Jakarta Lectures 2011



The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified

(click image to enlarge)


The Philippines is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The Corruption Perception Indexes (CPIs) of the Berlin-based Transparency International revealed the country’s corruption perception levels at the bottom rung since the 1990s. Unresolved national scandals beset various government administrations since the Martial Law period, thereby validating – and shaping as well – the widespread negative public perceptions.

But the country is not lagging behind in designing reforms to reduce corruption. In fact, the World Bank and other countries have recognized its world-class anticorruption initiatives in the public sector as well as in the various private sector and civil society organizations. Even the business groups, academe, the Church and broad-based citizens’ movements have joined the government’s efforts – either in collaboration or antagonism – in combating corruption in all fronts. However, as reform initiatives grow in sophistication, corruption likewise rears and gears into more insidious cleverness, thereby intensifying its gnawing influence in Philippine society. Thus the country perpetually staggers, like a big turtle with its small head of reforms wanting to forge ahead but is held back by the heavy shell of corruption.

Corruption is betrayal of public trust, and kakistocracy is the raging torrent gushing acts of betrayal. Thus, kakistocratic behavior makes corruption intractable and betrayal as an effective tool of the trade. Corruption persists because of the hegemony of kakistocratic leaders in all types of organizations in the Philippines.

High-level corruption and stories of grand malfeasance manifest in the many unresolved national scandals that rock the Philippine government. The stories of those involved - either as perpetrators or victims - are all told and written in media. But almost all of these stories only end up in dragging perfunctory investigations or being used for political commodity. They unfortunately fail to elevate into serious intellectual discourse that allow for theoretical abstraction and meaningful insights for reform.

This book digs deeper into the untold corruption stories from a lens of a betrayal theory for theoretical abstraction, as well as generate meaningful insights for anticorruption initiatives through a citizenship-based country strategy for the Philippines. For emancipation, a concept of citizenship as a countervailing power is juxtaposed to challenge corruption and betrayal.

Carrying on Ronnie Amorado’s framework of the dark side of social capital and perverse networks in corruption (Fixing Society, 2007), a betrayal theory will look at the various stakes and roles of actors, notions and elements of betrayal, techniques and modus operandi, as well as the pains and struggles of the betrayed through careful case documentation and analysis of their lived experiences.

As the research bleeds for the stories of the betrayed, it aims to seek justice by immortalizing their betrayal experiences for others to learn. Betrayal is a universal hurtful transgression that undermines people’s integrity and society’s probity. Betrayal is the antithesis of decency.

Malin Akerström (Betrayal and Betrayers: The Sociology of Treachery, 1991) shows the profound universality of betrayal: “Betrayal is a breach of trust, when information is shared beyond an agreed upon boundary of relations, whether that boundary is a pair of friends or a nation!”



The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified
(click here for abstract and image

Dr. Michael Johnston
Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY;
2009 Grawemeyer Award 

for Ideas Improving World Order;
2008 Ethisphere’s List of 100 Most Influential People 

in Business Ethics

Entrenched, systemic corruption poses challenges that citizens of more fortunate societies often do not understand. Where accountability, governance institutions, and ethical frameworks are strong, corruption is the exception — not the rule. Usually it consists of discrete, clearly transgressive actions for which legal and political recourse is readily at hand. A bureaucrat who accepts a bribe or an elected official who abuses the powers of office in order to extract campaign contributions or personal gifts, breaks clear rules. While some dealings will go undetected, over time there is a significant probability of investigation, prosecution, and punishment for the guilty. Even where the activities in question do not so much break the law as exceed the limits of fair play — think campaign contributions that are too large, excessive patronage practices, or price-fixing among business cronies — a variety of public agencies and professional/trade associations set up to maintain open and equitable political and market processes can quickly impose a variety of sanctions. Backing it all up is a citizenry that expects fair play and accountability, and can demand action when things go wrong, as well as an elite culture in which rules and accountability are accepted facts of life. To be sure, even the best-governed societies fall short of these ideals from time to time; still, corrupt figures and abusers of power know they are taking significant risks, while citizens and honest business people have alternatives to corrupt ways of getting things done. 

