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Opinion

A culture of corruption?

STRAWS IN THE WIND - STRAWS IN THE WIND By Eladio Dioko -
Corruption - it's no longer news in this country. Surveys have been made in the past and always the Philippines landed at the top. Lately an agency called PERC came out with its corruption situationer and as expected we bested all other Asian countries. Culture of corruption, yes, we have, Malacañang commented.

The PERC report does not single out a specific sector where malfeasance is a regular thing. But since its respondents were businessmen - foreign ones, that is - the perception must have been derived from their transactional relationship with government offices. Everyone knows of course which government offices are covens of corrupt officials. But when one runs a business he is forced to relate his activities with a number of offices other than those identified as graft-prone ones. For instance, he needs the DIT for its imprimatur of his operations; he needs the LGU for business permit, the BIR for tax clearances, the DENR for environmental certificate, and many other agencies. Perhaps, the businessmen concerned experienced some red tapes in dealing with government offices such as these.

From the lowly clerks to the top honcho one's documents are bound to get snagged somewhere if nobody bothers to do a follow-up. In many cases, papers are shuttled back and forth for the flimsiest of reasons or worse, get misplaced and one has to resubmitted another sheaf of these if he wants the whole process expedited. One frustrating thing, however, is the negative attitude of most middle level personnel. Sour-faced most of the time, they seem to look at you as a kink on their peace of mind. You tell them of your problem but you just can't get through them and even if you do their usual response is to get rid of you by sending you to another personnel as glum-faced as they. Situations like these may appear outside the category of office corruption but in reality they are corrupt practices because the services expected are not rendered or are rendered with delay, hence time (of both the office personnel and their client) is wasted. Besides, courtesy is a mandate for government workers. If it is not practiced, then the latter are guilty of misdemeanor which is punishable like a corrupt act.

Any talk of corruption inevitably brings to mind the bureaucracy. The truth, however, is that this deviant practice also thrives in the private sector. In business for one, be it a multi-billion one or a sari-sari store, clandestine activities are taken which are either illegal or unethical or both. In preparing their corporate taxes, for instance, who is the saintly businessman who declares all the money he earned? As for the sari-sari store owner, who is the fellow who issues receipts for purchases? Only a few months ago a surprise inspection found many weighing scales in Carbon market tampered to measure less than what they were supposed to measure. And some gasoline stations in the city have been found to have defective pumps.

"The culture of corruption", a Malacañang spokesman says, "has crept into several areas of Philippine society and politics over many decades". A sad statement, indeed, but true. It is sad because it implies that the home, the place where the individual gets his early character formation, has failed. The church and the schools too can be finger-pointed along with the home for these are value-transmitting institutions. Perhaps, these agencies have not only been remiss in their responsibilities, they have been the very source of the negative behavior which have characterized our culture. What a tragic state of things!

Culture suggests commonality and acceptance. It is something that permeates into a people's way of life. It is a way of life, in fact, and when acted out it no longer raises eyebrows. A good example is vote-buying. Time was when this practice was a source of shame and embarrassment. But now it is tacitly accepted as part of the political game. Are we surprised if corrupt politicians are elected?

Filipinos seem complacent about corruption. Have they lost their sense of right and wrong?
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Email: [email protected]

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