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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fulbright Seminar on Corruption

3 April 2009, De La Salle University Manila

Dr. Isagani R. Cruz (President, Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association), Dr. Belen D. Calingacion (Chair, Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, University of the Philippines Diliman) and Ruth Uy Asmundson (Mayor, Davis City, California)

IRC: This session of the Philippine Fulbright Seminar Series is about corruption, which has been named as the biggest problem of Philippine politics. Please say a little bit about yourself.

BDC: I am Len Calingacion, from the Department of Speech, Communication and Theatre Arts of the University of the Philippines Diliman. I’ve been teaching communication and theatre performance for the past 25 years.

RUA: I’m Ruth Uy Asmundson. I grew up in Isabela and I went to Adamson University for my Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. I went to UC Davis for my PhD and, while there, I met my future husband. I came back to the Philippines to teach at Adamson. Martial law was declared on my birthday, Sept. 21, 1972 . I guess my fiancé was really very interested in me. He came to the Philippines and asked me to marry him. I said yes and went back to the United States to Davis and we got married and raised six children. I got involved in education in Davis. I was on the school board for 10 years. My husband was mayor when I met him. He had Parkinson’s Disease, so I didn’t like him to run again, and he said, “OK, honey, you have to run for me.” I said, “OK, honey, I’ll run for you.” So I ran and I was fortunate to get the highest vote, so I became Mayor and I fell in love with politics.

IRC: Conventional wisdom says that corruption is bad for government, but because corruption seems to be present in many countries, there might be a way of looking at it not just from the ethical point of view, but from the development point of view. Perhaps there are development strategies that would take into account corruption. If we have to live with it, maybe we should just live with it. I want to put on the table that maybe we should try and challenge received wisdom, not just as academics but in real life. I was fortunate, as you know, to be undersecretary of education at the time Raul Roco was the secretary. When we entered the department, it was considered one the most corrupt government agency after customs and public works, but after about 6 or 7 months of cleaning up the department, we became the least corrupt, according to surveys. We were clearly on the side of those who do not like corruption, but Brother Andrew Gonzalez, who was our immediate past secretary, said he would rather have a corrupt but efficient person rather than a clean and honest but ineffectual person. So there’s a kind of moral ambiguity there.

RUA: I always look for balance. It’s like eating carrots: if you eat a lot, you know it’s dangerous for you because it’s carcinogenic, but you need carrots to sustain your health. For me corruption is the use of a government position by a government official for personal gain. Having the power is so seductive; it’s so tempting. If a person doesn’t have high moral integrity, that person could easily be swayed and that person could say, “OK, it’s just a little because I’m doing a lot anyway, so I feel that I deserve this.” Once you go beyond that first step, nothing is enough.

BDC: The point of no return.

RUA: In my position I always make sure I keep reminding myself that I am a public servant. Last year I visited my hometown and I was talking to the mayor and the council members. I found out that the council had not met for six months since the last election, because of personal attacks during the campaign. I told them they were crazy. Both sides wanted to have an apology from the other side. I said, “OK, let’s have a meeting.” Actually I also invited the governor. She came and the mayor came and we met for the whole day until midnight. You know what? They reconciled.

BDC: They needed a bridge.

RUA: They needed a bridge, and I think that’s what we need to do, because we have a strong utang na loob. Here’s another situation: I was invited to speak at the League of Cities conference one evening. During the day, in the hallway, there were lots of Mayors just sitting around, and I said to them, “Bakit wala kayo sa loob?” [Why are you not inside attending the conference?] Sabi nila, “Wala namang pera ibibigay. Pag may pera pupunta kami doon.” [Nobody’s giving out money there. If they give out money, we will go inside.]

IRC and BDC: That’s so sad.

RUA: So that evening I talked about that. I said, you know you complain about how dirty the politics here is? You are the very politicians who are making it dirty. If you want to clean up the government, you have to clean yourselves first. I said, you’re just here to get money, and that’s stealing. I was very frank about it. I think they know there’s corruption but because it’s the prevailing way, even if they started out with a good heart to really make a difference, they get sucked in.

BDC: Sucked in and swallowed.

RUA: What we really need to do is to find good people who have integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing especially when nobody is looking.