Not so, however, in systemically corrupt societies. There, the abuse of power is the norm, rules are vague or poorly enforced, and citizens can do little to demand punishment or reward accountability. In a Kakistocracy — a government by the worst — reporting abuses of power to authorities may amount to little more than informing one corrupt official about his rivals’ gains and techniques. Where elections are commonplace, promises of reform is the rule, yet little seems to change; indeed, campaigns and voting create new corruption in their own right. Courageous judges and journalists must fight a broader system in which bribery, intimidation, and violence protect the powerful and silence dissenters. Grassroots leaders seeking to mobilize their neighbors encounter resignation and distrust, often as understandable responses to deprivation and exploitation in everyday life. Many citizens will have little choice but to deal with venal and dishonest officials, and to do so from a position of vulnerability and weakness, while those involved in corrupt dealings all too frequently come to believe in their own impunity. 

No place fits the latter description perfectly; corruption reflects a wide range of local influences everywhere it occurs. Still, because of its immense potential as well as its long-term governance problems, there is no better place than the Republic of the Philippines to begin to understand those contrasting realities. A strategic country and its large, energetic population has been very poorly served by its government over the decades; deep poverty and the waste of human potential are distressing realities in a society that by all rights ought to be one of the leaders of its region. In this book — a worthy successor to his well-known Fixing Society — Ronnie Amorado not only gives us the broad outlines of corruption and its consequences in Philippine society, but also develops a detailed understanding of the specific varieties of corrupt situations, individuals, and techniques that confront would-be reformers. His discussion shows us just how entrenched and complex corruption problems have become, and why they are not the sorts of clear exceptions to the norm that they might be in some other places. We also get a clear picture of why past efforts at reform have had indifferent results, and why the common view that corruption can be “tackled” or “fixed” with sufficient effort and good intentions overlooks persistent historical, institutional, and systemic difficulties. At the same time, Ronnie Amorado develops positive ideas and proposals — none of them simple or easy, but all rooted in the complicated realities of wealth, power, and corruption in the Philippines — that should be the subject of serious analysis and debate. 

Every society on earth has corruption. No country has all the answers when it comes to good governance and reform. It is crucial to remember that corruption does not explain everything that is bad in any society. No more does it negate all that is good. There are, at the moment, reasons for hope and optimism in the Philippines — a country, after all, whose corruption realities have much in common with those of many other emerging societies. For that reason the efforts of a new administration, and the opportunities that may emerge for Filipinos themselves to step up their demands for better government, will be closely watched around the world. Those of us who care about those efforts, and who are looking for ways to support committed officials, businesspeople, and citizens as they continue their push for reform, will all benefit from a close and thoughtful reading of Ronnie Amorado’s work.



The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified
(click here for abstract and image

Prof. Steven J. Lux
Executive Education Program
Maxwell School of Citizenship
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 

If George Holmes Maxwell were alive today, he would be pleased to know the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs hosted Ronnie Amorado as part of the School’s inaugural class of Humphrey Fellows for 2009 – 2010. So much of Ronnie Amorado’s investigation into the theory that explains corruption and the practice that perpetuates it mirrors the founder’s concerns with American politics in the 1920s. That is, it is not enough to imagine technical responses to things like corruption. As Ronnie Amorado points in shocking detail in this book, when it comes to issues like corruption there is a perpetual arms race between reform initiatives that grow in sophistication against the corruption that likewise grows more insidious and clever. Given such dynamics, solutions to public problems require more complex thinking. We must ask what motivates people to behave as they do even when it seems shockingly obvious that the behavior is destroying the foundation of society around them. George Maxwell, before, and Ronnie Amorado, today, implore us to bring to our analysis the conceptions of good citizenship as a means of addressing problems in public affairs. 

