Saturday, March 17, 2018
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Flourish & Prosper

Changing a country’s course with ‘peace grounded in ethics’

Philippine troops in operation against Abu Sayyaf. INQUIRER FILE

(Part 2 of 4)

“Win the war against extremism by winning the hearts and minds of the people! Genuine and sustainable peace that is grounded on ethics and values!” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana is on target.

The siege of Marawi from ISIS has been won, but how do you win hearts and minds? Peace is a fundamental key, but enforcement of the law by force of arms alone is not sustainable.


The rebuilding of the war-torn city and its economic revival needs to be grounded on ethics and values. Bangon (rise up) Marawi needs to stand on the three pillars of Peace, Prosperity, and Ethics.

Complex problem

The solution is simple if we can grasp and understand the complexity of the problem:

Repression. 450 years of suppression, massacres of Muslim Filipinos, beginning with the country’s occupation by Spain and continued by the Americans in incidents like the 1906 massacre of as many as 1,000 Filipino Muslims at Bud Dajo.

Poverty. Poverty-level income in Muslim Mindanao: $500 (P25,000) per capita, compared to the 10 times higher per capita income of $5,000 (P250,000) in Manila.

Corruption. A failed state ideology of warlord dynasties and drug lords holding economic, political, and military power with impunity; that supports the corruption of the national government. An ideology of corruption where might is right and unscrupulous wealth is a justified social norm.

Powerlessness. The lack of understanding of the complexity of the problem adds to the sense of powerlessness, complaint, cynicism and confusion. This is worsened by systemic confusion and media pessimism.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana. INQUIRER FILE

Check out the 1970s headlines of the Manila Times newspaper with today’s headlines: the ravages of war, ambition, and deceit that engage us resemble the Game of Thrones TV series — the ethical issues are the same.


Resolution. What immediate and comprehensive response can counter the extremist ideology of ISIS, resolve the confusion and calm the fear? I dare say that it is the “Ideology of Ethics,” defined from “ethos-character”:

Moral or ethical quality. Reputation. Good repute. Qualities of honesty, courage, or the like.

The Ideology of Ethics counters and trumps the ideology of violence and extremism, corruption, extortion, and drugs. HOW?

Colombia Miracle

In the ‘80 and ‘90s the Latin American country of Colombia became known as the homicide and kidnapping capital of the world. It was a narco state, corrupting judges, presidential candidates, police, and the military. It was the largest supplier of cocaine to the United States, with billionaire drug cartels, exemplified by Pablo Escobar. Moreover, it was ravaged by a 50-year-old civil war with the guerilla movement FARC, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, that claimed 500,000 casualties, in a country of 49 million people.

However, by 2014 Colombia had turned the tide. Escobar was dead. Kidnapping was down by 90% and violent crime by 60%. There was a laying down of arms. Peaceful elections were held with FARC in 2017. Tourism was up 8 times and the economy grew six-fold. It is now known as the Colombia Miracle.

How did it get there? A global best practice of Peace, Prosperity and Ethics.

While the economy was primed, a two-fisted approach was implemented:

The army and the police had the Right-Hand Iron Fist of Enforcement in decimating the criminal drug cartels and the rebels, which cut the supply of drugs.

Simultaneously, a Left-Hand Fist of Ethics Education was implemented, which cut the demand.

The Colombia Defense Secretary together with the police oversaw the distribution of 13 million copies of the common sense ethics book, The Way to Happiness. It was peace grounded in ethics.

Tipping point 

This nonreligious and nonpolitical book, disseminated to the largely Catholic country, reached 20% of the population–the tipping point.

In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explains the science of how groups and societies can rapidly shift perceptions, habits and design the management of change.

There will always be naysayers and pessimists to any new product or idea. Remember when the first mobile phones where introduced, it was an uphill climb. However, when 20% of the population had one, the rest of the 80% “tipped” and everyone wanted to have their own mobile phone.

We have already begun the road to the tipping point of peace grounded in ethics, with the training of 170,000 soldiers and staff of the Philippine Department of National Defense, and with the 70,000 students, faculty and staff of the Mindanao State University.

Power of the few

Where can you start? If you’ve read this far, you probably see a glimmer of hope and possibility, as the cynics and pessimists have probably moved on to another page. Can you have a personal contribution or role in changing the course of the country? Yes.

Start with yourself. Discuss with your family. Support or initiate practical ethical campaigns in your community and workplace. Connect with and volunteer with religious or non-religious ethical programs, such as The Way to Happiness, or the 4-Way Test of Rotary in your area. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are empowered to support ethical initiatives. Understand the cynical viewpoint without becoming a cynic.

Jorge “Jerry” Perez de Tagle, lives in the US and the Philippines, is an author and change management consultant for the private and public sector. He taught at Syracuse University, New York and has his PhD in Social Change, Honoris Causa, and is a PhD Candidate in Organization Development.

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TAGS: Bangon Marawi, Colombian Miracle, ethical renewal, failed state ideology, FARC, ISIS, nation-building, opinion, peace grounded in ethics, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, public administration
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