Aguilar: Aren’t we all guilty of corruption?

Against the current

A FEW nights ago, I was invited by a friend who drives a taxi in the city to a drinking spree at a joint in Agora terminal. If I can help it I don’t refuse beer invites wherever it may be. It’s how I get first hand information of the real situation at the grassroots and it has been my way of unwinding for as long as I could remember. Expectedly I showed up of course and I was welcomed by an eager group of bus drivers and conductors who just finished work.

At one point in our conversation one of the bus conductors accused his colleague for cheating on the tickets he issued. The guy looked so embarrassed as he glanced at me, perhaps because I was an outsider. So to pacify him I made a remark saying a few pesos would not hurt the owner of their bus company since I’m sure he profits thousands on a daily basis just by sitting comfortably in his office while they, the workers who are exposed to all kinds of dangers get barely enough to survive. The remark must have made an impression that a few in the group took turn in confessing how they play with their system just to get extra income on the side; from not declaring the right number of passengers, not issuing tickets, and even bribing inspectors and drivers to get away with their modus. Even my friend who drives the taxi shared a technique on how to rig taxi meters, although he said he never really tried it.

While I was amused by their honesty, I really did not know how to respond. They went on justifying how they needed to make those “diskarte” as their families depended on them and their daily wages just do not suffice. From their sharings I can tell they are very generous people with families to support. That night they did not even let me pay for the beer we consumed as they all pitched in to cover for our bill. If I had not heard their confessions I would have been very impressed by how they claim their dignity with simply paying for their drinks. I could not say the same to a lot of my friends.

On hindsight I should not have made such remark as it was giving them a green light to carry on the corruption they do. But their openness also revealed the extent of how corruption has penetrated our society in all aspects and from all levels. I am pretty sure everyone can relate to this. Be it on not paying the correct taxes, bringing home supplies from the office, to putting names of ghost employees on payroll, getting kickbacks from projects approved, and not telling the truth. You name it, corruption is there.

So if everyone is directly or indirectly guilty of such crime, then no one really has the moral ascendancy to accuse politicians of amassing hundreds of millions, after all we are equally guilty of cheating the system to get more than what is due to us. Even just by tolerating someone we know who are doing these injustices would make us passive accomplices too. I was told more than half of the voters from the last elections accepted money in exchange for votes. So who are we to complain?

On second thought, just because everyone does it doesn’t mean we are a hopeless society when it comes to corruption. Public office should be subjected to higher standards of morality and propriety. These are positions of leadership where huge changes can take effect and where decisions have implications on the welfare of the majority. We have our neighboring countries such as Japan who can show to us that corruption can be minimized if not eliminated.

And while we should all be held accountable to any and all forms of corruption we get our hands into, more so with our elected officials who are supposed to improve our quality of life so that we do not have to cheat the system just to survive.


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