Why are Filipinos reluctant to call wrongdoing out?

Well, to be more specific, they are reluctant to call out, on the spot, wrongdoing with strangers, and especially with persons of higher social rank, and persons of authority. When it comes to a person of lower social rank – perceived or real – than themselves, quite a few Filipinos won’t hesitate to give a piece of their mind. Whether they can spare it is another question.

We must define however, that calling wrongdoing out properly is wildly different from the sort of passive-aggressive complaining that Filipinos are known for. Calling wrongdoing out on the spot requires something Filipinos are uncomfortable with – direct confrontation.

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As a colleague has observed, this is a likely reason that Filipino society continues to be backward. Can’t help but agree with him; few people are willing to do the right thing due to this peculiar Pinoy thing called “hiya”.

Filipino society, as it is today, is founded on a sort of “harmony”. Yet this harmony does necessarily entail building good relations with the bigger community, nor does it promote strict adherence to a body of laws. It is a type of “harmony” which is founded on very precarious premises:

Don’t rock the boat.
Don’t upset the “natural order” of things.
Respect the “caste structure.”
Know your place.
It’s embarrassing to stir up a fuss.
That person can cost you your job or life.
Do you know who I am?

In other words, leave things as they are. Hayaan mo na lang ang mga bagay-bagay. Filipinos are so used to thinking that things “will fix themselves”, and that wrongdoers will “get their karma”, but of course this doesn’t happen. Impunity grants the subject increasing levels of boldness with each repetition.

More on this thing called “hiya”.

As mentioned above, Filipinos are generally reluctant to cause commotions because it will inconvenience themselves and others. They also fear being publicly embarrassed and being gossiped about – a powerful motivator in a society where one’s self-worth is insistently defined by how others perceive him/her.

Perhaps, discreetly, Filipinos don’t generally call out wrongdoing on the spot, because they’ve been conditioned to mind their own business. Or maybe, they would do the same sort of breach too, had they been in the position of the violator.

Even if we’re not talking about Filipinos calling out each other’s mistakes on the spot, what’s absent from the Filipino psyche are self-regulation and appreciation for the rule of law. I never tire of saying that quite a few Filipinos are not fond of a system wherein they have to be equal with others they don’t think too highly of. In other words, one where they don’t have an advantage, such as exemption from rules.

A society that doesn’t regulate itself will go in all directions, but at the same time go nowhere. Life goes on in the Philippines, undisturbed. Systems don’t work, people are in it only for their selfish interests, and no one recognizes the need for discipline and sticking up for “the right thing to do”.

Change will eventually stop coming. Perhaps Filipinos do deserve their society.

Image courtesy: Ainslie Macleod

18 Replies to “Why are Filipinos reluctant to call wrongdoing out?”

  1. That’s the irony about too much freedom isn’t it. And although the NPA are little more than rowdy bandits now, it doesn’t help that the Filipinos have been conditioned by the American Red Scare to justify that any change to their system is bad and the slippery slope.

    1. Frank,
      I think (and based on personal experiences) that the Philippines is a country with little or no freedom at all. So I dont know why you say “too much freedom” while in reality there is none.

  2. FallenAngel,
    you can write this piece again in 10 years from now. What? Wait. No, 20 and 30 years from now. Nothing will change in the Philuippines for centuries to come.

  3. We had been colonized by the Spaniards, for more than 300 years. We were conditioned, not to speak up, even we were being abused. The Roman Catholic Church, which is one to the rulers in our country, taught us: we would go to Hell, if we don’t follow them.

    The Feudal Oligarchs, which was one of the rulers, controls our economy. We would go hungry, if we speak up , against them.

    The Military or Guardia Civil, had a “whipping rod”. We would be whipped or even be tortured and killed, if we don’t follow them.

    We are conditioned, not to speak up by those who ruled us…However, we were fooled by the Feudal Oligarchs, led by the Aquinos; when we had a 1986 coup d’ etat, against Marcos Sr. The coup d’ etat was manipulated by the U.S./C.I,A. and by the U.S. Dept. of State.

    Have you seen that , that political opportunist, Trililing Trillanes, tried another 1986 coup d’ etat replica recently, supported by the political oligarchs, the Aquino Cojuangco political axis, Leni “lugaw” Robredo, JoMa Sison and his N.P.A./C.P.P., the Liberal Party and various leftist opposition groups.

    These people are trying to fool us again. However, most Filipinos remain silent on the recent coup d’ etat.

    We are all waiting for the , Red October !

