Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror November 28, 2007 edition, p. A10.

Every Filipino wants the Philippines to become first world. So, like citizens of other developing countries, we don’t object to a lot of money being spent for building infrastructure. However, sometimes the focus on infrastructure can be overdone.

There is a running joke among Singaporeans regarding Malaysia’s economic leap through infrastructure development: “Malaysians have the hardware, unfortunately they don’t have the software to use their hardware properly.”

It’s a nasty swipe at Malaysians, but it carries a grain of truth: Intellectual development and moral standards have to keep pace with material growth.

In that sense, the joke should be a cautionary tale for us. If we’re not careful, we will become the next butt of jokes.

Pag-asa, our local weather bureau, predicted two possible paths for the Typhoon Mina.  One turned out to be wrong. Nevertheless, the government was able to take precautionary measures to keep the inhabitants of both typhoon-threatened regions as safe as possible. Everyone should have been happy, right?  Nope.

Someone wanted the weather forecasters fired because their prediction caused the cancellation of a Wowowee remote telecast in his province.

Makati City introduced electric jeepneys as a mode of public transportation. It will minimize air and noise pollution in that city.  It’s a great initiative, right? Nope.

One angry jeepney driver who didn’t like the idea said: “Eh, paano kung magkaroon ng brownout? (What happens if there’s a brownout?)”

Software problems are not limited to the lower classes. We see the same thing in the highest reaches of our society.

Gloria Arroyo pardoned one of the men convicted in the murder of Ninoy Aquino on the eve of Ninoy’s 75th birthday.

To prove that Mrs. Arroyo’s did not grant the pardon as political payback for the Aquino family’s opposition to her regime, her in-house lawyer, Sergio Apostol, said,

“Wala iyang personalan. (Nothing personal) President Arroyo is a very merciful woman….She didn’t even know perhaps when she signed it that this fellow is involved in the killing.”

She who signs documents without knowing what they contain is the legendary micro-manager who will lead us to the Enchanted Kingdom?

And what about the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the guide and guardian of our morals in our march to development?

Last Saturday, CBCP president, Bishop Lagdameo, reiterated his call for a moral recovery. He cited the story of Zaccheus, a tax collector who repented and vowed restitution for his sins.

Lagdameo said, “we are in search for people who would be humble, courageous and decided enough to do a Zacchaeus. ‘Here and now I give half of my possession to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ (Lk 19:8).”

Last year, July 14, 2006, the same Bishop Lagdameo, referring to allegations that some bishops received envelopes from Malacañang, wrote a rather lengthy rationalization for corruption within the ranks of his organization.

He wrote:

“On the question of envelopes or gifts allegedly being distributed and of dinners offered by Malacanang to some bishops, since these were privately done, there was no consensus among the bishops whether to accept or not, whether to go for the dinner or not. Each bishop was completely free.

“Truth to tell, the bishops did not have any knowledge of the alleged plan of Malacanang to use these gifts or envelops for political ends. It was only later that they realized the implication of the offer. Some, we know, returned their envelopes.

“The bishops were told that the envelopes were for the poor. But how must the poor be help institutionally? .…But must it be channeled to the bishops at this time?”

Actually the question for the good Bishop is, “Where do you draw the line if you don’t believe it’s immoral for a bishop to accept a dinner invitation and an envelope full of cash from Malacañang when the CBCP is deliberating its stand on Arroyo’s impeachment?”

Whether we become a developed nation without any software will depend on a couple of things:

Will Gloria Arroyo build more schools and hire more teachers or will she succumb to the temptation of more riches from CyberEd?

Second, will the bishops set the example for moral recovery and, for starters, do a Zaccheus on those envelopes they got from Gloria last year?