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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Little Ethical Question

If someone heading an organization is the subject of an investigation, and that organization (anyone and maybe even everyone in it) may be asked questions and be made to render facts as a matter of investigation, is it ethical for the head of that organization to stay in position while the investigation is going on?

I am lead to ask this question because right now, we have two instances of this phenomenon happening right before our eyes like a political telenovela.

The more obvious example would be the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, as it has been going on for weeks.

A more recent addition to this would be the case of PAGCOR chief Cristino Naguiat, Jr., who was recently named as a recipient of "various perks" by Steve Wynn, owner of Wynn Resorts, alleging that Naguiat received hotel accommodations ($6000 a night) and that his wife was also given an expensive designer handbag (which he denied in last night's news telecast), all for the "oiling" of permits for Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada to put up a gaming resort-cum-complex in the country. (Wynn also named former PAGCOR chief Efraim Genuino as accepting gifts from Okada.)

(Photo courtesy of

(See more here:

While it is nominally seen as Steve Wynn's attempts to protect his own gambling empire's profits (in Macau), Naguiat himself admitted that he did stay in the hotel paid for by Okada, but only because it was "standard industry practice".

Excuse me?

Section 7 (d) of Republic Act No. 6713 clearly states: "Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office."

(See entire Republic Act here:

Let's apply the parts of this Section to Naguiat's case.

Naguiat is a public official. Check. (Appointed, but public.)

He accepted the hotel room stay, and admitted this. Check.

Hotel room costing $6000 is "anything of monetary value". Check.

He was being asked to approve permits for a possible venture of a private businessman, which falls under "in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office." Check.

Mas maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw na labag sa panukalang ito ang ginawa ni Naguiat. (It is clearer than the rising of the sun that what Naguiat did is exactly what this provision says is not allowed by law.)

For Naguiat to say it is "standard business practice" is something I consider as a flimsy and weak attempt to justify his taking on the hotel room.

For the Congressional Committee on Games and Amusement to say the exact same thing - "standard business practice" - is a sad commentary: Our own lawmakers accept bribery and corrupt practices as a matter of course.

Pres. Aquino would be hard pressed to continue his tuwid na daan (on the straight path) goals, the way he uses it to hit Corona, if he does not apply that same standard to his own appointees. What makes it more imperative is that Naguiat is an old classmate of Aquino, and produces more ethical dilemma.

Which brings us back to the "little" ethical question: Should both Corona and Naguiat stay in their posts - how telling that both are appointed, and both refuse to leave - while they are the subject of investigations?

My own code of ethics says this is highly unethical.

(1) The person in question has to ensure to investigators that he cannot tamper with any evidence that may be used in determining his culpability, which is obviously in his purview and control as the head of the said organization which he heads. To this end, I would also posit that ANY contact (verbal, through telephone, internet, an emissary) with any employee of the said organization should be disallowed/prohibited while the investigation is going on, as a person does not have to be physically present in order to instigate a cover up of any misdeeds, and any and all contact to his files and papers related to the performance of his duties should be suspended.

(2) The continued presence of the accused head of the organization within the organization makes it difficult to extract honest, objective responses from people who may be asked to shed accounts on their knowledge of the person in question. This can fall under the Observer's Paradox in the social sciences - the observation of an event or experiment is affected by the presence of others, especially if their boss falls under "the others". Knowing fully well that their responses may "come back to bite them" should the accused be cleared of the charges, they may opt to provide "safe" answers in order to ensure their own continued existence in the organization whichever way the judgement swings.

My parents had a simpler way of articulating these two points: "Huwag kang gagawa ng anumang bagay na magbibigay duda sa pagkatao mo."

Which really bears repeating for our public officials, especially in the conduct of their duties.

Do not do anything that will cast even a sliver of doubt on your character.


  1. It's true, most Filipinos have the tendency to lower or adjust their ethical standards for gov't officials. We always find reason to do so and it's gone to the point where they take the people for granted, forgetting that they are in a position that should first and foremost serve the people. One time, i filed a complaint against an employee of our province's assessor' office for being so disrespectful to a number of people, inc me, who went to their office for some documents. In the course of the hearings, she sought the help of some politicians to "fix" things with me, but i stood my ground. However, she found the right man whom i couldn't refuse, so i filed a desistance, just as a favor to an old, old friend of my father-in-law. But then, at the back of my mind, i knew that even with my desitance, the case will prosper, as per the provisions of the law on public officers. She was suspended and all benefits covered by the suspension period were not given her. That's when i knew we really have to work for a good government, in any way possible.

    Btw, we are "classmates" in Raissa's Our Plaza Miranda. I go by my high school name Rochie. I used to teach Phil History and Filipino until i resigned to give more time to my family.

    I have a lot of catching up to do as regards your blog. I just discovered it recently. I love to read and learn.

  2. Hi, Leng,

    I just now got the time to read the responses of readers and reply. Thank you for reading my blog, please feel free to share it. I really write on a personal level so I rely on word of mouth to add more readers.

    Isn't it mind numbing how we demand so little of our leaders? The latest caper of GMA, from what I read in a news item, is that since she was allowed to go to Iggy's wake, her lawyers are requesting alloing GMA to stay in La Vista for three more days.

    Where else but in the Philippines nga naman.

    In fact, I think that will be the next subject I will blog about.

    I do appreciate you taking the time out to send your experience. I'm glad that you eventually were able to teach that "official" the lesson that she desperately needed to learn. Vigilance is the price we pay talaga.