Keep the change?

    You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation. —Billie Holiday

Somebody finally blew the whistle on the practice of distributing year-end “savings” as dividends. The response of those exposed by the whistleblower is typical trapo.

The first line of defense is eh legal naman yung ginawa ko (What I did was legal). Laws, the opinion of the Commission on Audit (COA), even constitutional provisions on the separation and independence of various branches, independent constitutional commissions, and agencies of government are thrown up as justifications.

Second, yan talaga ang kalakaran (That’s how things have always been done). Hindi lang naman ang senado ang gumagawa niyan, ganyan din ang Kongreso, ang Executive, at ang Judiciary. Bakit Senado lang ang pinag-iinitan? (It’s not just the Senate that does this, the Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary also do this. How come it’s only the Senate that’s getting the flak?)

The third defense is tied to the second – pinupulitika lang ako ng mga gustong kumuha ng puwesto ko; bakit ngayong lang malapit na ang eleksyon?; tumatanggap naman sila dati ng dibidendo bakit biglang naging isyu ngayon?

Except for four senators nobody in government has said or done one thing to address the anomaly. Maybe nobody sees anything wrong because year-end dividends are deemed legal. But just because Congress passed laws and resolutions allowing itself, and other government agencies, to spend “savings” as they see fit does not make it right. Legal is not a synonym of ethical.

Let’s put it this way: everyone in government is a public servant. Servant is the operative word. They are all salaried employees. They may have fancy titles like Honorable this or Excellency that and all sorts of powers but all of that comes from the public. In other words, mga alila pa din sila kahit ano pa ang suot nila. The public gives them powers so they can serve the public’s interest and whims and not for any other reason. Let us not forget this.

When public servants say we elected or appointed them to represent and lead us let us keep in mind that they are still mere employees. They do not lead, we lead. We give the orders. We tell them where we want to go, they are supposed to get us there and when they fail, we fire them. We own them, we write their paychecks and they have no powers or privileges except whatever we chose and may choose to grant them. They have no rights. It’s as simple as that.

Now to illustrate how utterly dishonest, and stupid, the reason the Senate gave for granting year-end dividends was, suppose you tell your maid to go to the corner store to buy a bottle of suka.

“Bumili ka nga ng suka, hija. Magkano ba yun?”

“Hindi po ako sure pero siguro magkakasya na po ang singkwenta (P50)”

“O heto. Bilisan mo.”

“Opo.”

The maid returns from the store with the bottle of suka.

“Magkano ang nagastos mo para sa suka?”

“Treinta (P30) po.”

“Good. Nasaan ang sukli?”

“Po?”

“Nasaan ang sukli ko?”

“Eh ginastos ko na po pambili ng load sa cp ko.”

“Ano?”

“Eh akala ko po…”

“Anong akala mo, keep the change?”

Next May, we get to hire and fire servants again. Let’s exercise our prerogative wisely.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • GabbyD

    also: “(2) Your PS reveals that you are a quibbler. What would change if I called the employer by another name? What would change if I called the maid mayordoma or household manager?”

    i have no objection to any of those terms. but “master”? surely that MEANS SOMETHING more/else.

    “I hope that it was not your problem with terminology that caused this long argument. If all you wanted to say was katulongs are people too, then there’s no argument over that. They are.”

    yeah, they are people who ought to be satisfied with a “Why can’t a “Job well done, keep it up!””.

    thats why we pay employees with compliments and not money? last time i checked, its money.

    what do we call people people who work for us but we dont pay them?

    • manuelbuencamino

      what do we call people people who work for us but we dont pay them? Morons? Idiots? Doofuses? Imbeciles?

  • GabbyD

    here’s another example: lets say, on her way to buy the suka, he/she picks up (for free) a lotto ticket on the street. it won and now he/she’s a millionaire.

    will the employer go “wait, thats my money too! it was my order that caused you to go out today, without which, you wouldnt have won the lotto. therefore, that million is mine”?

    is that fair of the employer?

    • manuelbuencamino

      No Gabby. That’s her ticket. She did not use her masters’s 🙂 money to acquire it.

