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Some Methods of How People Are Shortchanged by Individuals and Institutions

Updated on March 3, 2014

Relationship with another fellow and with the society

To start with, I must describe situations of "being shortchanged in life."

The first general situation I can think of is an "affair between two individuals." Suppose two persons enter into an agreement. Sumaw has a fertilizer factory. Pasc is an expert in making fertilizer. Sumaw gets the services of Pasc whom he gives a base salary per month. In addition, Sumaw told Pasc to give Pasc an incentive of two pesos per sack of fertilizer he produces at the end of month. At the end of one month, Pasc had produced 2000 sacks of fertilizer; he expects to get an incentive of 4000 pesos. But 10 days after and for months on end, Sumaw did not give Pasc any incentive. Pasc is shortchanged. Pasc has a legal right to the incentive because he and Sumaw agreed upon this incentive verbally. Pasc can file a case in court to force Sumaw to give him his incentive. However, there are barriers to Pasc's claim. The agreement was verbal, and there was no witness when Sumaw told Pasc of this incentive. We may call this situation "verbally agreed upon without a witness." If Pasc filed a case in court, Sumaw can deny the existence of such an agreement. Pasc cannot establish the existence of an agreement because there was no witness to it. Pasc may request Sumaw for his incentive but Sumaw does not budge to give it.

Pasc can have some recourse to deal with this situation. He can tackle Sumaw in a boxing bout so that If Sumaw lost Sumaw may give him his incentive. However, if Pasc lost in this boxing bout Pasc is shortchanged for good. Pasc may settle down to a grudge on Sumaw.

The extreme recourse is the use of naked power and is uncivilized. Dogs will fight for the bone.

Legal basis

Another situation involves a contract that is notarized by a notary public. Therefore, the "contract is explicit and public." If Pasc agreed to the incentive and entered into a notarized contract, it is a way to prevent being shortchanged. In case Sumaw reneged on the contract, Pasc has recourse to file a case in court.


Still another situation involves "social injustice." For example, a tenant in a coconut farm. In the Philippines there is a land reform code that cover rice farms. That is, a tenant in a rice farm is covered by the land reform law. The rent for the land constitutes a payment that in the long run when the rent will have equaled payment for the land. the tenant will become owner of the land. A tenant in a coconut farm will not eventually own the coconut land he farms because the rent he pays does not constitute a payment for the coconut land. This is social injustice. The reasons: The legislation on rice land was promulgated because the owners of sugar lands were more numerous than the owners of rice lands. In short, the owners of sugar lands were more powerful politically than the owners of rice lands. That is why the land reform law that covers only rice lands got past Congress.

The coconut farm tenant is a victim of social injustice. He is shortchanged by a law made by politically powerful legislators who also own sugar lands. The tenant has no political power to include sugar lands in land reform law. He will be forever shortchanged by the law for as long as the sugar land owners are in power.

Here comers another situation of social injustice. Typhoon Sendong struck Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines on December 19,2011. It caused a flash flood that washed away houses and caught people in their sleep. Some 1000 people were drowned or missing. The worst hit were those residing in two deltas created by the Cagayan de Oro river. The deltas are of course below sea level, that is, lower than the ground level where the river eroded away its course. So, a more than usual amount of rainfall on the plains and denuded mountains around would submerge the deltas.

Huber thesingingnurse described the calamity:

"But when typhoon Sendong made its landfall last week at a late Friday night, it seemed to have washed out almost everything. A number of infrastructures were destroyed; surrounding land fields were distorted; massive floods submerged numerous villages; and a great number of dreams were shattered as more lifeless victims are found and accounted. Everyone was completely off guard. People have to deal, right there and there, with feelings of ambivalence; distraught; torment; and sudden loss" [thesingingnurse, Cagayan de Oro After Typhoon (Bagyong) Sendong. July 21,2012].

Why did people live in those deltas? There is a delta created by the Abulug river in Cagayan province in Luzon; no one is allowed to reside there.

Some enterprising real state vendors sold lots in the deltas of Cagayan de Oro river at a low price. Poor people who did not own a piece of land bought lots where they erected houses.

Disparity in sharing of land

Why is there a want for piece of land in the Philippines when the human population is not yet so dense? History explains it. Spain colonized the Philippines and the king of Spain awarded vast tracks of land, called hacienda, to his subalterns - natives and Spaniards. When the Spaniards were driven away by Filipino revolutionaries in 1896-98, the haciendas were inherited by some siblings or relatives or bought by very few well-to-do Filipinos. A lot of poor Filipinos have been deprived of land. Most of these haciendas, sugar lands and rice lands, have not yet been redistributed through land reform.

