Dishonesty is a destructive worm | Inquirer Opinion

Dishonesty is a destructive worm

In the political advocacy world, dishonesty has always been a mortal sin. Society knows how dishonesty cripples its operating system. It is a technical bug that should be fixed because dishonesty can make any program either inefficient or undependable. In the digital world of security and privacy, dishonesty is like a computer worm.

From one tech institution, I borrow this definition: “A computer worm is a type of malware whose primary function is to self-replicate and infect other computers while remaining active on infected systems. A computer worm duplicates itself to spread to uninfected computers.”


Dishonesty is a behavioral worm. It is a malware that infects our value system and has powerful self-replicating capacity, duplicating itself on innocent uninfected people. The end result is what is called corruption. A whole operating system of a society continues to perform but produces defective results. If let alone unattended, it will simply collapse that infected system.

A collapsed system is not something we, the people operating in that system, will deeply suffer from. The system has a set of objectives that allows society to survive and thrive. These societal goals are protected by the values upon which the system operates. Honesty is a key value to assuring the stability and acceptability of any system. When honesty is compromised or greatly devalued, the system cannot thrive. Ultimately, the system cannot survive.


The value of honesty is not only critical for governance. Rather, it goes more primal than that. Without honesty in the family, there will be fear, confusion, and conflict. The same thing will happen in a neighborhood, in a town, until peace and order cave in. This is because honesty is the bedrock of any social order. Members of any social unit must trust that others will behave according to the same values and priorities. Otherwise, the primordial commonality that defines a community is gone.

Honesty depends on facts, and facts make the truth alive and well. Facts and truth are in the center of what binds us into a community. When we do not anymore adhere to facts and the truth, our community will crumble. Confusion and violence become natural consequences in a setting where people distrust each other. Instead of being parts of one whole, the parts become threats to one another.

I do not wish to highlight a moral issue at this point. Honesty here is a day-to-day life principle that is at the core of how we understand our place in a community, and function with other members. Whatever spiritual or religious belief we hold on to, I know honesty is integral to it as well. But I wish to address the practical side of it, the tangible and even legal dimensions of societal life.

Home, community, country all need a strong sense of order, not so much as a matter of law but more to ensure growth and development as their nurturing environment. Not a lesser motivation, though, is the prevention of confusion, chaos, and violence. The fundamental bedrock of order lies in the dependability of certain life features, like the sureness of day and night, the stability of gravity to keep us in physical balance, and the necessity of facts to promote human understanding.

Without honesty, human interaction and relationships have no basis. Without honesty, why will family members believe one another, or why will community members take each other’s word? Of course, it needs a reasonable amount of intelligence to understand fact from fiction, truth from fantasy, but honesty follows immediately. Or else, that human setting will collapse in fear, confusion, and conflict.

It is not difficult to imagine various life scenarios and their total collapse without honesty. Imagine if children cannot believe their parents because they talk one way and behave another – how will they survive? Imagine neighbors unable to relate amicably with one another because each one lies to and steals from the other – how quickly they will fight? Imagine students not believing in their teachers and academic administrators – why will they follow rules? Imagine an employee-employer relationship grounded on dishonesty – what can any organization produce?

It is not even yet the morality or legality of honesty; it is its necessity, operating at a very high degree, in order to ensure that human families and communities can continue existing instead of destroying one another. The term “peace and order” amplifies the symbiotic relationship between the two, where the absence of one disables the other.


The universal concern about disinformation is not restricted to its harmful impact on democratic elections. Disinformation is a reality that has come to be only after the fundamental dominance of honesty has been compromised. It is not disinformation that has caused dishonesty but the other way around. Dishonesty was a social worm that polluted the human environment badly enough to prepare it to succumb to disinformation.

Should there be an intelligent, effective, and sustainable effort to counter disinformation, then a prior or simultaneous commitment to restore honesty to its dominant and rightful place in human values must be made as well. Laws in human societies assume honesty as a primordial value. Breakdown of those laws, then, indicate the decreasing value of honesty as a lived virtue or attitude in the societal environment.

Consequently, addressing disinformation and dishonesty only in the political or governance sphere is not an adequate response. That social worm did not attack politics and governance alone, or even first of all, but infect homes, communities, schools, and churches, too. Philippine society must attempt to converge its focus and resources against disinformation towards rectifying the position of honesty as among the most important of human values. To do less is to risk defeat from the beginning.

But, then, again, who really wants to correct the anomaly? We seem to take for granted that dishonesty is so human it cannot be resisted, that mental unhealth and moral decay are now par for the course, that corruption is practical and integrity only a Quixotic quest, ###

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