When Ronnie Amorado first came to Syracuse, he may have expected too much from the Maxwell School. With the word “citizenship” deeply etched into the building’s stone facade for all to read, it is understandable to think that there should be a School imprimatur on the subject of citizenship. Indeed, George Maxwell’s first objective called for educating “intelligent patriots” by way of an institution dedicated to promoting “those principles, facts, and elements which, when combined, make up our rights and duties and our value and distinctiveness as US citizens.” In modern day America, however, the conceptions of citizenship are as complex as they are contested. When Ronnie Amorado entered our hallowed halls, he heard echoes of voices across the decades discussing, debating, and disagreeing about the fundamental understanding of citizenship and its worth. As such, before he could begin to conceptualize “citizenship as a countervailing force” to kakistocracy, Ronnie Amorado needed significant time just to make sense of the divergent views across the School and in the literature. Moreover, he also had to grapple with a debate about citizenship that is largely US-centric with little comparative perspective to other parts of the world. 

Ronnie Amorado’s contributions to academia and the practice of combatting corruption are significant. First, he sheds light in excruciating detail, often uncomfortable, about the actual workings of corruption. His definitions of various types and patterns that emerge provide no wiggle room for someone who would describe their actions in uncertain terms. And, as he details his accounts, he provides a window into the world of corruption that allows us to entertain practical solutions to the problem. In this sense, he is a prime example of the good within an epistemic community of networked professionals from around the globe that brings their knowledge to bear on resolving issues such as corruption.

When George Maxwell offered up his money to found the Maxwell School, his sights were clearly set on the United States. Some eighty years later, we are blessed to have someone like Ronnie Amorado, a Filipino citizen, share his knowledge with the Maxwell community and to take from us what he needs to be the intelligent international patriot. It was an honor and a pleasure to host Ronnie Amorado to the inaugural class of Humphrey Fellows attending the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I can only hope that out of this exercise comes not only a book but a continued impact on institutions of higher learning in the Philippines to take on the question of citizenship, regardless of its complexity.



The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified
(click here for abstract and image)

Fr. Albert E. Alejo, SJ
Team Leader, Ehem Anticorruption Movement
Author, Ehemplo: Spirituality of Shared Integrity
in Philippine Church and Society (2010)

Ronnie Amorado has done it again! In the award-winning Fixing Society (2007), he x-rayed the hidden networks of fixers in Philippine bureaucracy. Using innovative methods of fieldwork, he developed a typology of insider and outsider mechanisms of circumventing structures and official bureaucratic processes. Now in Kakistocracy, he does a more sensitive operation of laser scanning the pathetic ways of betraying public trust – betrayals committed by unqualified leaders who insist on being unprincipled, unethical, and totally unworthy of the people’s hope for good governance.
In both cases, Ronnie Amorado goes beyond presenting a depressing diagnosis of what ails Philippine state and society. He offers very concrete recommendations on how to check anomalies and restore trust in public service. His proposals are based on state-of-the-art qualitative investigation techniques, enhanced by his passionate engagement in policy reform and integrity promotion.

Kakistocracy’s coming out of press today could not be more timely. The front pages of national dailies and the prime time news on TV are dominated by the revelations about high ranking military officials pocketing huge slush funds, partly to support the whims of their family members; justices even of the Supreme Court accused of plagiarism and bullying law professors for raising the issue in public; no less than the Ombudsman being implicated in pushing for a highly questionable plea bargaining agreement with a general charged on plunder. Fortunately, the people’s hunger for truth and justice finds a glimmer of hope in the courageous witnessing of Col. George Rabusa and former state auditor Heidi Mendoza – who, by the way, is our colleague, together with Ronnie Amorado, in the Ehem anticorruption movement.

I salute the Ateneo de Davao University’s Research and Publication Office for continuing its commitment of publishing books in the service of the search for deep cultural and structural reforms. The latest of these books are Dory Avisado’s The Intertwining Culture of Patriarchy, Corruption and Impunity and JAJA: Justice for Arbet, Justice for All. Ronnie Amorado’s Kakistocracy is a welcome new volume as it is destined, I confidently say, to become a classic in research-based advocacy and policy study.



