Bernardo M. Villegas
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Educating Future Ethical Business Leaders

           Last February 26 to 28, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and De La Salle-College of St. Benilde hosted the 9th International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Business Education attended by participants from all over the world.  The theme of the conference was “Prosperity, Poverty and the Purpose of Business:  Rediscovering Integral Human Development in the Catholic Social Tradition.”  I had the honor of presenting a paper on the initiative of a group of business executives in the early 1980s to establish Dualtech Foundation which has equipped over the last thirty years more than 10,000 out-of-school youth with electro-mechanical skills, thus redeeming them and their respective families from dehumanizing poverty.  It is not my intention here to summarize my paper, co-authored with Engineer Arnold Morfe, President of the Dualtech School.  I have written about this Philippine replication of the dualvoc program of the Republic of Germany, with the help of Hans Seidel Foundation, many times in this publication.

          What I would like to do is to spread far and wide some of the key ideas of one of the plenary speakers in the conference, Mr. Ramon del Rosario, Chairman of Makati Business Club and CEO of Phinma Holdings.  Mon is a close friend of mine and one of the most outstanding products of the first generation of students I taught at De La Salle University immediately after I returned from Harvard University in 1964.  I do not in the least claim that what I taught them in my classes in economics was a major influence on him and many of his schoolmates who turned out to be outstanding, not only for their professional competence, but more importantly for their always considering the common good in their private actuations.  What strikes me, however, is that his idea of how to prepare ethical and moral leaders coincides with what I have always practised as a teacher and what is part and parcel of the educational philosophy of every academic institution in which I have been involved, particularly the University of Asia the Pacific where I have been teaching for almost fifty years.

          Let me quote from the speech that he delivered during the second day of the conference at the Ateneo de Manila University.  Entitled “How Is More Important Than What,” his talk focused “on the formation of students, not just their views and what they know but their behaviour—how they act and what they do.”   Taking off from the importance of developing the core competencies in the university students (e.g. communication skills, numeracy, critical thinking and problem solving, and the ability to work in teams), he stressed the importance of making developing a Catholic moral centre and learning how to handle ethical dilemmas core competencies:  “They must similarly be central to all the disciplines and fill every dimension of a business student’s life while in our institutions.  We often characterize a Catholic education by the additional courses in theology or philosophy our students must take.  But over and beyond these, our faith must run through every subject whether it is religion, Filipino, chemistry, or human resource management.  This begins with recognizing these as necessary core competencies of our graduates.   Might we even consider demanding the demonstration of these competencies as a requirement of graduation?”

          While at Harvard, I became familiar with the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei.  It was from him I learned to permeate all the classes I taught the Harvard undergraduates as a teaching fellow—whether it be accounting, macroeconomics, development economics, etc.—with principles from the social doctrine of the Church.  As Mon and his schoolmates will remember, I did the same thing from the very start of my teaching career at De La Salle and then at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It is standard practice in the University of Asia and the Pacific that ethics and moral values permeate every subject taught.  For example, it is the Finance professor who gives examples of what it means to be ethical in finance; it is the marketing professor who illustrates what it means to be socially responsible to the consumers and to the retailers, etc. 

          Whether they are Catholic schools or not, educational institutions in the Philippines must heed the advice of Mr.  del Rosario:  “Students need to be exposed early to model businesses and personalities, immersed in their operations or lives continuously throughout their formation.  On the other hand, Catholic employers need to be encouraged to be involved in the formation process as well—designing curricula, offering cases and background material, lending employees to teach, or training university faculty.  More importantly, the involvement of the employers must cover not finance, manufacturing or marketing.  It must cover Catholic business practices and decision-making.  According to the McKinsey study, ‘the best way to define a curriculum that is relevant in both achieving educational outcomes and employer requirements is for employers and providers to work together to figure out exactly what the curriculum should cover ‘”.

            The paper of Mr. del Rosario covers a lot more ground, even specifying in greater detail examples of two organizations trying to do the right things in the Philippines, i.e. the Philippine corporate sector’s Integrity Initiative, a private-sector led effort  to promote good governance, transparent business transactions and implement strict integrity standards; and  the entry into education of his own company PHINMA whose investments in universities in various regions outside Metro Manila have proved that making quality education affordable and profitable and servicing the poor are not competing goals.   Those interested in the complete text of Mr. del Rosario’s paper may contact the Makati Business Club or log on to  For comments, my email address is