    1. “We had been colonized by the Spaniards, for more than 300 years. We were conditioned, not to speak up, even we were being abused. ” – HAYDEN

      Well, that is what your history textbook told you. Spaniards are nice people. Just look at all the industries they built in the Philippines employing Filipinos with above and better salaries with benefits.

      You Filipinos should ask U.P. to revise the history textbooks of Filipinos and tell them the real story instead of reading two books of Jose Rizal.

      What is funny is Jose Rizal became a hero because of TWO BOOKS !!! Well, it was my forefathers who made Jose Rizal a hero because if they were to ask Filipino who would their hero would be THEY’D KILL EACH OTHER …

      FORTUNATELY, Filipinos have spoken !!! Their hero is MANNY PACQUIAO !!!

      1. @Oratio Imperata:

        Spanish Colonizers were the worst thieves and plunderers. They invaded South American countries, like: Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, etc…these were the thriving empires of : Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, etc…

        The Spanish Conquistadors looted the golds and silvers of the : Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, etc…they shipped them to Spain in Spanish Galleons. The Spaniards were thieves . Just go to these South american countries and ask them !

  4. Our superstitious upbringing early in life taught us submission and not question authority and accept imposed mythical claims as absolute truths. The celebrity

  5. My observation is that these are the two primary factors:

    >> That person can cost you your job or life.

    Murder isn’t censured in the Philippines most of the time. It’s accepted that if someone gets killed after “making a fuss”, they probably “deserved it”. Even when someone isn’t literally killed, those in a position of privilege see nothing wrong with using that position to harm others. In fact, that is the primary purpose of attaining a position of privilege: so that you can be vindictive and cruel without anybody being able to touch you.

    >> Or maybe, they would do the same sort of breach too, had they been in the position of the violator.”

    This is probably almost always true. Bad behavior isn’t called out because it isn’t even recognised as such in the first place.

    1. Filipinos are vengeful spiteful people. That is why there is so much proliferation of karaoke singing because a neighbor cannot tell them to tone it down … if they did … they wind up in the gutter.


      I am housed in IT Park surrounded with coffee shops, dive bars, restaurants and Izikayas operating 24-hour-a-day. My unit face the streets. I cannot open the window to let fresh breeze in because THE RUCKUS DOWN BELOW IS JUST NOISY.

      1. @Oratio Imperata If more people bothered to take action against noise disturbances IRL rather than just moaning online and believing death threat bluster, things might actually improve. When some former neighbours kept blasting loud music at all hours, calling the police made it stop permanently.

        1. Wait … what? You mean the police actually answered the phone? And turned up?

          The problem is that if you knock on the neighbor’s door and tell them to be quiet, and it all turns to shit … well, you’re on your own. The police will arrive sometime after it’s all over (if at all) in order to make sure the problem goes away quietly. And the OTHER neighbors will tut tut tut over your broken corpse and say, yeah, well, he had it coming.

          You think I’m kidding about the police making it all go away? Acquaintance of mine found out her husband had been murdered … but ooops, we’ve accidentally had him cremated, so there’s no way to conduct a murder inquiry.

          Thus does the tiniest problem escalate into extreme violence: because Filipinos won’t deal with it when it’s still a tiny problem.

          Anyway, Filipinos don’t want things to improve. They know that if they go and tell the neighbor to turn down the KTV, some other neighbor will be around telling THEM to turn down the KTV when it’s THEIR turn to have a birthday party. So, best to put up with everyone else behaving like selfish brats with hearing problems; then one can wallow in one’s own crapulence without fear or guilt.

    2. My two primary factors are already illustrated by the picture above:
      One is big, one is small, one is elite, one is ordinary people, elite have power, ordinary people none. Elite can only call wrongdoing of their own peer, same thing with the ordinary people they can only call wrongdoing of their own peer, but ordinary people calling wrongdoing of the elite, not happening. Elite and ordinary people , two different world, when mix together you get inequality and poverty.

      1. From the movie Matilda:

        “Listen, you little wiseacre: I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

  6. Filipinos do not call wrongdoing on last-remaining colonists-turned-industrialists-bankers. ACTUALLY, this is not the function of Filipinos this is supposed to be the function of BROWN-SKIN-RUN PHILIPPINE FAKE NEWS. But they are not. Of course, because they are Filipinos.


    Therefore, COLONIAL MENTALITY IS GOOD. Those who call Colonial Mentality not good are BAD U.P.-FILIPINO AUTHORS.

  7. Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.

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