EDITORIAL - War on corruption
EDITORIAL - War on corruption
(The Philippine Star) - October 29, 2020 - 12:00am

While some quarters welcomed President Duterte’s creation of a “mega task force” to fight corruption in all government agencies, others – pointing out the enormity of the problem – greeted the announcement with skepticism. The past years, after all, have been marked by disappointing campaigns against a problem that has become deeply entrenched, and where the biggest perpetrators include top officials of the land.

The previous administration of Benigno Aquino III was borne to power on an anti-corruption platform, amid the corruption scandals that hounded the presidency of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. His presidency ended with corruption accusations hounding the Metro Rail Transit 3 and his political party as well as the Disbursement Acceleration Program. Arroyo herself assumed power following the ouster of Joseph Estrada in the second people power revolt triggered by a corruption probe. The first revolt, in 1986, was also fueled by public unrest not only over the egregious human rights violations of Ferdinand Marcos’ authoritarian regime, but also over large-scale corruption imputed on the dictator and his wife Imelda.

Today the dictator is buried in the heroes’ cemetery, while his widow – after having served several terms as a member of the House of Representatives – remains free on bail following her first-ever conviction for a graft case involving her family’s ill-gotten wealth.

After the 1986 revolt, the Office of the Tanodbayan was created as the principal investigator of graft cases, together with a special anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan. The court has since dismissed a slew of graft cases against the Marcoses. It also issued a bizarre decision that cleared Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plunder involving his pork barrel allocation, but also declared that he should return P124.5 million to public coffers. So far, Revilla has refused to return the money.

The tanodbayan, now known as the Office of the Ombudsman, will be remembered for the recent orders stopping lifestyle checks and the public release of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth of government officials. It remains to be seen whether Ombudsman Samuel Martires will be challenged for his interpretation of Section 17, Article XI of the Constitution, which specifically declares that the SALNs of the President, the Vice President, members of the Cabinet, Congress, Supreme Court, constitutional commissions and other constitutional offices, as well as star-rank military officers “shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.”

Given these circumstances, people can be forgiven for greeting the creation of the mega task force with a yawn.

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