Is Philippine politics a clownery of accountability?
(Agence France-Presse) - December 13, 2019 - 12:00am

At the age of 16, I have already killed someone. A person. It was a rumble. I stabbed him. We just looked at each other. What more now that I'm President.

President Rodrigo Duterte on his speech to the Filipino community in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Plagued by a number of controversial issues, the dynamics of the modern-day Philippine politics is riddled with dismaying instances that taint the character of the government. But when issues of corruption and unlawful acts arise, how are these public officers sanctioned?

The fundamental law of the land, as enshrined in Article XI, Section 1 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people.” The article’s legal translation into Republic Act 6713, known as Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees, serves as a standard for public officers that must be adhered to and has penalties for violations.

However, despite these guiding principles, accountability still remains as a challenge in Philippine politics wherein officials who violate these laws are not always held liable for offenses. For instance, Bong Revilla is now re-elected as a senator despite his previous case of plunder and 16 counts of graft. Likewise, Imelda Marcos has also been absolved of her 32 charges of illegally transmitting wealth out of the country after a 17-year trial.

Just this week, the immense controversial issues arising on the expenses of the SEA Games Organizers headed by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano also garnered negative comments from netizens. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon even questioned the P50-million cauldron and stressed on the fact that the country has an P11-billion loan for the SEA Games hosting.

More importantly, the massive unrest brought about by the human rights violations of the extrajudicial killings had gained various critics from international organizations. The president, last March 2019 has boldly claimed to the International Criminal Court, upon his withdrawal, that he is “beyond accountability.”

Today, the drug war still persists, making the Philippines the 4th most dangerous place in the world for civilians. It is also the deadliest country for environmental defenders, and has the most number of unsolved journalist killings.

These instances attest to the fact that the Philippine politics has long been embedded in a culture of traditional politicians who wield their political power as a means to liberate themselves from the consequences of what they have done. Emilia Pacoy, in her study entitled “Tracking Anti-Corruption and Initiatives in 2008,” claims that public officers still exploit their power to extract and amass for private enrichment and use unlawful means to sustain and to clutch on to their position. In order to address this, thorough investigations should be carried out regarding these cases so that when violations are committed, due penalties should be imposed. More importantly, independent institutions like the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan should remain impartial when cases involving these public officials arise. But what do all of these imply to the public?

This makes us realize that we should be aware and vigilant on what is happening in our very own politics. If not, apathy will continue to breed these corrupt politicians, with accountability being at stake and the masses being demoralized. If apathy encourages corrupt politicians, people will be demoralized and not take action against them. As a result, our country will be steeped in a clownery of governance and our state a robbery, rather than a noble society.

Accountability in public office should be enforced by all means, in all equity and not remain as an illusion of justice, a law with no merit, but as a lens of reality serving justice to the many.

Sheridan Tan

Beverly Wagas

BA Political Science

University of San Carlos, School of Law and Governance

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