The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified
(click here for abstract and image)

Dr. Steven Rood
Philippine Country Representative
The Asia Foundation

The Philippines is widely known for the high quality in the abstract of its anti-corruption frameworks and laws, and the low quality of implementation. Beginning two decades ago with investigative journalism, the civil society anti-corruption movement has had its successes from time to time, but continues to face dismal challenges. The system has not been transformed.

Ronnie Amorado is a long-time participant in this movement, and has been instrumental in some of its most significant innovations like the Ehem anticorruption initiative. He mines this experience and dedicated fieldwork to outline a theory centered on betrayals of trust. His examples, though altered to protect the privacy of the subjects, range across a variety of institutions and situations from the public to the private. He then extracts from the vignettes overall patterns which can help elevate analyses of how to transform the system.

A citizen-based strategy is proposed which involves actions that citizens can take and changes to the social context to make citizenship more active to generate trust and to preserve it. Those of us who know Ronnie Amorado can testify that he can lead by example.



The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified
(click here for abstract and image

Matt Stephens
Governance and Anticorruption Advisor
The World Bank-Philippines

For Ronnie Amorado’s Kakistocracy, the title of the book really does say it all. Kakistocracy is not a word in common use and, similarly, the book takes a different approach to much of the anti-corruption literature in the Philippines.

As the title suggests, the book explores the conditions that lead to and the practical manifestations of government by the least qualified or principled. By recounting a series of real cases of malfeasance by the unqualified or unprincipled – collusion in appointments and promotions in government, misuse of public resources, extortion, nepotism and even domestic violence – from the perspective of those directly affected, the book connects broad scale corruption and individual behavior, positing an inexorable link between immorality and ethics in the private and public spheres.

Ronnie Amorado highlights the necessity of capable and ethical leadership, but the case studies equally demonstrate that good leadership of itself is not an adequate condition to prevent corruption. Looking beyond leadership, he passionately espouses the necessity for social mobilization to demand better governance as an obligation of citizenship. Through community action, Ronnie Amorado argues, trust can be built, strong leaders supported, and capable institutions established.

Ronnie Amorado’s lively writing style, breadth of theoretical and historical perspectives and personalized rendering of the real impact of corruption on the lives of ordinary people make Kakistocracy a highly readable and worthy contribution to the Philippines’ rich literature on anti-corruption.



The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified
(click here for abstract and image)

James Wesberry
Chief of Party, Philippine Integrity Project (iPro)

Ronnie Amorado’s second major book stands apart for more reasons than its eye-catching title, Kakistocracy – a government by the unprincipled, unethical and unqualified. An anatomical dissection of betrayal of public trust, the theme throughout the book, is accompanied by spine tingling fictionalized but very real cases of political and ethical apostasy, deception, dishonesty, double-crossing, double-dealing, duplicity, false witnessing, legerdemain, tergiversation, perfidy, prevarication, sell-out, treachery, trickery and unfaithfulness to persons, parties, principles, and the people as a whole.

If that were not enough the book also provides a wealth of short diagnostics including origin and often historical background of all sorts of topics relating them to trust and integrity, for example such public speakers’ treasures as the Peter Principle, Murphy’s law, Parkinson’s Law, the Pareto Rule, among others. Many quotes permeate the volume; some are familiar to the seasoned corruption fighter but many little known ones are excavated from works over the centuries such as the Latin axiom: Quis se excusa, se acusat! (He who excuses himself, accuses himself).  My favorite is from Confucius which I condense here: To put the world…the nation… the family…in order…we must first set our hearts right!

