"Ethical", an adjective according to the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, means "well principled". "Unethical", its opposite, pertains to unprincipled behavior. These are acts that may or may not be illegal but are outside of accepted convention.
Honesty is considered to be an ethical quality. You are unlikely to be thrown in jail for being a liar, but if you are a congressman or a priest you might be condemned and have to pay a penalty. Honesty is not a requirement of politicians RUNNING for office, it would seem. But in the U.S., once they are IN OFFICE, it becomes an ethic. So it would seem ethics can have a measure of elasticity.
"Ethical" attaches to a lot of jobs, especially those that represent the people, or provide services to the people. Police should be highly ethical. So should judges. So should senators and representatives, and the President.
In the Philippines, values are loosey goosey. Wobbly. Shaky. Sometimes I would question if "ethical" is even a term that some powerful people know or believe in. After all, it frequently tends to conflict with their strong self-interest.
- Witness former Chief Justice Corona.
- The Ampatuan Clan
- Former President Arroyo.
- Senator Sotto.
When each individual defines the law for himself because the nation's law disciplines are in disarray, then ethics become wobbly, for sure.
In the Philippines it is ethical to plan a coup but remain in public service after the coup fails (Senator Enrile).
In the Philippines, it is ethical to have been married to a murderer but get elected to Congress (Rep. Marcos).
In the Philippines it is ethical to steal material from a blogger, change the meaning of the words to be 180 degrees opposite of what was intended, deny that the theft is wrong, blame the people who are blowing whistles all over town . . . and remain in office, representing the best of the best of Philippine citizenry (Senator Sotto).
Senator Sotto, in a more disciplined, more ethical public service arena, would be hauled before an ethics committee and reprimanded or possibly asked to resign.
Not in the Philippines. The ethical standards reflect the nation's essential values. And that does not speak well for the Philippines.
Other senators keep their yaps shut, I suppose because they don't want to be attacked for their own ethical slips.
One way in which the United States and the Philippines differ is how discipline in the public arena is enforced. In the Philippines, the Ombudsman is responsible for policing the whole of the Philippines. Given all the sleazy deals going down across the land, she has her plate filled to overflow and is standing in a pile of excess.
In the United States, most agencies have some kind of "Ethics Panel" or office that polices the behavior of its own members. Congress, for example, polices itself. If a congressman goes wayward, say, by getting caught in an extramarital affair or lying and cheating or physically harassing someone on his staff, he catches a lot of heat. If he becomes an embarrassment to the institution of Congress, the Ethics Committee will haul him in for reprimand and even suggest he resign.
In the Philippines, nothing happens. The Senate Ethics Committee did review Senator Villar's activities regarding the charge that he moved a freeway, but he is still in office.
The notion of "responsibility" is as soft here as is the notion of "ethics". Rather than disciplined enforcement of high standards of behavior, we see excuses and rationalizations. Back to Sotto.
The reputation of Congress as a whole does not seem to get attached to the wayward behavior of a given member.
I'm thinking that the bill now in the Senate called the "Political Party Development Bill" will be a strong step toward correcting loose ethical behavior by removing personality from political parties and replacing it with ideals. Hopefully, one of the ideals will be to meet a certain level of honesty and honor in speeches.
Senator Edgardo Angara is sponsoring the bill. He says too much today depends on "moneyed personalities", and congressmen too easily shift allegiances to get close to the money. In his presentation of the bill on the floor of the Senate, Senator Angara said:
- “Our politics remains very bad, breeding poor governance and corruption that stifles the delivery of public services. This is because the structure of our politics, especially of our political party system, is flawed.”
The goals of the bill are as follows:
- institutionalize reforms in the financing of electoral campaigns, promote accountability and transparency;
- provide financial subsidies to political parties, to augment their expenditures for campaign purposes and for party development;
- promote party loyalty and discipline; and
- encourage and support continuing voter education and civic literacy programs.
Amendments likely to be inserted will levy strong penalties against "Political Turncoatism", create a campaign finance department within COMELEC, and develop strong measures for funding allocations.
Opponents argue that passing the bill will give the current administration an enduring advantage because his party will be very strong. They also argue that banning an individual from running in an election if he or she changes political party is too severe a penalty.
It seems to me this is an important step toward developing stronger ethics in Congress.
Better to do it now than when there is a jerk in the President's chair.
I like this bill.