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Where honesty is still practiced in PH

Honesty is the best policy, so the saying goes.

But for Green Frog Hybrid Bus System, an operator of environmentally friendly hybrid buses in the school and business districts of Makati, Manila and Pasay cities, that adage has little meaning to some of its passengers.

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Green Frog conducted a trial run from March 10 to 17 to make passengers drop their fares—P15 or P13 depending on the manner of payment—into a cash box or tap their bus cards on a machine located near the driver. No bus conductor was posted to watch over the passengers.

To its dismay, 30 percent of the passengers, most of whom were office workers and university students, failed (deliberate or otherwise) to live up to the honesty-based payment scheme.

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For obvious business reasons, Green Frog called off the experiment and reverted to the traditional practice of assigning conductors to collect fares.

Its expectation that passengers with sufficient financial capacity and education can be trusted to voluntarily and correctly pay their standard transportation fares was dashed.

Last year, the Manila Police District (MPD) conducted a similar experiment on honesty when it opened a store on its premises that sold basic food items. The goods were left unattended and customers were expected to put the payment for their purchases and get their change in a box placed on top of the food shelf.

After six months, the MPD cooperative decided to cease operations due to serious financial loses. Many customers helped themselves to the goods without paying despite the presence of a CCTV monitor.

Apparently, some police personnel treated the food items like freebies they routinely solicit from small store owners when they do intermittent rounds in their assigned areas.

If it’s any consolation, however, there are places in the Philippines where honesty is voluntarily and scrupulously observed regardless of the presence or absence of other people.

In Ivana, Batanes province, the northernmost part of the country, customers of the unattended “Honesty Coffee Shop” pay for their purchases and get their change, if any, on their own.

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The honesty trait of the Ivatans must have rubbed off on the province’s visitors who patronize the store because there are no indications it might close shop because of freeloaders or cheats coming from elsewhere.

The simple folks of Batanes can give the more sophisticated and financially able residents of Metro Manila and other urban areas some lessons in honesty and fair dealing.

Considering the Ivatans’ character, it’s no surprise the crime rate in Batanes is nearly zero and its police contingent’s toughest job is fighting boredom.

The Batanes experience is replicated in Brooke’s Point, a first class municipality in Palawan province.

According to a friend who works there, unlike Batanes which has one honesty store, Brooke’s Point’s stores are all unattended. Customers can freely enter the stores, get the commodities they want, pay for them and get their change from a money box.

The element of trust between and among the residents is so strong that there have been no reports of store pilferages or short changing.

The honesty goes one step further. If somebody from out of town wants to have a package delivered to a Brooke’s Point resident, all he or she has to do is write the name of the intended recipient on it, and ask the bus driver to put it on the bench of the waiting shed nearest the addressee’s house.

That package will remain at the waiting shed until its addressee picks it up or asks somebody to have it brought to him or her. No package delivered in that manner has, to date, been reported to have been pilfered or lost.

Do something like that in Metro Manila and the package will be swiped or stolen by somebody in the wink of an eye.

So, is honesty, as the song goes, such a lonely word? Not really. There are still some places in the country where that virtue forms part of the DNA of their residents.

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