Case Study Ethical Dilemma
Case Analysis A. The Situation As earlier mentioned, the case involves Mr. Romulo Bernas, a staff assistant in Prime Shipping Inc. , who earns a salary enough to support his family. He is directly reporting to a manager and has no fixed job description. He also works closely with Mr. Jose Narciso, a former New People’s Army member and is now a bodyguard of a politician connected to the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Mr. Bernas has been given several credits for his work. As such, he was assigned to provide some order and system to the shipments loading and unloading in the pier.
As he is performing this task, he saw the intervention of custom officials in the shipments of textiles in the port area. The next day to his surprise, newspaper headlines showed six men who were allegedly involved in this textile smuggling, which he knew were fall guys. After this event, Mr. Narciso offered Mr. Bernas fifty thousand pesos (Php50,000) to remain silent on what he saw and start a new life elsewhere. B. The Ethical Dilemmas An ethical dilemma exists when there is a conflict between what is perceived as right or wrong. In the situation presented, there are two identified ethical dilemmas.
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First, is on letting fall guys be victims of injustice on the issue of smuggling and second, is whether to accept the bribe being offered which constitutes remaining silent on what was witnessed and start a new life elsewhere. The ethical dilemmas however are interconnected in such a way that the action taken to address the first will have an effect on the other or vice versa. The dilemmas involved deal with the values of honesty, integrity and citizenship. Honesty in this situation is associated to both telling the truth as best as we know it and honesty in the context of playing by the rules, without cheating or stealing.
Integrity is also in question because we should always act based on what we is right and what is expected of us, consistently. Lastly, citizenship because this involves government officials where commitment to public and obedience to laws are highly expected. In addition, this dilemma is highly complicated primarily because the persons involved are bigwigs and due to the fact that money, power, institutional and personal images are at stake. As such, this may give rise to threats among the lives of any of the parties involved (Mr. Bernas, Mr.
Narciso, the BOC officers and the fall guys). However, if proper action is taken, then benefit and punishment are given to whom these are rightfully due. C. Alternative Courses of Action Upon assessment of the situation, the courses of actions available for Mr. Bernas include but are not limited to the following: 1. ) Accept the bribe, voluntary resign and remain silent. (Option 1) 2. ) Resist the bribe, voluntary resign and remain silent. (Option 2) 3. ) Resist the bribe stay with the company, and escalate the smuggling issue to the management and proper authority. Option 3) For the purpose of this paper, we will evaluate the best alternative course of action from the options above using the five ethical principles of utilitarianism, categorical imperative, justice and fairness, virtues and care. II. Evaluation of the alternative courses of actions using five ethical principles Utilitarianism Utilitarian principle holds that the action is right if that action’s net benefits are greatest by comparison to the net benefits of all other possible alternatives. This follows the cost-benefit analysis.
Using this analysis, the following are the identified costs and benefits of the alternative courses of actions available for Mr. Bernas: Option| Costs| Benefits| 1 Accept the bribe, voluntary resign & remain silent. | * Tolerance of illegal practices and abuse of power. * Dishonesty due to the acceptance of bribed money. * Injustice to the fall guys for remaining silent. * Temporary unemployment and no income source. | * Extra money to start a new life (Php50,000). * ‘Utang na loob’ is not forsaken. * No personal relationships are broken. * Lighter problems to face (only new job and relocation). * Security of the family. 2Resist the bribe, voluntary resign & remain silent. | * Injustice to the fall guys for remaining silent. * Tolerance of illegal practices and abuse of power. * No extra money. * Temporary unemployment and no income source. | * ‘Utang na loob’ is not forsaken. * No personal relationships are broken. * Lighter problems to face (only new job and relocation). * Security of the family. | 3Resist the bribe, stay with the company and report the incident. | * Personal relationships are broken. * Family security and safety are at stake. * Due process takes time and is more complicated. * No extra money. * Possible acquittal of the fall guys and trial for the true suspects and mastermind. * Honesty and integrity on a personal and institutional (BOC) level were achieved. * Secured employment and monthly source of income. | Except for the money involved, the costs and benefits presented above are unquantifiable. This is a limitation of utilitarianism. Also in the table above it seems that the best action would be to accept the bribe and remain silent (option 1) since this option has the net quantifiable benefit (Php 30,000) which is the net of the additional income of Php50,000 less the fixed income of Php20,000.
This action however ignores the right of the fall guys to justice. This is another limitation of the utilitarian principle. To address these limitations, rule utilitarianism was introduced. This principle is basically an improvement to the traditional approach. The improvement is to base the action not merely on the greatest utility but rather on the correct moral rules that everyone should follow. In consideration of the rule utilitarianism, it seems that the best action to take is to resist the bribe and report the incident to proper authority (option 3). Why? Because this option promotes the elementary rule of ‘Honesty is the best policy’.
This rule has been consistently taught and expected of us. As such, we, as a people, are morally bound to follow this rule. Rights/Categorical Imperative The second ethical principle is of Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative theory. This theory uses moral rights as its foundation and incorporates two formulations. The first formulation is the golden rule which is to do unto others what you want to do unto you. This deals with universalizability and reversibility, which means that every reason to action should be universally acceptable and this reason should still be the same if the situation is reversed.
