Thou shall not steal t-shirts

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Yes, it’s admirable indeed that the Archdiocese of Manila has seen fit to remind its flock and all else with t-shirts proclaiming the seventh commandment: Thou shall not steal.

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But at this point which is well into the Age of Stealing done in plain view or behind closed doors, by government officials, entrepreneurial private parties, street people, etc. should not the message be made clearer? Most everyone seems to have forgotten the definition of theft – taking for yourself what is not yours, what you did not earn, what belongs to someone else.

There are also many ways of stealing – armed robbery, stealthy theft, manipulation of records, influence peddling, protection rackets, bribery, and let us not forget discounts for the powers-that-be.

The latter is one that is facing us lately with so-called discounts on condominiums, luxury vehicles, even building materials, that it seems to have become the rage among our government personalities. Let it be defined then for clarification and as a cautionary tale.

Discounts are given when it is to the advantage of both seller and buyer (discounts are necessarily a matter that comes with exchange of goods). When a seller gives a discount it is because he is making enough of a profit, wants to keep the goodwill of the buyer or because the buyer will be encouraged to buy more. It is very simple, let us not complicate it. A seller gives a discount because it will benefit him too and not just the buyer.

Discounts are of course a matter of calculation, balance and even restraint. If there are huge discounts, there are compensating gains. A department store can announce a huge sale to encourage a rise in sales volume beyond the usual that will in turn gain a profit beyond the usual everyday selling norm. Or, a hugely discounted item in any business will attract a crowd of buyers who while necessarily in the premises to get the discount might buy something else in the process which will turn to the profit of the seller.

Marketing people can define to you all the kinds of discounts to be given but you can be sure that if they are in their right minds, they invest in the discounts to make a profit in the long run.

In the matter of mysterious discounts or ridiculous giveaway prices as we are hearing from the latest actuations of government officials vis-a vis merchants or sellers, it may be a very long run but the investment in the lowering of the price and the time to get back the profit (here not necessarily in monetary terms but in other advantages) will be accomplished in good time for the seller. Discounts expect reciprocity.

The trick is to translate the “discount” from the lowering of the price to the “profit” that is to be eventually gained. Thus, we are talking here not just in monetary terms though they may begin that way but the endgame which may not be quite monetary is a gain, nevertheless. Such as exemption from following the law, advantages over others beyond the law, etc.

Discounts are the garden path that government officials from lawmakers to police officials to government agency personnel have to negotiate to get to the straight and narrow path, the “daan na matuwid” so to speak where discounts are out of line. It is the testing of the official who can get through the garden path without falling into its temptations with discounts, perks, privileges, payouts, whatever to do his duty.

Thus, we have seen the garden paths that have snared our powers-that-be: Huge discounts on real estate, condominiums, vehicles, trip fares, merchandise, etc. given in eye-popping amounts by sellers who will want a return of favor usually paid in government coin, government power, government connections, not the personal means of the availer of the discount who is a government official. To be graphic, government power, connections, and other amenities given to government officials is government coin. Government coin is to be used for duty, and it is by no means the personal means of the government official. Using it to buy himself an asset or an advantage that is for his personal use is using other means not his own, or means that are restricted for official duties not for personal gain. If this government coin is used (despite some pecuniary addition by the official), it still is not his to use to gain a personal benefit. Meaning, he used something that does not belong to him to acquire something that is now personally his. Or, using the government position to acquire private gain That is stealing, theft, for some even armed robbery, because of gaining something that is not paid by the official, acquiring something that belongs to others (as in government powers as a personal possession).

It is very clear if only the Archdiocese will spell it out, that discounts given to government officials are nothing but another violation of the seventh commandment, just another form of theft, just as dishonest as stealing in broad view.

That some of our officials can with a straight face say they did not question the huge discounts given to them by seekers of favors, people with ulterior motives, persons who need to escape the law be they merchants, or suprisingly generous citizens, shows either criminal ignorance or plain criminality.

Yes, let that be clearly said from the pulpits now that the seventh commandment, maybe all ten commandments, are in the unscrupulous dustbins that have become our public conscience.

miongpin@yahoo.com

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