Monday, December 18, 2017
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At Large

‘Integrity Caravan’ vs corruption

Whenever election season comes around and voters are surveyed on what they think are the biggest problems the candidates should address, “corruption” unfailingly lands among the top three.

And yet when a high official is arrested, indicted, prosecuted and convicted, public reaction is often muted, if not met with cynicism and indifference.

Recall that when mug shots of former president Erap Estrada, taken after his arrest on corruption charges, were aired on TV, people by the hundreds of thousands gathered on Edsa, agitating for his release. This, after months of dramatic testimony in the House of Representatives and in the Senate where Erap faced impeachment, and in a drawn-out trial in the Sandiganbayan that wound up in his conviction. One would think that by then the certainty of Erap’s guilt and proof of his “mishandling” of the people’s money would have turned the public against him. But as the so-called “Edsa Tres” debacle showed, people still had a good amount of goodwill towards him, if not sympathy for his cause.

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Maybe we should amend the public’s attitude about corruption: from being a “major social and political problem,” to being “a major social and political problem only if officials we don’t approve of are guilty.” Our definition of corruption seems a malleable concept, subject to personal judgment and interpretation.

No wonder corruption remains a most intransigent issue in our political and economic life.

This is the reason perhaps why the Office of the Ombudsman launched in 2013 what they called the “Integrity Caravan.” As Deputy Ombudsman Gerald Mosquera put it, their office is best known or remembered for investigating and prosecuting government officials and employees accused of malfeasance. What people often forget, said Mosquera, is the third leg of the Ombudsman’s functions which is deterrence. And an important part of deterrence, or the reduction of opportunities for corruption, he said, is “education.”

In a video explaining the “Integrity Caravan,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales explained that “institutional integrity begins with personal integrity.” Thus, honing the populace on integrity in public service and honesty in all dealings doesn’t begin with the Ombudsman, which is charged with prosecuting the dishonest and the corrupt. Rather it begins at home, from childhood even, where values are taught and “caught,” and where virtue is rewarded and admired.

This year’s edition of the “Integrity Caravan” centers on a nationwide video-making contest open to young people age 18-23 years old, who are expected to create short (three to five-minutes long) videos made with the use of cell phones dealing with the issue of corruption and the means to eliminate it. Deadline for submission is on Sept. 30.

Partnering with the Office of the Ombudsman for this year’s edition of the “caravan” is Jollibee Foods Corp (JFC). No, said Pauline Lao, head of media for JFC, entries don’t have to be set in a Jollibee store or feature the fast food giant’s products. But the competition could certainly make good use of the chain’s wide reach and loyal clientele, like making flyers or entry forms available in all Jollibee stores. This not only ensures greater accessibility to the competition’s target audience, but also a painless way of spreading the message.

After all, as Mosquera says, the durability of any “social good” campaign depends on “outreach and public support.” And, I might well add, political will on the part of the national leadership who will appoint officials to this crucial constitutional body that stands as a bulwark against the scourge of corruption.

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TAGS: corruption, EDSA, Erap Estrada, Government, integrity, opinion
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