Election: An antidote to corruption
FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) - April 1, 2019 - 12:00am

Towards the end of last week the campaign period started for the local positions. Consequently, money started flowing freely. These are recklessly released for the candidates’ vote-gathering activities. Whether these funds come from legitimate sources, we do not know.  Certainly though, they will spend millions for their visibility initiatives (mainstream media or social media). More than that, wads of bills will also be spent for their vote-buying efforts.  

As expected, recipients (voters) use these sums of money to purchase goods and services, thus, the multiplier effect. These activities plus the usually increased government spending (local and national) during election year for infrastructures, the economy expands. Yes, it does. So much so that it becomes so tempting that we might even entertain the idea of having an election every year. However, the truth is, in the kind of election that we have, the downside is horrible.

In our money-driven kind of politics where the candidates either spend their own money or of their benefactors, two possibilities can happen. In using their own money, once elected, they will certainly look for ways to recover them. If they relied on their benefactors, once elected, they will certainly pay them back. 

Since salaries of elected officials are too small, they will find ways to recover what they spent, more likely, through illicit means. On the other hand, they shall pay their benefactors through unethical ways. These could come through rigged biddings for projects, goods and outsourced services. Frankly, they will seize every opportunity. Unfortunately, such and other countless of ways are the primary reasons of our being undisputedly at the bottom of every corruption survey. 

The annual Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), for instance, can attest to this. TI’s corruption surveys “draw on assessments and opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions. These surveys and assessments include questions related to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and the effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts”.

Sadly, despite President Duterte’s continuing efforts and that of PNoy’s to address the country’s worsening graft and corruption incidences, we still remain in the bottom-half among countries and territories surveyed. For instance, in the recently released corruption survey (2018), we placed 99th among 180. While it is true that we improved our rankings from 2017’s 111th out of 180 countries and territories surveyed, we only scored 36 or just two points better than 2017’s 34. Simply put, we didn’t improve that much, other countries simply worsened. 

Also, we may take some comforts in the fact that we improved from 2017’s 111th place. However, we must remember that we were no. 101st out of 176 countries and territories surveyed in 2016.  Moreover, we used to be 95th out of 168 countries and territories surveyed in 2015 and we were already among the upper 50% of the 175 countries included in the CPI survey in 2014 at 85th place.

If there is any consolation, it is on the fact that in some years before 2014, we’ve been among the cellar dwellers. In 2010, we were 134th. In the 2011 survey (which included 183 countries) we were ranked 129th.   

Worse, with some Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations recently ignored by some equally corrupt politicians in power, it seems that corruption would still persist. As we all know, even some of the mayoral and gubernatorial hopefuls (Cebu included) are either perceived by the public or are regarded by the Ombudsman to be corrupt.  

Such is the sad reality of our kind of politics. A kind of politics that is mainly money-driven. Where ordinary men from nowhere initially presented themselves to the people for service and became powerful once elected. Or men who are already successful businessmen in their own right and run either to protect their interests or widen them. 

Clearly, therefore, corruption has now become a habit. With these unscrupulous politicians at the helm, coupled with a rotten system that these men and women continue to comfortably adhere, we shall soon see this habit becoming the country’s norm. 

Indeed, it is imperative that we have to face this horrible situation squarely. We should let this election be an antidote to corruption by not electing these crooks into office. foabalos@yahoo.com

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