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EDITORIAL - Deterrent to corruption

There is no excuse for corruption, but there could be deterrents. Among them is decent pay for government workers. The Singaporeans, whose civil servants are reputed to be the highest paid in the world, tend to validate this theory; the city-state consistently ranks at the top or at least in the top five in international surveys on transparency and good governance.

How much compensation is needed to deter corruption in the Philippine bureaucracy, however, remains to be seen. The Duterte administration has just implemented a hefty pay hike for members of the Philippine National Police, with the chief getting a 79 percent increase and others seeing their pay rise by up to 100 percent. The PNP comptroller said the pay hike is a deterrent to corruption.

Previous studies have shown that a number of PNP members still have no decent shelters and live below the poverty line. President Duterte, who has shown a soft spot for the PNP, the military and other security agencies, has been moving to improve the welfare of those tasked to carry out his war against criminality and other threats to the state.

A pay hike can best deter corruption, however, if it is accompanied by institutional reforms as well as the certainty that those who engage in graft will face the full force of the law. Even a 100 percent increase in the take-home pay of a crooked cop may pale in comparison to the amounts he can earn from extortion and shakedown operations.

In this developing country, government funds are limited for everything including salaries and benefits of civil servants. For the corrupt, however, working in government can be a ticket to substantial wealth, especially for those in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. Even if the salaries of these crooked opportunists are tripled, their legitimate earnings would be a pittance compared to the fat commissions and grease money they receive from those who deal with their agencies.

Apart from ensuring that such crooks are caught and punished, structural reforms are needed to streamline procedures and plug opportunities for graft. Corruption is committed with impunity in this country, and change will not happen overnight. Better pay for government workers is one step that must be accompanied by other measures to deter corruption.

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