Those who bought lots in the deltas are victims of the hacienda system. They are victims of social injustice.

Social injustice must be dealt with by social reform. If reforms do not suffice, social injustice must be dealt with by social restructuring. In this case the power that can force the issue consists of several people acting in concert.


Being morally upright is another way of dealing with being shortchanged in life. A person who lives morally upright deserves civility from his fellowmen.

Ethics guide some professions like that of medicine. Professionalism means, among others:

(1) The service is not tailored to the fee. A doctor applies all his knowledge and skills to save the life of a man if his survival is threatened by a disease or stab with a knife. The doctor will not stop his services just because the patient cannot buy anesthesia for a major operation, like opening the breast, getting to the heart and suturing a stab wound then closing it up again. It follows that the patient cannot afford a doctors fee. (I have a Hub "The First Operation On the Heart of a Man Who Lived 50 Years Longer).

(2) Possession of an esoteric knowledge that he learned from a medical school. The doctor updates himself/herself.

(3) Does not allow herself/himself to be influenced by any other profession against his/her better judgement. For example, a pharmaceutical company that sells pain relievers that results in allergy to any drug if taken continuously. Or influenced by a maker of equipment in heart surgery so that such equipment will not land in the museum owing to an obsolete technology like coronary arterial bypass graft surgery.

Some countries will allow the doctor to tailor his services to the fee if the service is rendered in a private place, say, in a kitchen. In this case, the patient is shortchanged. However, doctors are mandated to render full service in the atmosphere of a clinic or hospital.

In other countries, the doctor will not render full service even in the atmosphere of a clinic or hospital if the patient cannot afford the fee.

In some countries, the hospital will not conduct a diagnostic procedure, say, a scan if the patient had not paid in advance at least 50% payment for the scan. Some hospitals require full payment.

Still some hospitals will require a PET (positron emission tomography) scan for an obvious case of appendicitis; PET is more expensive than angiography, the procedure to assess the extent of blockage of a heart artery. A diagnostic test is applied in far excess of what is required and the patient or his/her proxies are made to pay exorbitant fees. They are shortchanged.

Medical malpractice

Some countries have medical malpractice laws that can exact penalties on medical professionals, clinic and hospitals that are found transgressing the law. For example, a surgeon excised the left kidney that is healthy, not the right kidney that is diseased.

In other countries, like the Philippines, there is no medical malpractice law. So, some doctors do not explain alternative methods of treatment or cure for some diseases, say, heart disease. Some doctors will recommend angioplasty or coronary arterial bypass graft surgery without explaining an alternative like infusion chelation therapy. Worse, these doctors do not update themselves on chelation therapy or stem cell therapy. Failure to explain an alternative even if the attending physician were not an expert in it is considered as malpractice in the United States.

The victims and potential victims can deal with this absence of malpractice law by telling legislators the need for it. In fact, there is a blog on medical practices that qualify as malpractice according to Indian laws or American malpractice laws. So far Filipino legislators have looked the other way. Filipinos are shortchanged.

People who belong in a health maintenance organization (HMO) are shortchanged in some cases. For example, a boy aged six months was infected with meningococcemia, a dreaded bacteria that attacks the brain and cause gangrene in the arms and legs. His mother could not contact the gatekeeper of the HMO immediately so that she could bring his boy to the accredited hospital some 40 miles away in a stormy night. In short, attendance to the boy was much delayed that he developed gangrene in both arms and legs. Fortunately, his brain was spared. To save his life both his arms and legs had to be amputated. The parents and the boy were shortchanged. The parents, James Adams II and Lamona of Fairburn, Georgia, filed a case in court and won (Anders, G. Health Against Wealth. 1996:1-25). Who is the mother who could bear look at his son as she breastfeeds him, a boy without arms and legs when amputation could have been avoided?

There are cases when patients and proxies are shortchanged by pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharma applies pressure on some doctors into not recognizing free radicals as causes of disease. Free radicals cause heart disease, cancer (over 200 kinds), osteoporosis, arthritis, emphysema, lupus, diabetes type 1 and more. They make and market drugs for treatment eschewing prevention and cure so that their market will not shrink. The patients may get treated but not cured. They also market drugs whose safety had been doubted by their own chemists and biochemists. For example, Vioxx; its maker voluntarily withdrew it from the market in 2004. It is a pain reliever. When the maker tested it for use to control colon cancer, it found out that it could cause stroke and heart attack on a person who took it continuously for 18 months. The company spent some US$4.85 billion for litigation of 27,000 lawsuits, and medication of victims. Still this expense was less than the profits from sale of the same drug in one year (Internet).