      Your logic in the last paragraph reminds of the story of the foreigner who got run over by a car and the local told the foreigner it’s your fault. This wouldn’t have happened if you never came to my country. It’ silly.

      At any rate, let’s just you live in your world and I’ll live in mine, ok?

      • GabbyD

        see, the ONLY reason the (maid?) got the lotto was she was given money by the employer to buy suka.

        you said : “As employer, I decide how I will reward my employee for a job well done if I choose to reward her in the first place.”

        the lotto is a reward is it not? is it not yours?

        ++++++

        your new analogy with the foreigner is different from your employee analogy. the proximate reason why he was hit was NOT because he was in the country (after all, lots of people are in the country), but because he crossed without looking (or whatever made him get run over)

        the lotto example holds– the proximate reason why the employee got the lotto ticket is because he/she was asked to buy suka.

        get it?

  • manuelbuencamino

    Gabby,

    Bargain, savings, blah-blah, woof-woof you are not allowed to pocket it. Because it belongs to your master. That’s it.

    • GabbyD

      thats the other thing i dont understand — i never disagree that the money is the employers’

      in the analogy, the employee did EVERYTHING THE EMPLOYER WANTED HIM TO DO. the katulong used the 50, bought the suka and the employer got suka.

      the employer got the suka that he wanted, which is exactly what he wanted/owns. he got the suka that he wanted, which the employer values at at least 50 bucks!

      the only issue is: does the employee benefit from finding a better deal? why is it that the employer MUST get all the profit from the transaction? why is the profit from finding a better, more efficient source, in you words, the “masters”

      PS: the term “master” troubles me ; i.e. master-…. slave? is this about katulongs being slaves???

      again, i think this has alot to do with your beliefs about the agency of an employee. if they are just extensions of your will — machines or animals — then yes you are right. but aren’t katulongs people too? with agency?

      if its isnt just about katulongs — if its about employee-employer relationships, then why use the term “master”? surely, i dont call my boses master? maybe u do… but thats not true in general…

      • manuelbuencamino

        Gabby,

        O sige last na ito.

        (1) the only issue is: does the employee benefit from finding a better deal? why is it that the employer MUST get all the profit from the transaction?

        No. The only issue here is whose money it is. It belongs to the employer. The employer MUST get his money back.Why do you want appreciation expressed in monetary terms? Why can’t a “Job well done, keep it up!” suffice?

        (2) Your PS reveals that you are a quibbler. What would change if I called the employer by another name? What would change if I called the maid mayordoma or household manager?

        I hope that it was not your problem with terminology that caused this long argument. If all you wanted to say was katulongs are people too, then there’s no argument over that. They are.

        To repeat: The P50 belongs to me. Whatever was not spent for the suka also belongs to me. So I get the suka and my P20 back and I express my appreciation by telling my maid, “Job well done, keep it up!”

        I hope that wraps up this long-winded exchange.

        • GabbyD

          first of all, you used the word master first. not me. the word master means something right?

          ________________

          here’s something that might help you understand my point.

          instead of asking your employee to buy from you, you buy suka from the store.

          you give her 50 and she gives you suka. note that EVERYTHING IS THE SAME with you original analogy. its still YOUR MONEY. its still your suka.

          but lets say u ask a question from the seller: how much did u get that suka for. she/he says 30.

          will you respond with: “that my money! i want my 20 pesos back! The P50 belongs to me. Whatever was not spent for the suka also belongs to me. So I get the suka and my P20 back and I express my appreciation by telling my maid, “Job well done, keep it up!” ?

          do u do that with everything that you buy? because its your money. i’m willing to bet, your answer is NO.

          thats because its ok for the seller to profit from a transaction.

          now, when your employee does this, its the SAME THING. I just changed the label from “seller” to employee.

          nothing changed except now its not a seller buyer relationship, but an employer employee relationship.

          see?

  • manuelbuencamino

    Gabby,

    1. “first, and very important — buying and selling are two sides of the same thing. thats not the issue.”

    a) I know it’s not the issue that’s why I was surprised when you brought it up.

    b) buying and selling involve a transaction between people on opposite sides of a counter. Mutating my buyer analogy into a seller analogy cannot be done.

