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The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently – Friedrich Nietzsche

As much as I hate to say it, a good number of Filipinos are corrupt by nature. I am not in the position to judge the entirety of our nation but from what I have witnessed in my almost 23 years of existence, crooked means rule in our country and shortcuts seem to be the way of life.

Corruption comes in a multitude of forms. It can be small or large scale, monetary or material, abstract or concrete. It breeds and mutates in every nook and cranny of our country – from the cramped and dirty slums of the poor to the luxurious abodes of the rich. This is truly a unfortunate thing that is happening in Philippine society. It’s not limited to the government, mind you.

If you are wondering how I came up with this generalization, then I have to wonder as well where you have been hiding all this time. Open your eyes wide open and see how corruption has transformed into an epidemic that’s passed on without discrimination. We Filipinos are so used to it to the point that it’s not so much of a big deal anymore, as if it is well-integrated into our everyday lives. Open the television, you’ll see news flashes about corruption. The internet? Same thing. Even on the streets it is very evident.

Let me cite some examples of the different forms of corruption that I have witnessed in the past.

Have you seen the streets of our bustling metropolis recently? Foot bridges have been constructed in streets where there are speeding vehicles and crossing pedestrians. The idea here is to avoid accidents, right? The thing is, news of people getting ran over by speeding vehicles are still common. So much so that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, or MMDA, had to put up signs saying “Bawal Tumawid Dito, May Namatay Na” (“Crossing is Prohibited, People Died Here Already“). I am not sure if those eyesores of a warning work though. Loading and unloading zones have been assigned as well. Streets are marked with yellow borders where public utility vehicles can stop to let commuters board and alight. Waiting sheds are constructed in front of those loading and unloading zones so that commuters have some protection from the elements of nature. But no matter how much effort the MMDA exerts into improving our metropolis, people are still reluctant to change. Even though the drivers try to obey the rules set by authorities, the commuters insist that they go down where they want to. When a driver does not give in to a commuter’s request, the commuter becomes angry and shouts invectives toward the driver. Oh, trash has been multiplying like crazy on our streets. Since trash bins are rare in Metro Manila, people end up throwing their trash on the streets. I just don’t see the difficult part in keeping a candy wrapper or two in one’s pocket. The most disastrous aspect of these incidents on our streets is that children see adults doing those dirty deeds. Who are the role models of the youth? The adults. Those actions corrupt the minds of the youth, making them think that those actions are proper.

Bawal Tumawid -- No Crossing

Bribery anyone? The difficulty of government processes has propelled bribery to becoming a necessity. These lubricants make transactions in government institutions smoother and faster. Only a man devoid of the five senses will say no such things exist. I have tried this before and it is something I will forever regret. Yes, it made the process of getting a student’s permit (for driving) quick and easy but the thought that I have bypassed a prescribed process will haunt me for a years to come. Again, it’s not limited to the government. This is prevalent in private institutions.

Of course, how can I forget about the hearings on television about the widespread corruption in government institutions. I have no right to say that the accusations about some officials pocketing government funds are true but it’s alarming to see that there are issues like these every year. It is really sad that the funds set aside for the improvement of our country are being taken by a greedy few. Ironic really, especially for a dominantly Catholic country where the majority believes that God is watching them from up above.

Corruption happens even at work. I was once credited with a shift bonus amounting to ₱8,000. A shift bonus is given to those who work during the night, something I have never done in my entire stay with my current company. I told a co-worker about this and this co-worker told me to keep silent about it and keep the money. For a country where one in four people subsists on less than $1.00 a day, ₱8,000 is no joke. I could have bought something for myself such as a phone or a music player with that money. Good thing that my conscience quickly told me to notify my people manager and tell her about the mistake in my payslip. This co-worker of mine told me I just lost instant money. I replied that at least I didn’t lose my integrity.

This brings me to an often neglected principle: Integrity. Oxford Dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Simply put, integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. It is such a pity that quite a number of Filipinos do not value integrity. Corruption evolves, corruption crushes. The little wrong deeds emulated by children can lead to a downward spiral of corrupt ways and means. These crooked practices crush the idea of integrity at a very young age. This repeats again and again, passed on from generation to generation. In geek speak, corruption becomes an infinite loop. If only people would value integrity more than convenience and material wealth, then our country would probably be in a better state than what it is today.

If it is not right, do not do it. If it is not true, do not say it.

I will never lose hope for our country though. I love our country despite its inherent flaws. It might take years, even way beyond mine, for our country to change for the better but I believe that some day, Philippine society will be free of corruption. I hope you believe the same thing too.