The victims have had recourse to the courts but not all of them got their due. A person who had taken that pain killer had to prove that s/he bought tablets with a purchase receipt, the number of tablets taken, duration of taking the drug and that his illness was due to the drug, among others. There were those who were not getting receipts of purchase, not counting the tablets they took, and not recording how long they had taken the drug. Also, they might have had other diseases when they were taking the pain killer. Suppose at one time they also took aspirin, or that they were also diabetic - they could be hard put to prove their case, so that their claim for benefits would be denied.

The person on the receiving end must deal with this omission by reading or consulting other fellows or doctors with alternative knowledge. This person is virtually helpless in the barrage of advertisements and in the admonition of a doctor of medicine who might care less about health and wellness!

Profits from poisons

In the case of tobacco and smoking, we are shortchanged by the government and the tobacco industry. The government supports raising of tobacco, even President Carter supported growing tobacco; other presidents ignore tobacco. The tobacco industry hid the health hazards of smoking from the public. Tobacco or cigarette smoke contain radioactive materials like polonium 210 and lead 210 that decay into lead 206 that is stable. As they decay they emit x-rays and produce free radicals that cause heart disease and cancer and emphysema and more. We should pressure the government to ban tobacco. The care and medication and funeral services related to tobacco far exceed the taxes collected from the sale of cigar and cigarettes (Epstein, S.S. MD. The Politics of Cancer. 1978).

In the Philippines, Marcos, the former dictator, got some of his wealth from tobacco-related products. He had a lackey whom he promoted to monopolize the production of cigarette filters. This lackey gave Marcos the latter's take almost everyday. Marcos had a list of these remittances, which was one of the finds in the Presidential palace after his ouster then given sanctuary in Hawaii.

Cigarette is one of the enemies within. The smoker gets hooked to it because it is addictive. (I once smoked but I kicked the habit when I realized I was hosting my enemy).

There are few doctors who would mention polonium 210 and lead 210 in tobacco. It is not certain whether they know about them or that they had been influenced by the tobacco industry. Dr. Dean Ornish mentioned "polonium" in his book but did not explain how radioactive materials emit X-rays and generate free radicals (Ornish, D., MD. Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease. 1996). Dr. Cranton has a long discussion on tobacco, saying that polonium and lead come from the fertilizer used to raise it (Cranton, E. MD. Bypassing Bypass. Updated second edition. 1995).

The cigarette industry has finally admitted the presence of polonium in tobacco after a series of lawsuits (Melpor. The radioactive polonium in tobacco leaves.

(I have a Hub "How X-rays And Free Radicals In Cigarette Smoke, Not Tar, Cause Cancer and Heart Disease").

The buyers and users of the car that was "unsafe at any speed," as Ralph Nader put it, were shortchanged. So were the buyers and users of the car Pinto.

Some cases of "being shortchanged in life" involve systems, particularly the floating rate system among currencies of countries in the world. Take the Philippine peso versus the American dollar: 42 pesos to one dollar. This state of affairs is due to economic laws and practices, we are told .

During the advent of the gold standard one ounce of gold was pegged at US$35. That was established in 1945 due to power mustered by the United States as it was the major partner in the defeat of Hitler's Germany in World War II. Henceforth, the American dollar superseded the English pound as world currency.

Other countries using the American dollar were shortchanged by this foreign exchange rate. It directly impacted on citizens of such countries.

How to deal with this floating rate system? It is a burden citizens of developing countries would have to bear their whole life, or for as long as this system prevails. It is now backed up by the power of G20 countries, or 20 most industrialized countries.

Unfortunately, justice and high morals - even love and compassion - are dominated by power in most relationships with other individuals, with institutions and with countries in the world.


Submit a Comment

  • conradofontanilla profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Philippines

    Moral values are a great refuge and source of counters to being shortchanged. Religions that advocate love and compassion ought to be appreciated but not if they admonish forgiveness on offenses all the time. Forgiveness also encourages corruption. The malevolent can commit same or more misdeeds after having sought forgiveness on a previous one.

  • midget38 profile image

    Michelle Liew 

    6 years ago from Singapore

    Thanks for this commentary on personal and social injustice....yes, we are sometimes shortchanged in these ways. Moral values are the way to deal with it! Thanks for the enriching hub!


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