Remembering Life in a Very Honest Country
by Rev. Dr. Lourdino A. Yuzon

In a brief reflection that appeared in this column, I expressed my hope for a culture of honesty replacing the current culture of endemic corruption in the Philippines. A reader commented that I was only dreaming wild dreams. In response, I said, “I like wild ideas because they are like a wild horse that can be tamed and trained for service.” I paused for effect. “In contrast,” I added, “I don’t like tame and lifeless ideas. They are like a dead horse that I cannot beat back to life.” Responding to his request that was prompted by curiosity, I shared with him some impressionistic, not scientifically researched, account of my experience of havinglived for ten years (1963; 1991-1996;2006-2010) in one of the three most honest countries in the world: New Zealand. What follows is based on two anecdotal “proofs.”

Trusting others seems to be a deeply ingrained virtue among many, though not all, New Zealanders. In 1963, I did graduate studies at the Knox Theological Hall in Dunedin, New Zealand. I lived in a single room of a men’s dormitory. As had been my practice, I locked my door every time I slept and left my room. My classmate, John Crawford, said rather pointedly. “Do not lock your room. No one will steal your things. Trust us.” In 2007, Rev. Alan Leadley, my compadre,absent-mindedly placed his wallet on the roof of his car after shopping for groceries at a Countdown supermarket in downtown Hamilton City. In it were his driver’s license, credit cards, government-issued cards and some cash. Of course, his wallet fell off his car. He was sorely worried. The following day, while checking his subscriber’s copy of The Waikato Times, he found his wallet in his roadside mailbox with nothing taken from it.

Print and broadcast media in New Zealand are free, vigilant and articulate. Investigative journalism is both fair and fearless, ready to expose any public servant who abuses power and authority delegated to him/her. For ten years I did not come across news reports about scandals involving public servants and agencies, similar to the pork barrel scam that has been our headline news. The only exception I can remember was the case of an MP (member of Parliament) who tried to influence an immigration officer to fudge their immigration laws in order that his house helper from an island nation in the South Pacific could obtain her New Zealand work visa.

That MP was exposed, disciplined by his party and expelled from Parliament. Later, he was indicted, tried, convicted and goaled (imprisoned). That, to me, was an example of their human-made laws exercising sovereignty over any person regardless of his or her position in society. I remember a lady police officer flagging me down on one mainstreet in Hamilton. My offense was driving over the legal speed limit. I tried to talk myself out of that situation. “I am a Pastor,” I said, “I’m in a hurry because I’m late for church council meeting.” Whereupon that lady police officer gave me a stern onesentence lecture. “As a man of the cloth,” she said, “you should be the first one to obey divine and humanmade laws.” She issued me a warning and a traffic violation ticket and fined me NZ$100 (about P3,300) or $10 per kilometre. The message was clear.

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