Opinion



Ad Lib -- By Greg B. Macabenta


MBC’S integrity certification system




Posted on January 19, 2011


President Noynoy Aquino’s vow to cleanse the government of corruption will soon get a major boost. You see, whenever people talk about fighting corruption, the only ones put on the carpet, the dogs who need to be fumigated and rid of lice, are the public officials. The other players in the Corruption Game are hardly ever mentioned. And yet, we all know, where there are bribe takers, there are bribe givers.

Now comes the Makati Business Club, announcing that it is launching the "Integrity Initiative" in cooperation with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

According to this news item that I read a few days ago, the new MBC executive director, Peter A. Perfecto, in announcing the initiation of this very laudable undertaking, stressed that it is "high up on the agenda" of the organization.

According to Perfecto, MBC plans to get Philippine businesses to "sign on to an integrity pledge where the CEOs will ban bribes, conduct ethics training and improve the transparency of financial reporting."

This specifically refers to "big public-private sector projects" for which bids will be sought.

The MBC plans "to establish guidelines and internal mechanisms to guard against corrupt practices." The result will be an "integrity certification system" that will be used by the government in screening bid participants. In other words, the equivalent of a Good Housekeeping Seal.

I guess it’s fair to assume that only those companies that are "certified" to be of unquestioned integrity will be allowed to bid on government projects.

This is fantastic! Can you imagine a bidding process where only those who have passed what, hopefully, will be a stringent "integrity screening process" will be allowed to participate?

Wow!

Without meaning to cast aspersion on the members of MBC, or on the Philippine business community as a whole, we have to hope that there will be enough "qualified bidders" after such a rigid screening process.

I’m reminded of the old joke concerning the mayor of Manila who issued a directive to the Manila Police Department (this was before the PNP took over) to the effect that ugly people should be picked off the streets of the city and brought to the Luneta. There they would be lined up before a firing squad and shot.

The following day, not one member of Manila’s Finest could be found out on the streets. Neither was the mayor.

Perhaps a reality check is in order. I assume that a very high IQ (Integrity Quotient) will be established by MBC, otherwise, why bother with such a program at all? But before these very high standards of honesty and integrity are enforced, perhaps Perfecto and the directors of MBC may want to subject their member organizations to a gradual cleansing process, pretty much the way tap water is made to go through a purification process before it is certified safe to drink.

Perhaps the board of MBC can first announce an Integrity Amnesty for all businessmen and corporations, not just members of the club. Those who want to take advantage of it should be required to fill out a form in which they will confess all the instances where their integrity was below MBC standards.

Of course, the members of the board of MBC and the officers of their respective firms will lead by example. There will be no recrimination. No gossiping. No questions asked.

In fact, Perfecto will kick off the process of exorcising the Demons of Corruption by declaring, "Let him who has no sin among you cast the first stone."

Having done that (and it is assumed that no one will dare cast the first stone among the members of MBC), all those who desire to avail themselves of the Integrity Amnesty will undergo an Integrity Retreat, similar to the Cursillo.

They will all be contained in one dark hall, so dark that they cannot recognize each other. They will then be asked to confess their sins aloud, shouting them out and asking for forgiveness. Every single transgression will be declared, the instances when they rigged bids, bribed government officials, agreed to pad the cost of public works projects, cheated on their corporate and personal taxes and, otherwise, contributed to the culture of corruption in the country.

Having done that, they will then be submerged in a pool spring water, where every iota of corruption in their entire being will be washed away.

Having gone through that process, they will be made to swear over a stack of Bibles that they will, henceforth, live lives of honesty, integrity, and nobility. After that, they will be blessed by the bishops (who, themselves, will undergo their own cleansing process).

All the "graduates" of this process of cleansing and fumigation will be entitled to the Integrity Amnesty, all their past corrupt practices being forgiven and forgotten.

Only at that point will it be realistic for MBC to institute the "integrity certification system."

Admittedly, setting the Integrity Quotient too high may be a turn-off for some members of MBC. I think it is reasonable to allow some flexibility.

For instance, cheating on wives or husbands or having more than one of either should not be included in the list of forbidden practices -- unless, they have a direct impact on the BIQ (Business Integrity Quotient).

Cheating on one’s golf scores may also be forgivable, a precedent having already been set in this regard. A public official was accused of cheating on his golf score, yet was allowed to occupy his integrity-sensitive position.

There may be other exceptions that the MBC board may want to consider. In the United States, government officials, especially those who are in a position to grant favors, such as contracts or advantageous legislation, are strictly prohibited from receiving free tickets to concerts or major sports events or expense-paid overseas trips or privileges and favors that could unduly influence them.

Now, we know that little favors and privileges like these are normal in our beloved country and no one ever makes a fuss over them. Surely, ringside tickets to a Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas, plus plush hotel quarters and an open tab on food, drinks, and girls, aren’t too much to give a politician. Didn’t the husband of the past president himself justify such perks?

And, surely, spending several thousand dollars on a dinner in New York doesn’t qualify as abusive, if the folks who are wined and dined are important officials of the country. Again, didn’t the past president justify that, too?

As one client of mine put it, when I was still working with an ad agency in Manila, "Anything that’s consumable is forgivable." That, of course, refers to gifts of food and drinks.

Besides, in this age of multimillion-peso (and multimillion-dollar) kickbacks and overpricing, a night out, even with a harem, is small change.

So, there.

Hopefully, Peter Perfecto and the MBC board will succeed in their announced campaign to curb corrupt practices in their dealings with government and in their plan to establish their "integrity certification system."

We will all watch and wait with bated breath.

gregmacabenta@hotmail.com