IRC: So, you’re saying that the solution is to put in new people.

BDC: From this new generation.

RUA: Another thing that we have is “crab mentality.” When somebody is up there, we try to bring that person down rather than push him up.

BDC: I have an anthropologist friend telling me that that’s an insult to the crab.

RUA: That’s right.

BDC: Because the crabs actually help other crabs to go up.

IRC: So crab mentality is a good thing.

BDC: It’s a misused term to describe this idea of pulling people down.

RUA: Filipinos, when they are outside the Philippines, are very good. At the airport in San Francisco Filipinos lined up, but when we got to the airport in Manila, everybody was crowding everybody else. What happened there? They know that in the United States you have to follow. In Manila, people who are supposed to be maintaining the rules are not doing their jobs. The other day at the airport, I was in line. Then there were these three guys. They wanted to sumingit [cut in], but I shook my head, so they started talking to me. I told them I’m Mayor of Davis in California. And they said, “O asan ang bodyguard mo?” [Where is your bodyguard?] We lack role models and the very people who should be role models, the high government officials, are, can I say it, corrupt. And so, if the leaders are corrupt …

BDC: It’s corruption all the way down. In the academy, if you’re going to talk about change to the extreme, that’s revolution. Maybe a middle ground is that you change leaders. Some people in the university have been saying that we should kill all our bad leaders, do cleansing.

RUA: Why not?

BDC: Cleansing, because if they’re already dead, we can start influencing the new ones. But they always get swallowed somehow by the system, so how do you look at this?

IRC: We’re looking at this from both ends. I agree that we have to put a new class of leaders.

BDC: Right.

IRC: That means education, values, and so on, preparation for those who are about to be in power. The other end is about those who are already there, who are already leaders, and some kind of in-service training or conversion on the part of those who are already in power. Those are two definite programs that need a lot of doing.

RUA: I think you have to hit it at both ends. The salvation would be the young ones, because they are not yet corrupted, so you start them on the good path of values. The problem sometimes is the parents.

BDC: Politicians encouraging their children.

RUA: If you start with the kids, you have to make sure that the parents are also educated.

BDC: I’m an evangelical, and in the evangelical faith, there’s a lot of teaching in their homilies. You know in the evangelical church it’s two hours homily. It’s really like a lecture on leadership. In the United States fifteen thousand, seven thousand people go to one service. There must be something there. They to inform people in the context of the church that we have to find a good leader with a good heart.

IRC: But one thing good about religious leaders is that they’re not really going to run, so they are really outside the government structure.

BDC: What if they do run?

IRC: That’s the exception. Maybe the churches can be more aware of how they could influence people not to be corrupt. Maybe that’s the third program that we can go into.

RUA: Yes.

IRC: I’m always looking for programs that can actually be done.

BDC: The Mayor of Quezon City had a program for city officials and they will take courses in the University of the Philippines. I’m hoping that in that way they get professionalized.

RUA: You know how many?

BDC: I don’t know how many of them will end up really responsible officials.

IRC: We do have the career service.

BDC: Continuing education.

IRC: Most political appointees are coterminous with whoever is appointing them, except for the career executive service officials or CESO.

RUA: So there is standard for them.

IRC: Well, in general, I think people who graduate from there are, let’s say, less corrupt or less likely to be corrupt.

BDC: Is this an impression, or there is data?

IRC: Career people who I’ve met tend to be very professional.

RUA: You know there are actually many good people in the government.

BDC: They get swallowed.

RUA: We hear about our democratic form of government, you know there’s due process of law, but then you can’t really rely sometimes on the judicial system to handle these things.

IRC: And it takes years and years for decisions to be final, so people say anyway we could get away with it at least for sometime.

RUA: Joe Jaworski started the American leadership forum. It’s now in several states. What he wanted to do is to have leaders trained in a certain way. It’s not really brainwashing, but you know, to be a leader you need to know certain ways to behave, to respond to things. So he formed this American leadership forum where he gets all the different leaders in different sectors, not just in politics, also in business, in education, things like that, and they meet for a year. It’s like a class actually for a year and they get exposed to all kinds of leaders. It’s a big network actually. When there’s something that needs to be done this group of people can mobilize things.

IRC: That’s a good idea. We could actually do that.