    2.”if you want to incentivize the purchasers to find better deals, you have to allow the purchaser to enjoy the surplus of the deals.” Kickback ang tawag diyan. Are you advocating kickbacks? Do you think allowing kickbacks is sound management?

    I don’t think it’s good management practice to allow employees unilateral power to give themselves bonuses based on their subjective evaluation of their own performance.

    • GabbyD

      1) on buying and selling — i meant the distinction you raised before “My analogy does not translate to retailers and wholesalers because it is about buyers not sellers!” DOES NOT MATTER. buying and selling are two sides of the same coin. if i ask you to buy something and u find a cheaper one, that is SYMMETRIC to when i am your wholesaler and the retailer sells for a higher price.

      bakit symmetric? because there is profit in EITHER transaction. why does it matter if the profit comes from selling at a higher price, or buying at a lower price?

      if the wholesaler example is OK, why not for an employee-employer?

      2) kickbacks…i dont think its a kickback. kickbacks are bribery, right?

      why is bribery wrong, but other kinds of dealmaking/incentives arent (sales target incentives)? its not just semantics (i.e. bribery is an incentive to do something illegal)

      this is actually tough problem, but there is one case where a bribe is unambigously wrong.

      a bribe is wrong because a someone who is affected by the transaction isnt included and hence doesnt really benefit from the deal.

      lets go back to you orig example: i’m the katulog, you are d boss, and i’m out buying suka. i have a choice: to get datung puti, or asim-asim brand. the asim-asim brand mgr says, uy gabbyd! if u buy my pisspoor product, i’ll share the profit with you, and you boss wont be the wiser! i buy it from him, he gives me money, and i give u inferior product for 50 pesos.

      the problem is that, if you were around, you wouldnt settle for the inferior product; that fact that I, your katulong, decided to give you bad suka for 50 HURTS you.

      now, IF this had been your example, then i’d be on board. in public works bidding, this is a very real problem, and hurts the public by the installation of low quality infra, while the builders and importers make out w a fortune.

      • manuelbuencamino

        Well I don’t know about you and your complicated world but the issue is simple: The money is mine, I decide what to do with it not my employee. And if I have an employee who thinks otherwise then I will fire his ass and he will have time to explain to you (1) employer-employee; (2) ownership;(3) gift-bonus-pocketing what ain’t yours.

        He will also explain to you why when you are buying your primary concern is saving and when you are selling your primary concern is profit. And when you mix up the two then you will come up with an argument that savings by a buyer can be turned into profit without becoming a seller simply by pocketing the savings of whoever gave you money so you could be a buyer. And the pocketing of somebody else’s money can be justified as a self-awarded bonus or incentive.

        • GabbyD

          i didnt mix them up.

          if you buy something for cheaper than you were willing to pay, that is called a bargain.

          di ba? what is incorrect with that?

          in fact, if u find a bargain, you end up “pocketing” the savings.

          right? the key concept then is: why is one kind of bargain OK, and the other derided? i’ve already explained why one kind of bribery is clearly wrong. i’m sure u’ll agree with that.

  • I note that Binay sees nothing wrong with the million peso gifts. This is a man for the people, eh?

    I’m amused by the notion that UNA keeps on with its abberant values, siding with Garcia, cheating on the COMELEC start date, and believing no one really notices.

    • GabbyD

      what is wrong with the million peso gifts?

      • Since its inception, the Philippines has had two forces, the poor laboring workers, and the wealthy elite bosses who traded in favors. The wealthy elite bosses operated for self enrichment over national cohesion and productivity. Enrile waves millions in the faces of the poor who put salt on their rice today. It is insensitive and it smacks of the buying of favors. It is “unclean” when the Philippines needs “clean”.

        • GabbyD

          It looks bad. I see. I get that. i have nothing to say about that: in a poor country, that kind of money looks bad.

          but i have 2 ideas:
          1) make it a campaign issue: what do you use the senate moneys for?

          2) make all “savings” in all branches of govt to go back to national pool to be used for next year’s budget.

