Bad sport, bad for the country
AS EASY AS ABC - Atty. Alex B. Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2019 - 12:00am

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” says American author Ken Blanchard. It simply makes sense that an athlete’s training for competition involves starting his day with yesterday’s measurements as benchmark. That is what he should beat, and tomorrow should beat today’s numbers.

In a corporate setting, a feedback system is SOP for any organization that seeks to improve. There is upward feedback, peer feedback and 360-degree feedback coming from all stakeholders. No one is dumped because of negative feedback. But if those negative feedback happen year in and year out, without improvement on the one receiving feedback, that person should most likely belong outside the organization.

If the government is an independent person, independent as it is, it has its peers or stakeholders – not the least of which are other governments. The feedback system is, however, more fluid. It can be through an ambassador (of the US government), a press statement (from the European Union), an investigation attempt (from the United Nations), or a resolution to look at the human rights condition of the Philippines (led by Iceland).

They give feedback. We cannot tell them to go look at this other murderous totalitarian state instead, or that drug-lord haven of a country first before looking at us because the truth is, we are not being compared with the worst. If our peers expect so much less from us, and put us in the same basket as those basket cases, they wouldn’t give a buck about us. But they have seen the country’s history, the potential of becoming an economic top powerhouse, the people who are a major force globally and who have both a happy, warm disposition, as well as, historically, a boiling point.

They also want to invest here, if they feel the environment is right, because ASEAN, unlike their mature foreign markets, has so much depth and width to grow.

When government officials say “pack your bags and leave if you don’t like it here,” I do not buy that one bit. If those officials say we should sever ties because they hurt our feelings – to be honest, really?

If the government is in the restaurant business, and most of its customers are happy, but someone complains about the food, the restaurant cannot ask that customer to leave and never come back. The others might detest the treatment and sympathize, or the food may really be bad not only for that guy but for others, too. If the restaurant keeps showing their customers the door or are discriminatory on who they want to serve, that business will not last.

Truth be told, in the country’s case, whether any incumbent government likes it or not, feedback helps, and continues to help us improve. The government passed laws to ease doing business because we rank 124th globally; the government passed laws to lower or rationalize our taxes because we continue to be the highest-taxing economy in the region; the government passed anti-money laundering laws and had been compelled to look at bank secrecy laws to keep up with the financial governance of the world; and the government had been going out on a limb, foreign roadshows and all, to invite investments and tourists into the country.

Iceland...that heaven-made, wondrous bucket list of a destination. Those white, gray, and black glaciers with pepper-colored ashfall that you can walk on, and chop; those picturesque volcanoes leveled with the lake that your feet can peep into; those geysers that explode into the air a mighty concoction of water and gas every 20 or so seconds; those powerful waterfalls that bring an icy mist; and those vast rock formations by the Atlantic that can battle Krypton’s ice wedges. They are also ranked fourth among the happiest people globally and they know that Filipinos are happy by nature as well. They know about the Philippines’ natural assets, too. It is no wonder for them to care about us. Besides, the resolution put forward is less harmful than Chinese vessels ramming into small Filipino fishing boats.

And the UK and Australia, who have signed that resolution along with Iceland, are investors and trade partners, not to mention our top tourist customers. The UK ranked fifth in the FDI inflow in our country in 2017 while Australia was also in the list of top five countries whose tourists visited our country, with almost 300,000 tourists here in 2018.

One of the biggest disservices any incumbent politician can make is advocating to sever ties with foreign partners, because governments come and go, but the people – they are constant. They will always be left to enjoy or suffer what is handed down by past governments with potentially long-term effects. If we must err, we must err on the side of collaboration and partnership; we must err on the side of what is humane, with a bias for those who will remain.

On a somber note, we bid farewell to Cindy Ortiz, a partner at Deloitte Philippines. She served the Church, until she no longer can. She saw us not as competitors but as colleagues and friends. Her life’s joy is getting home, catching up with her family before they are asleep. You are home, Cindy. On this side, you shall be sorely missed. May the family and friends you left behind feel no further sorrow.

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Alexander Cabrera is the chairman of the Integrity Initiative Inc. (II Inc.), a non-profit organization that promotes common ethical and acceptable integrity standards. He is also the chairman and senior partner of Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. Email your comments and questions to This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

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