BDC: American leadership, Philippine leadership.

RUA: American leadership forum or Philippine leadership forum.

BDC: And if we have the money we can invite some of the best leaders in the world. How long do we have to go through the training?

RUA: It’s a year class. Once a month. Only 12 meetings.

IRC: Let me share what we did in the Department of Education. I was in charge of purchasing textbooks. So I got bribe offers. My biggest bribe offer was fifty million pesos. That’s pretty big. I was supposed to sign a contract for a billion two hundred million pesos to buy a particular textbook. What I did was very simple. During the bidding process I invited media. I made media telecast the bidding session nationwide.

BDC: Wow!

IRC: And so the media was there and the TV camera was there and nobody could go near the bidding officials. In the old days, while they were opening the bids, people could come around, make bulong-bulong [whispered negotiations], but here because all the cameras were there, they couldn’t do it. It was really Roco’s idea; he called it the Sunshine Principle.

RUA: That’s right! The “sunshine law.” Transparency. Everything has to be shown transparent.

IRC: The idea is not to solve the country’s problems, but to start the thinking process. As Fulbrighters we are privileged to live in two houses. We use Ruth as a good example, who is now pretty much on the American side, but those of us who have remained in the Philippines lived a big important part of our lives in the US, thanks to the kindness of the American government and the American taxpayers. And so we learned how we see the Philippines from much different and cleaner and not corrupt point of view. I think our contribution to Philippine history is that we can see what is good and what is bad about our country from the experience that we had and we still have in a country like the US.

RUA: I think what we need is have more reflections, have more thinking, have more conversations with one another, so that we can formulate how we can do things best.

BDC: Is there one thing that we Fulbrighters can do right now?

RUA: I think to spearhead the change. We are in a position to do something. We have seen the other side, the other world, and unfortunately a lot of other Filipinos’ exposure is only of one side. Fulbrighters have a responsibility to make big changes, to make big changes for the better.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Roundtable Project

In a meeting held on 12 February 2009, the PFSA board decided to convene a series of roundtable sessions on 5 major topics. Each session will have 4 to 6 Fulbrighters, plus another Fulbrighter as moderator. Each session will last for at least one hour and at most two hours.

The objective of each session is to come up with a few concrete and specific ideas for doable actions to solve some of the problems involved in the topic. The topics are: the financial crisis, education, culture, corruption, and constitution change.

Each session will be taped. To allow for participation by Fulbrighters outside Manila or the Philippines, we will set up teleconferencing facilities (using Skype). After editing, the transcripts will be posted on our blog and other appropriate sites on the web; they will also be sent in soft copy form to concerned government and/or private sector entities that can implement the ideas generated.

PFSA is in a unique position to hold these sessions, because we have members in government and in the private sector. We have members that are pro-administration and anti-administration, young and not-so-young, scientists and artists, and so on. We have members in the media that can help disseminate the results of the project. We also have some of the best minds in the country and the world today. The project will cost very little on the part of PFSA (just food, transcription and editing costs); this is the reason for using the Web and soft copies.

If you wish to volunteer for any of the sessions, please do so on or before the end of February. We will start inviting participants in March, and we will hold the sessions in April and May.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Backgrounder on PFSA

The Fulbright program in the Philippines, launched in 1948, is the oldest continuing Fulbright program in the world. The Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association, organized in 1959, is most likely the oldest active Fulbright alumni organization in the world. The 2,000 or so members of the association include numerous individuals that made and are making a huge difference in the national life of the Philippines, including a Supreme Court Chief Justice, a Senate President, several lawmakers and cabinet officials, National Artists, National Scientists, university presidents, and a huge number of other persons in positions of authority and responsibility.

The Association has worked with other organizations to make the Fulbright program more visible, as well as to promote the objectives that define the program itself. For example, we have worked with the other alumni organizations in the Philippines, as well as in Southeast Asia, and also with the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution and various universities.

We have published books, sponsored lectures, done community projects, given awards to outstanding alumni, and even successfully nominated former President Corazon Aquino for the 1996 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding.

