Outrage against corruption
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2013 - 12:00am

It did not result in any front page headlines or extensive television coverage. Perhaps there was not enough human interest or drama that the usual headlines require. But the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the Office of the President and the Office of the Ombudsman on strengthening the administration’s efforts against corruption in the bureaucracy has an impact on the life of every Filipino.

Readers ask why I am so angered by corruption and why I am such a fervent supporter of P-Noy’s Daang Matuwid advocacy. Let me quote from the foreword to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of which the Philippines is a signatory:

“Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.

This evil phenomenon is found in all countries – big and small, rich and poor – but it is in the developing world that its efforts are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds meant for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”

It is true that corruption exists in virtually all institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church. When asked about his plans to reform the Curia, the Church’s equivalent of a government bureaucracy, Pope Francis was quoted as saying:

“...it is difficult. In the Curia there are also holy people, really there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true....The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned and it is true, it is there....We need to see what we can do.”

But we need to understand that there are also stages of corruption which Syed Hussein Alatas divided into three in Corruption and the Destiny of Asia:

During the more than 21 years of Marcos rule, 14 years as an oppressive dictator, the Philippines reached Stage 3 of corruption. This is when corruption becomes so widespread that it becomes self-destructive, having destroyed the fabric of society. Extortion became so widespread in the government because corruption was present at the highest level.

Stage 2 is when corruption is rampant and all-pervading. This is when almost every movement in government bureaucracy entails graft; everyone who has to deal with a government agency will encounter some incidence of graft.

Today, we are in Stage 1 and should ensure that instead of regressing to previous stages, we aspire for the institutionalization of the rule of law. In this stage corruption is relatively restricted without affecting a wide area of social life. Here we can accomplish without hindrance and extortion almost all our dealings with the government. This is possible when there is no corruption at the highest level.

But clearly, one of the biggest obstacles to institutionalizing the rule of law is the frequent lack of public outrage due to the public’s seemingly short memory. Recently, Senator Jinggoy Estrada was quoted as saying that senators would continue to hold public hearings on alleged anomalies involving government.

This is all well and good. But what has happened to past investigations? What happened to Joc Joc Bolante and the “alleged” Fertilizer Fund scandal? To Arthur Yap and the “alleged” NFA scandal? Or to the investigation on all those bridges that were budgeted and paid for but were discovered to be nonexistent?

While Erap Estrada has been elected as mayor of Manila, how of many us remember Clarissa Ocampo who was once hailed as a national heroine and role model for courage, honor and integrity? And whatever happened to Jose Velarde and Jose Pidal?

In an interview, Dean Andres Bautista, chair on the Presidential Commission on Good Government, admitted that it has become more difficult to sequester the Marcos loot because so many of the members and cronies of the Marcos clan are back in power as senators, governors and congressmen. Instead of offering an apology, the Marcos heirs are actually trying to rewrite Philippine history. Are we now supposed to believe that Ninoy Aquino offered his life for nothing?

Even more recently, several prestigious business groups condemned the TRO issued by three Courts of Appeals Justices against the oil smuggling case filed by the Department of Justice against Dennis Ang Uy of Phoenix Petroleum. Just a few weeks later, how much outrage still exists? How many even remember those three Justices I named in a previous column?

I have been told by many lawyers that delaying court cases is a useful tool when you have a guilty client. The hope is that public outrage will die down and when the public attention is gone then a “fixed” settlement can be arranged. In fact, some lawyers are trying to delay judgment until 2016 when Noynoy ends his term and the next president might be “easier” to deal with.

The MOA for the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption is indeed a major event because hopefully we can develop a Filipino society where the values of integrity and honesty are embedded in its culture.

There are two main factors in the battle to eliminate corruption. The first is a highly moral leadership at the highest level, which we have. The second is the active support of an outraged public that will demand its leaders live up to the highest level of moral standards, which we lack. The public must play a more active part if we want to win this battle.  

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com


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