Considering the golden rule, the best alternative action for Mr. Bernas is option 3. First, bribery is a form of corruption that is universally agreed as immoral. As human beings, we always seek for the truth. Bribery is a form of dishonesty and we do not want others to be dishonest to us. Meanwhile, reporting the incident of smuggling to proper authorities addresses the second criterion, wherein, if tables are turned and reversed, you also do not want to fall victim to false accusation and injustice. The second formulation of Kant is to never treat any person merely as a mean but also as an end.
This emphasizes that our action is morally right if and only if we do not use others to advance in our own interests and we respect other’s capacity to choose freely for themselves. In line with this formulation, the best action for Mr. Bernas is still option 3. By doing so, he is not using other people for his advancement. Accepting the bribe would mean that Mr. Bernas will get Php 50,000 at the expense of the fall guys. The bribe money may also come from the victims of the custom officers, which may mean that the money was earned still at the expense of other people.
In this case, we treated these people merely as means and not as an end because we left them with no choice. Justice and Fairness Issue involving the questions of justice and fairness are divided into three categories: distributive, retributive and compensatory. Distributive justice means fair distribution of the society’s benefit and burdens. Retributive justice refers to just imposition of punishments to those who do wrong. Lastly, compensatory justice means restoring to a person what the person lost when wronged. In the case of Mr. Bernas, the most evident category is the retributive justice.
This category believes that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Given this principle, fall guys accused of smuggling should be given equal rights to due process and defend their plea. At the same time, Mr. Bernas should also treat the BOC officials innocent until someone of authority rightfully proves their involvement in the case. By rightfully, it means at a proper venue and in an appropriate time. In addition, the case did not specifically mention of any other evidence that Mr. Bernas holds to ascertain the BOC officials’ involvement in the smuggling, aside from the intervention he witnessed.
As such, it gives all the more reason for both parties involved the right to due process and just imposition of punishment to whom it is necessary. As to the options presented, the only way to achieve justice is doing option 3. Mr. Bernas should escalate the issue to his manager. Remaining silent will not give both parties a chance to defend themselves in a due process. By not speaking up, he is letting the fall guys suffer without equal opportunty to prove their innocence. Meanwhile, bribery in this case does not connote to compensatory justice because Mr. Bernas was not wronged by anyone.
He merely witnessed an event. Rather, this is more applicable to the fall guys who lost their freedom and normal life due to false accusation. Virtue Ethics The virtue ethics principle focuses not on what actions people are required to perform but rather on the character they require to have. To assess the correctness of an action using virtue ethics means choosing between two extremes – the extreme of lack and the extreme of excess. Mr. Bernas, being an employee, is expected to be honest. The virtue of honesty is actually expected from all of us. Considering this, the best option available, is again, option 3.
This option highly promotes honesty and integrity in both the dilemmas. Integrity is applied by not choosing to accept the bribe and honesty by telling the truth based on what you saw. Also, choosing this option will make Mr. Bernas, a person of character and morality, because despite the odds of facing threats and complicated problems, he stood by these virtues. As to choosing between the two extremes, honesty’s extreme of lack is being a liar. Its extreme of excess however is quite difficult to identify. But extreme honesty can be hurtful. If these extremes would be the basis, then one can argue that option 3 is in the extreme of excess.
This is because you will hurt the custom officers’ reputation and might ruin their images. On the otherhand, if option 2 is chosen it could also mean being in the extreme of lack. Again, it is because identifying the extremes of honesty is difficult. Ethics of Care The ethics of care emphasizes two moral demands. First, is to preserve and nurture the concrete relationships we have. Second, is to exercise special care to those we are related with and more importantly on those vulnerable and dependent on us. The ethics of care emphasizes emotions. Actions are based on our feeling and affection towards other people. In the case of Mr.
Bernas, the most obvious relationship he values is his family. He works for them. He cares for them. As such, if this is the basis, option 2 is the most appropriate action to take. By resisting the bribe and remaining silent, his family’s safety will not be put at risk. In addition, his family will not be involved in the headaches and complications that might happen if he chooses to report the incident. On the contrary, if he considers the second moral demand of this principle, he must show compassion on those who are dependent on him, in this case, the fall guys. However, it can be argued that these people are not related to him.
Also, he can do other ways of giving back to the community and practice communitarian ethics. IV. Conclusion In the evaluation of the case using the five ethical principles, the best alternative course of action for Mr. Bernas is to resist the bribe and report the incident to the proper authority. This option produces the greatest social benefit and least injury since it promotes honesty, integrity and clean public service. It is consistent with the moral rights (the right to honest and due process) of the affected, especially to the fall guys. This course of action treats them not just as a mean but more importantly an as an end.
It provides just distribution of benefits and burdens as it emphasizes on the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. It also uplifts the character of Mr. Bernas, because he will be perceived as a man of truth and integrity. Lastly, it provides care to those who are in need, in this case, the fall guys. These principles, however, do not dictate the best action to be taken if faced in an ethical dilemma. These only serve not to define what is right and wrong but rather as a guide to the best course of action. At the end, the decision will still be in our hands.