Based on over ten years of researching corruption’s mega-breach of faith and giving scores of anti-corruption seminars, Ronnie Amorado believes that, “Without integrity, intelligence is impunity. Without intelligence, integrity is mediocrity. Thus to be trusted – one must gain intelligence and integrity, one must cultivate character and competence.” He says that the betrayal of trust by those who are in power is “a form of subjection and subjugation.” He finds forms of kakistocracy everywhere and says they are all related – in government, in business, in religion, in not-for-profit organizations, even in the family. And he wraps it all up by proffering “a concept of citizenship as a countervailing power to offset and reduce kakistocratic behavior that breeds corruption and acts of betrayal.” Ronnie Amorado is riding a shooting star across the Philippines and among the Filipinos whose hopes and prayers for the future depend on transforming kakistocracy into a genuine democracy – one that is founded on leadership by example and nurtured by character with competence – on ending the historical betrayal of their


Writing RRL



Impunity is not only the flagrancy of the crooked; 
impunity is also when the crooks are scot-free!


Impede the plea, expose the impunity!

The plea bargain agreement for Gen. Carlos Garcia, an admitted launderer to dodge the graver offense of plundering more than 300 million pesos, is impunity in its most reprehensible twist. Impunity is not only the flagrancy of the crooked; impunity is also when the crooks are scot-free.

How do we tell the Filipinos to act in uprightness and combat corruption? How do we encourage our public officials and employees to a conduct of decorum? How do we persuade businessmen to pay their taxes? How do we tell our students not to cheat?

How do we promote integrity and accountability in the country, when corruption cases like that of Gen. Garcia are rewarded by pure legalese? What can deter the crooks if they can go unpunished by simply allowing them to return a portion of their loot?

How are things to change when the very institutions entrusted with punishing corruption are either circumvented or abetting it?

Paano tayo titino kung ang mga kurakot ay nakakalusot?  Sino ngayon ang magkakalakas ng loob sugpuin ang mga katiwalian sa bansa?

Garcia’s plea bargain is a toleration of his anomalous actions. Toleration does not only set a very bad precedence; it also feeds and reinforces the crookedness of his breed.

This is not anymore about Gen. Garcia; this is now more about the honor and integrity of the country that is at stake. This is now more about the reputation of fiduciary institutions – the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) – that is suspect. This is now more about the entire Filipino people losing trust and faith on these institutions. This is a classic betrayal of public trust!

I believe that the Philippine government has a solid case against Gen. Garcia, and subscribe to the legal and audit opinions that the plea bargain is categorically illegal and blatantly inappropriate. I support the calls to abrogate the plea bargain!

We should commend the hard work of the lawyers, auditors and investigators who worked for many years to build a solid case against Gen. Garcia. You are our inspiration and will forever be remembered of your legacy.

We must praise those well-meaning OMB and OSP officials and employees who remain steadfast and oppose – even in silence – the plea bargain agreement. The people will forever remember you for taking the higher moral ground.

We laud the Armed Forces of the Philippines for courageously wanting Garcia’s case to proceed, rather than be shelved by plea bargain. More importantly, we can salute the military whistleblowers who will certainly stand out as the genuine officers and gentlemen.

Corrupt men in the army don't deserve to wear their uniform. You should be ashamed!

I join the Filipino people in monitoring and supporting the full resolution by prosecution of Gen. Garcia’s plunder case.

Pag-isipan, pag-usapan! Huwag nating kakalimutan!

We should enjoin the citizenry to seriously reflect. Garcia’s case is corruption that creeps into our families and institutions.

We should call on the parents to serve as good examples to their children and espouse the virtue of honest toil. We call on the children to ask your parents about their sources of income. We call on the students to ask how your tuition fees are paid.

We must knock on the doors of the schools and universities to review your formation programs; we exhort on your intervention to chastise corrupt students and alumni.

We must urge all offices – public and private alike – to look deeper into your procurement practices, and enhance transparency and accountability.

We should remind all lawyers, auditors and law enforcers of your public oath of honor and integrity. Are you becoming instruments of the impunity of corruption?

It takes years to build trust and a few seconds to destroy it, and takes longer time to restore it.


Of law and justice

The law is not always 
the pathway to justice!
- The Leverage