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Many Filipino executives would go to prison if they worked in Japan

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Don’t Drink And Write

How the mighty have fallen.

On Monday, the global automotive industry was shaken to its core when legendary executive Carlos Ghosn — chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi — was arrested by Japanese prosecutors for what was described as financial misconduct. Mr. Ghosn, a French citizen of Lebanese descent, was once so revered in Japan for having saved Nissan from bankruptcy that a comic book was dedicated to him. As far as the nation was concerned, he was Iron Man, Thor and Captain America rolled into one.

By Nissan’s own admission, the company had launched an internal investigation involving its powerful boss. It did so after having received a report from a whistle-blower. The automaker, as of this writing, has not presented the full extent of Mr. Ghosn’s transgressions, but at least two have already come to light. The first is the executive’s understatement of his income — apparently by half — presumably to enable himself to pay lower taxes for years. The second one is the “personal use of company assets.” Whether said assets are monetary or not, the fact is that Mr. Ghosn abused his access to Nissan resources.

But think about this for a minute: Both Mr. Ghosn’s alleged offenses are par for the course in Philippine business. Misdeclaration of one’s financial statements? Check. Misappropriation of company property? Check.

That’s not all. We also accept money and gifts from suppliers. We rig contract bidding. We hire friends and family. We reimburse personal expenses. We pilfer office supplies. We report false data. The list goes on.

I am willing to wager that if many Filipino executives — including (and especially) those in the car industry — had been working in Japan, not a few of us would be languishing in jail by now. The crooked are lucky this country coddles their ilk, not least because many of those in government authority play their game, too. And not only does our territory protect the corrupt and the unethical — we even empower them. In this nation, they’re the normal folks, while those who blow the whistle — those who aspire to honesty and fairness — are frowned upon, if not ostracized or even killed.

What happened to Carlos Ghosn sent giant waves across the industry. Not because members do not want to witness the downfall of Nissan’s illustrious leader, but because nobody saw this coming. In Japan, it is taboo to cheat, wrong to embezzle and, yes, criminal to misrepresent.

Actions we only shrug off — even brag about — inside corporate Philippines.

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