The other day, a screenwriter friend from Vancouver chatted me up on Facebook and told me, “Wincy, I’m writing this screenplay. It’s partly inspired by Breaking Bad so I have an anti-hero as my main character. He’s a corrupt politician. I’m just stumped on how to write a character like him. What goes inside his head?”

His words gave me pause. They suddenly made me think about an age-old question Filipinos often ask in water-cooler conversations.

How in the world do our politicians steal so much money from our nation’s coffers and still sleep like a newborn at night?

How indeed does the other half live?

I thought about it: in the nebulous universe we live in, no matter how much sense of right and wrong world religions enforce upon us, in the end, we’re neither saint nor sinner—we’re all just animals with complex wants and needs. We’re human beings.

I thought some more: Everybody is the star of his own movie, no matter if you’re the next in line for Mother Theresa or the second coming of Scarface.

Everybody has his excuse.

Read on, Dear Reader, and listen to theirs.

(A caveat: This list does not advocate corruption. My purpose is to simply get inside the heads of these people. I leave the judgment on your lap, Dear Reader.)

8. “I’m recouping my expenses from my campaign.”
8 Ways Filipino Politicians Justify Corruption photo 8a

Winning my seat in office was no miracle from the sky. It cost me an arm and a leg and probably a couple of torsos too.

Politics is a business. I need to recoup my expenses from all the TV spots and the t-shirts and the gift packs I gave away during the elections. Not to mention, those overpriced advertising agency rates.

As long as I do a good job as a leader, breaking even on my expenses should be forgivable.

7. “Everybody’s doing it naman e.”

It’s okay to steal because everyone in office is doing it anyway. Unless your middle name is naiveté, corruption is more the rule than the exception in this armpit of a nation called the Philippines.

It’s the way things are: I do my job and quietly play the game.

Hey, if you go against the tide, and be all Jerry MacGuire with your messianic complex, someone from the penthouse office will threaten you and your family with a gun.

8 Ways Filipino Politicians Justify Corruption photo 7
6. “Think of me as Robin Hood.”
8 Ways Filipino Politicians Justify Corruption photo 6a

What those sunburnt activists call corruption, I call: “stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor.” Hey, it’s not too different from Robin Hood’s MO.

Face it, the Philippine Constitution is the world’s biggest joke book—it was written for the rich by the rich. The poor were designed to be poor since the beginning, so the pigs in the upper echelons can continue to enjoy their MTV Cribs lifestyles.

Budget allocation is a bigger joke. Money always ends up in the pockets of those greedy, pot-bellied sons-of-bitches we call congressmen, instead of the starving “maralita.”

I’d rather stick to my vigilante tactics to make sure that the money goes directly to the poor.

Now as for the money I get to keep for my own family, just consider that as a reward to myself for doing good things, good things not even the likes of Richard Branson can accomplish.

5. “Leaders cannot be respected if they don’t look powerful.”

Do you think foreign investors would talk to me if I rode an Owner-type jeep to our meetings? Would they even look at me in the eye if I wore Chinese knock-offs of Salvatore Ferragamo you can buy in Greenhills?

Leaders are kings, and they should live like kings too. Only will the people believe you if you look like one.

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4. “Laws can be too constricting. Let me serve my nation using my own diskarte.”
8 Ways Filipino Politicians Justify Corruption photo 4

Hey, as long as everybody is happy in the end, right? Who cares if I stole money from the people? I’m not a perfect leader, but I still did a kickass job.

In the Philippines, there’s just too much bureaucracy, too little results.

And a lot of waiting.

I’d rather get that money myself and implement my own plans quickly.

3. “I’ve sacrificed so much to lead, why can’t I get some perks?”

Being in office is a thankless job. The hours are long and stressful. I barely get my forty winks. I rarely see my family. I can’t even play golf on the weekends.

And what do I get in return? A meme on Facebook, making fun of my paunch, my receding hairline, my less-than-firm grasp of English grammar, or whatever new insult people can think of.

Is it too bad that I reward myself from time to time?

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2. “At least, I’m doing a better job than my predecessor.”
8 Ways Filipino Politicians Justify Corruption photo 2a

You dare compare me to the chimpanzee that ran this nation before me? I’m certainly doing a better than job than him or her.

Fine, the guy before me stole a lot of money, but I assure you, what I’m stealing doesn’t even make a dent to the budget.

What I’m doing is a petty crime, compared to my predecessor. I’m the lesser evil. Cut me some slack.

1. “I’m doing this for my family.”

Family always comes first before the nation.

Everyone who is not my family are just numbers on a pie chart. They might as well be crash test dummies.

You may call me a horrible statesman, but ask my children and they will tell you I am the World’s Greatest Dad. My children eat in the best restaurants, go on vacations around Europe, and get to have their master’s degrees in the best universities abroad.

And oh by the way, with the meager salary of a politician, how do you expect me to be a good provider?

The Philippines be damned. As long as my wife gets her jewelry and my kids are fat and have the latest PS3 games, I can die happy.

8 Ways Filipino Politicians Justify Corruption photo 1

Wincy Aquino Ong

Wincy Aquino Ong is a writer, musician, filmmaker, actor, and comic book illustrator. His works have been published in The Philippine Star and Esquire. His horror fiction was part of Neil Gaiman's Expeditions anthology. He is best known for the indie film San Lazaro, which was released in 2011.

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