          I’m ok with this, but there are legal and implementation issues to be worked out. for instance, did u know budgets cant go down across branches of govt?

          • It is given as a gift. Not an earned bonus. That is why it is discretionary and amounts vary according to the level of bile in Enrile’s spleen. The senators deserve to get paid a lot so they are not susceptible to looking for off-color ways to supplement their income. But the payment should be planned and related to performance.

            This is saying to the nation, “we can take your tax money and do whatever the hell we want with it.” It is a corruption of values, and it separates the ruling class from the masses. It is a form of occupation of the Philippines akin to colonists. People doing whatever the hell they want and damn the poor people.

            It looks worse than bad. It looks atrocious, and it looks crooked. Favors not discipline and honor.

          • GabbyD

            that is actually one of the things i dont understand. why is it a gift?

            its MOOE. it will be accounted for as such right? its not like the money is totally fungible, right?

      • manuelbuencamino

        It is not his money to give away. It is the people’s money. What he does not spend he must return! Napaksimpleng prinsipyo yun.

  • GabbyD

    i have a question re your analogy.

    if someone who works for you buys something for you for P50, you believed it was 50, and you gave him 50, why are you mad if he found it for 30?

    you were perfectly willing to pay 50 for it…

    if you wanted to buy it for cheaper than 50, if 50 is too much, buy it yourself! but you didnt, so why blame your employee for finding a cheaper source and gaining from it.

    your argument is saying the whole saler should be mad at the retailer for selling their products for more than what you sold it to them. but we AREN’T mad at the retailer. its their job to pay you the wholesale price and find someone to buy it for more to earn a profit.

    why be mad at your employee for doing something similar?

    • manuel buencamino

      Gabby,

      First of all, it’s my money. Second, she’s my employee.

      As employer, I decide how I will reward my employee for a job well done if I choose to reward her in the first place. I could give her the P20 or I could say “thank you, good job.”

      As an employee, she has no business rewarding herself for a job well done.

      I am not mad that she was able to buy the suka for P30. I am happy. I am mad that she assumed the P20 savings now belonged to her.

      “why blame your employee for finding a cheaper source and gaining from it.”

      If you work as a purchaser for a business, do you think it is okay for you to pocket whatever “savings” on purchases you might make? Suppose your boss told you to buy 10 cars from a dealer and gave you money based on the price of an individual car and then you were able to wangle a fleet price discount from the dealer, is it okay for you to keep the difference as your gain because your boss told you to do what he could have done himself? Sure he can do it himself but the reason he pays you a salary is so that he doesn’t have to do it himself. Now he has to look over your shoulder every time he gives you money to buy something?

      My analogy does not translate to retailers and wholesalers because it is about buyers not sellers!

      • GabbyD

        first, and very important — buying and selling are two sides of the same thing. thats not the issue.

        the difference i think you want to stress is that the employee-employer relationship is DIFFERENT from a standard arms-length business relationship.

        this sentence is telling: “As an employee, she has no business rewarding herself for a job well done.”

        wow, thats extreme. From a mgt perspective, this may represent a philosophical divide between you and alot of the mgt literature out there about the employee-employer relationship.

        but whatever — i’ll accept as a fact that you believe that all the surplus of the relationship is 100% under control of the employer. fine.

        in your other example, about the purchaser: “Suppose your boss told you to buy 10 cars from a dealer and gave you money based on the price of an individual car and then you were able to wangle a fleet price discount from the dealer, is it okay for you to keep the difference as your gain because your boss told you to do what he could have done himself? Sure he can do it himself but the reason he pays you a salary is so that he doesn’t have to do it himself.”

        the salary is to compensate the employee for the time spent at work, the employee’s opportunity cost if you will.

        if you want to incentive the purchasers to find better deals, you have to allow the purchaser to enjoy the surplus of the deals.

        lets go back to you orig example. If you are ok with paying 50, then you will get the good at 50.

        but if you want to enjoy the gains of better prices, you have 3 choices:

        1) do it yourself –which is costly

        2) pay the 50, which is costs, but may be cheaper than doing it yourself!

        3) agree to share the gains with ur employee, through some kind of contract