The unpleasant topic of corruption has annoyed one too many Filipinos for far too long now. Thus, one might wonder why in heaven’s name would we want to add to the discussion, with yet another long and boring critique of how we—our leaders and, more importantly, us as a people—continue to allow government to be run by pigs who continue to run our nation to the ground.
The simple answer is because there is a lesson to be learned here.
This is not about the need to educate the voters—that they finally look beyond patronage politics when they elect their officials—even though this is an urgent concern. This is not even about the debate on whether or not we should eliminate pork barrel allocations, even though this too is an important issue that we best resolve soon. It’s not about the wisdom of reviewing our systems and practices so that we can reduce, if not altogether stamp out, corruption at all levels of government. For sure, we can do ourselves a lot of good by addressing all of these concerns. And, in part because all these are already part of the current discourse, we’d like to focus on a matter that is not discussed as much, albeit equally important.
In a nutshell, it’s this—We’re only as good as our people.
No matter what system is in place, no matter what reforms are made to improve the way we do things so that we can prevent this attack on our nation’s coffers, people will find ways to steal—and steal big—if they want to.
Now, we should ask ourselves—What went wrong with these people?
Despite the fact that we’re a God-fearing, church-going nation, one that prides itself with having a tight-knit, family-oriented culture and assiduously teaches values in schools, why are we such a dog-eat-dog nation, wherein so many of us are interested only in amassing wealth, even at the expense of everyone else? Perhaps we’ll never know.
What’s clear, however, is that even while we’ve been trumpeting the heroic travails of the selfless few, we’ve been messing up big time for several generations now. The corrupt individuals among us were once students in our schools, where they were all taught values and good manners and right conduct by teachers like us.
This further highlights the enormous significance of the school system—and of teachers—since it is here where character building and the development of values happen or don’t happen (Stop passing the blame on the parents! They’re not education professionals like you and they don’t have a 12-year curriculum like you do! What you need to do is figure out how to educate the parents as well!).
So, as the nation tries to resolve the various issues related to the big pork barrel scandal, as it tries to figure out what can be salvaged from and what will be left for this generation, educators must figure out how we can move forward and really prepare our youth—each and everyone of them—for a life of integrity.
How can we teach an entire generation to forego greed and the lust for power and money? How do we imbibe in them the moral courage that will make them fight for what’s right, at all times? From our failure to properly educate the corrupt among those who are in power, we must profess that values formation is no easy task.
For sure, it starts with us living a life of integrity. We must walk the talk and practice what we preach. We must serve as exemplars of the virtuous life we all want our young to lead when they grow up, so that they may all be true to what is good and become a formidable force for nation building. We must live an honorable life, if only to teach our young—as many inspiring teachers have done so in the past—that honor trumps affluence and nice guys don’t necessarily finish last.
Otherwise, we’d end up repeating the mistakes that have brought us the many high-and-mighty corrupt leaders who have caused so much ruin to our country, now and in the past.
It’s not merely a question of teaching what’s right. What’s important is that our young learn that they should do what’s right.
Otherwise, instead of creating a bright future for our children and our nation, we’d be creating yet another generation of corrupt Filipinos all eager to step on the rights of others and, with firmness of purpose, be ever so willing to say Oink, Oink, Oink.