Ethics and our society
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - March 30, 2019 - 12:00am

Think about this: The over-the-counter medicine that you are going to take will reduce your feverish body temperature, relieve nasal congestion, and loosen the mucus in your chest. It may however make you drowsy, dry your mouth, or cause a bit of upset stomach --side effects which you find tolerable anyway considering the pill’s benefits.

How do you know all that? It could be from the doctor’s prescription, from a pharmacist’s advice, or from the instructions in the packaging of the medicine. In any case, all that is a product of ethical scientific research.

Now imagine this: Structural engineers tell government officials that grade C30 (very strong) concrete at M35 (heavy duty mix) is the ideal cement grade for the planned public highway. However, government officials connive with suppliers to use a lower grade cement, say C15 (general purpose), built to withstand light traffic and last only for a year or two under heavy duty conditions. Of course, more kickbacks and more repeat projects could be made from the latter.

Another scenario: Research in children’s psychology shows the damaging effects of a bad family and social environment to children as they grow up into adulthood. But still, many of our children grow up in an environment where pornography and promiscuous tools are easily accessible, with parents who are often not available, with parents, teachers, and elders who strictly expect good behavior but behave badly, and who insulate their children or students from the usual problems and failures in life.

When a 16-year old girl, last seen on CCTV to be with her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, ended up skinned to the bone in her face and dead, we ask: What have we done to make our children end up this way?

Then many people gang up on the 17-year-old suspect because immediate justice means somebody has to go to jail fast, with pro-death penalty officials and senatorial candidates saying somebody has to pay for this gruesome crime with his life.

Never mind the possibility that the real perpetrators may still be out there, so that is why the law has a universally-adopted and time-tested procedure for determining probable guilt and guilt itself, but one that is not exciting fare for primetime news.

The president laments that the drug problem has worsened under his administration, then proceeds to mouth the same quick-fix solutions. “In three to six months,” he once said. “Justified killings” for the “nanlabans.” A mouthful of curses and foul words to drug lords, human rights organizations, the Church, the communists, and the opposition Otso Diretso, among others.

I have long stopped listening to the president’s speeches. My wife used to complain why I often listen to the president but now she laughs when I quickly change the channel back to National Geographic whenever local TV features a presidential speech. The president is, of course, still relatively popular. Not surprising because that’s the same level of popularity former presidents had going to the second half of their term, except maybe former president Arroyo.

I digress, but the reason why I mentioned the three scenarios at the beginning of this piece, is that we as a society seemed to have forgotten where our problems originate and where we should be going to solve them. Our social problems originate from lack of ethics, not from lack of a strong hand or political will, not even from lack of knowledge and information.

Let me share these words by the Center for Taiwan Academic Research Ethics Education whose exam I have recently passed: “Ethics are the norms that can be summed up as generally applicable conduct codes derived from the investigation of human behavior in a rational manner, in order to regulate human conduct.”

“In terms of public interest, a research outcome derived from a study that neglects research ethics may cause the state to make inappropriate decisions and mislead other researchers to build future studies upon an irresponsible investigation.”

In research as well as general human behavior, the adage “We're only human, and we all make mistakes” never means it’s okay to tolerate those mistakes and forget about repentance.

“You’re too idealistic!” Of course, we have to try to be idealistic. Otherwise, that over-the-counter medicine we take will not work, that concrete public highway will crumble in a year or two, and many children in our midst will be raised as monsters, weaklings and whatnot.

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