committing acts of graft and corruption, and by so doing they taint their hands with blood (that is why crying money is also called as blood money).

What is more contentious is the phenomenon of laughing money. And many are using laughing money to justify their anomalies and rationalize stealing in various forms and names. But imagine the effect of laughing money in many of these actual cases and everyday experiences of many government officials and employees:
  1. Developing a special treatment to a bidder who gives cash commissions or gifts in kind to the members of Bids and Awards Committees.
  2. Coming up with favored decisions or actions for suppliers whose companies give perks like free plane fares, free hotel accommodations, all-expense paid travels to conferences and vacations, sponsorships to parties and other public gatherings.
  3. Or a favored court judgment in exchange for a big retirement mansion.
  4. A purchaser who benefits from gaining extra appliances for patronizing a supplier; the purchaser's house is fully filled up with all the free appliances from bread toasters to computers to sala sets to washing machines to air conditioning units.
  5. A regulator who gives priority to approve license applications given by fixers, who give additional commissions paid by their clients. Or approves application papers even if they lack documentary requirements.
  6. Favored clients who give gifts and all other goods during Christmas season.
While these and many other similar examples do not imply immediate loss to government, laughing money undermines the government and the public in the long term. People's decisions and actions are affected (or corrupted) by these resources, even if they are owned by private individuals. Private corruption has a way of permeating into public corruption. The blurring effect is as dirty as it can get!

To the extent possible that laughing money involves public transactions, it is still part of graft and corruption. Even if there is no financial and immediate loss to government, laughing money has the capacity to corrupt people's behavior and distort systems. In the end, the same blood that taints the hands of the crying money also stains the face of the laughing money!

See also the Sutton's Law of the Impunity of Profit.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n16/mente/mask.jpg)


War and politics

In war, you can only be killed once,
but in politics, many times
- Winston Churchill

Bemused, be amused!

The recent action of Sen. Mar Roxas to give way to Sen. NoyNoy Aquino to be the presidential standard bearer of the Liberal Party is an act of political sacrifice that should earn him some important sympathy votes. It must have been very painful for Sen. Mar, who has invested a lot for the upcoming 2010 elections.

The political value for the emerging tandem of a NoyNoy-Mar candidacy in 2010 remains to be seen from the point of view of reforms and genuine alternative politics. It is also wanting of whether or not the tandem can really unite the opposition (if the opposition is divided, it is the administration that continues to benefit).

But using the lens of analyzing transactional party machinery, the tandem can be a formidable force. Why is that?

Consider the following: the NoyNoy-Mar tandem also means Kris-Korina support. Imagine how showbiz machinery can enhance political machinery by leaps and bounds. And Sen. Kiko Pangilinan already announced to support Sen. NoyNoy, so bring into the equation the Megastar factor, his popular wife-actress Sharon Cuneta. And if the Megastar is added into the equation, rest assured you can also count on the active support of Juday Santos, another popular actress who has stated to join a Pangilinan campaign come the 2010 elections (Juday's campaign in 2007 for another senator was a poor taste, a classical TRAPO!).

The problem is, will Sen. Pangilinan give way to Sen. Mar for the Vice Presidency? If yes, what will happen to Sen. Mar Roxas? Giving up the presidency is already painful; yielding up the vice presidency might be losing face too much. Sen. Roxas is one who will not simply give in to the prospect of obscurity!

So will this be a NoyNoy-Mar versus NoyNoy-Kiko? These are very challenging times for the Liberal Party. The administration party and the Nacionalistas must be delighted, while the other political movements -- reformists included -- continue to bemuse and perplex in their (our) search for the right candidate!

The great Winston Churchill was not kidding when he uttered: “In war, you can only be killed once,
but in politics, many times
(photo courtesy of Inquirer.net)