Our individual and organizational achievements reinforce what is at the core of our association, which is a shared vision coming from the shared experience of having lived, studied, and worked in the United States. That vision is a vision of a world at peace, free not only from war and terrorism, but from the worse evils of hunger, poverty, disease, and oppression. We work individually and collectively to help our country and our region to create and to maintain societies where persons can realize their full potential as free, creative, and critical human beings.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Will Fulbrighters please fill in the missing data in the following timeline? Thank you. - Isagani R. Cruz, President, Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association


1948 Fulbright program launched in the Philippines

1959 3 November: The Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association (PFSA) is organized. The first officers were: ____________________________________

1983 28-30 April: 35th Anniversary Celebration and Conference on “Philippine-American Relations: A Model of North-South Relations,” College of Law, UP Diliman

1988 21 January: President Corazon C. Aquino inducts the new officers of PFSA in Malacañang: Marcelo B. Fernan (President), Antonio V. Arizabal Jr. (Vice-President), Santos A. Migallos Jr. (Secretary), Gonzalo A. Villa (Treasurer), Isagani R. Cruz (PRO), Edilberto P. Dagot (Auditor), Feliciana A. Reyes (Business Manager), and Directors Napoleon V. Abueva Jr., Corazon Juliano Agrava, Juan R. Francisco, Reynaldo J. Gregorio, Hugo E. Gutierrez Jr., Carolina G. Hernandez, Lucrecia R. Kasilag, and Nilo L. Rosas.

1988 23 March: American Ambassador Nicholas Platt hosts cocktail reunion of Fulbrighters at US Embassy

1988 4-8 July: Science and Technology Week in Manila

1988 ______: Science Week at the USIS Lincoln Center in Cebu

1988 29 September: Anniversary Concert at the CCP, featuring the world premiere of a new Fulbright song “Ode to Fulbrighters,” composed by National Artist Lucrecia Kasilag, with lyrics by Isagani R. Cruz

1988 22 October: Assembly on Education and Culture at the Philippine Normal College (now University)

1988 6 December: Anniversary Dinner at Philippine Plaza, featuring Outstanding Fulbright Alumni Awards to Benigno S. "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., (public service, posthumous), Corazon C. Santos De La Paz (business administration), Jose Encarnacion Jr. (economics), Bro. Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, FSC (education), Francisco Sionil Jose (literature), Jose Joya (arts), Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J. (mathematics), Purificacion Valera Quisumbing (international legal studies), and Clara Y. Lim Sylianco (science)

1990 ____: Livelihood projects in Marilaw, Bulacan, as community outreach, in cooperation with the Hubert H. Humphrey Alumni Association, the East-West Center Alumni Association, and the Marilaw Jaycees

1990 1 October: Essay Contest on the Bill of Rights, in cooperation with Magnolia, the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, PAEF, and the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center, with two First Prizes of two Round-trip tickets each to Washington, D.C., with $2,000 allowance; two Second Prizes of two Round-trip tickets each to Honolulu, with $1,000 allowance; two Third Prizes of one set each of Encyclopedia Americana or Annals of America; and several other cash prizes ranging from P500 to P10,000 each.

1991 4 July: PFSA hands out the prizes in the Essay Contest on the Bill of Rights

1991 21-22 November: First Southeast Asian Fulbright Alumni Conference November 21-22 at Manila Hotel on the theme “The Fulbrighter: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century”

1995 _____: Board of Trustees: Corazon S. De la Paz (President), William G. Padolina (Vice-President), Zenaida A. Manalo (Secretary), Reynaldo J. Gregorio (Treasurer), Rolando R. Dizon FSC (Auditor), Isagani R. Cruz (PRO), Ma. Mercedes M. Fajardo-Robles (PRO); members: Patricio B. Lazaro, Nagasura T. Madale, Cayetano W. Paderanga, Nilo L. Rosas, Ida M. Siason, Nestor O. Vinluan, Antonio Arizabal, and Alexander A. Calata

1995 4 August: J. William Fulbright Memorial Lectures launched at the Asian Institute of Management, with Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J., speaking on “Science, Technology, and the Challenges to the Philippines in the New World Culture”

1995 5 October: Dialogue and Luncheon of UP Visayas and Philippine American Educational Foundation; 2nd JWF Memorial Lecture in UP Visayas at Miag-ao by Angel C. Alcala on “The Role of Science in Conservation: Marine Reserves”

1995 _______: 1st issue of The Filipino Fulbrighter, featuring a survey on the death penalty

1996 18 January: 3rd JWF Memorial Lecture at MSU-IIT in Iligan by Jesus P. Estanislao on “APEC after Osaka and into Subic”

1996 24 May: 4th JWF Memorial Lecture at DLSU Manila by Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, on “Philippine Higher Education: Some Unorthodox Solutions to Perennial Problems”

1996 11 October: Successful nomination of Corazon C. Aquino for the 1996 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding

1996 21 November: 5th JWF Memorial Lecture at USLS in Bacolod by Rolando R. Dizon, FSC, on “Philippine Countryside Development: The Negros Experience”

1996 _____: Launching of The J. William Fulbright Memorial Lectures, 1995-1996, edited by Isagani R. Cruz, containing the 1st to 5th JWF Memorial Lectures and the acceptance speech of Corazon C. Aquino

1997 29 August: Program on “Reflections on the Next Fifty Years of the Fulbright Program,” featuring the 6th JWF Memorial Lecture at Thomas Jefferson American Center in Makati by Edilberto C. de Jesus on “Liberal Education and Democracy”

1997 21 November: 7th JWF Memorial Lecture at the University of Asia and the Pacific in Pasig by Onofre D. Corpuz on “The Economy of Special Relations between the Philippines and the United States, 1900-1935”

1998 23 March: Symposium on the Philippine Constitution and Launching of the Fulbright Commemorative Stamp, featuring the 8th JWF Memorial Lecture at the University of Asia and the Pacific by Ricardo J. Romulo on “The Supreme Court and the Formulation of Economic Policy”; Cocktails at U.S. Embassy, featuring speeches by Education Secretary Lourdes Quisumbing and American Ambassador Nicholas Platt

1998 25 June: Symposium on 100 Years of Philippine-American Relations, featuring the 9th JWF Memorial Lecture at the Thomas Jefferson American Center in Makati by Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr. on “Economics and the Constitution”; the 10th by Marcelo B. Fernan on “The Judiciary and the Constitution”; the 11th by Froilan M. Bacungan on “The Recognition and Guarantee of Human Rights in the Constitution of the Philippines”; the 12th by Amando Doronila on “Philippine and U.S. Political and Electoral Systems” the 13th by Alfred E. Eckes on “From William McKinley to Bill Clinton: The American Presidency in Transition”

1998 20 November: 50th Anniversary Fulbright Symposium on 100 Years of Philippine-American Relations, featuring the 14th JWF Memorial Lecture at the Thomas Jefferson American Center in Makati by L. Sandy Maisel on “A Reading of American Politics, 1998”; the 15th by Wilfrido V. Villacorta on “Philippine Politics and the Requirements of Globalization”; the 16th by Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr. on “Globalization and the Limits to National Economic Management”

2000 _____: Launching of The J. William Fulbright Memorial Lectures, 1997-1998, edited by Isagani R. Cruz, containing the 6th to 16th JWF Memorial Lectures

2005 12 March: General Assembly at Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell Center, Makati; Corazon C. Aquino and Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone induct new board members into office: Isagani R. Cruz (President), Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr. (Vice-President), Angel C. Alcala (Vice-President for Visayas and Mindanao), Ma. Celia H. Fernandez-Estavillo (Secretary), Ma. Mercedes F. Robles (Treasurer), Elizabeth L. Enriquez (Auditor), Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. (PRO), Ani Rosa S. Almario, Nicolas A. Deocampo, Juan R. Francisco, Oscar J. Hilado, Federico M. Macaranas, Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J., Ambeth R. Ocampo, Renito V. Saguisag

2005 24 October: 17th JWF Memorial Lecture in Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City by Sharon Delmendo on “Self-reliance is the Key to Progress: The Paradox of Sovereignty in Philippine and American Nationalisms”

2006 20 September: 18th JWF Memorial Lecture in UPV in Iloilo by Ralph Turingan on “Responsible and Sustainable Marine Fisheries for Small Scale Fishermen in the Philippines; 19th by Rosalie Arcala Hall on “Between Sword and Ploughshare: Tracking the Philippine Government’s Counterinsurgency Policy and Its Implications to Panay”