Nov. 30 was indeed a special day. Not only did we commemorate the birthday of the hero Andres Bonifacio, the international community remembered as well the contributions and lives of famous individuals like Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Shirley Chisholm, and some nameless others.
The Philippines, in particular, celebrates heroism in a continuous passion all year round with at least three holidays—National Heroes Day, Bonifacio Day, and Rizal Day. In the absence of a proclamation or official declaration, which by the way is the technical prerequisite to recognize a national hero, the Filipino people regularly pay their respects to them in spirit and in deed.
Through the decades, the concept of heroism has broadened and become more inclusive, or mass-oriented, so to speak. Women, workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, and overseas Filipino workers have been recognized for their contribution to society, together with the everyday heroes who have made our everyday existence possible and convenient.
Two days ago, the Philippine Anti-Corruption Summit was launched by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption coalition. The culmination of the activity was graced by President Duterte, indicating in part his commitment to his vow to fight corruption.
In May last year, London hosted the Global Declaration Against Corruption, in which 43 governments and six international organizations took part. The gathering resulted in a total of 648 commitments in terms of legislation.
In light of this international effort against corruption, three things stand out as key lessons: Governments are most likely to act on ambitious commitments; it pays to collaborate; and actions speak louder than voice (Transparency International, 2017). In this respect, the Philippine landscape is very much a microcosm of the international scenario.
Past and present administrations have made ambitious and popular calls against corruption, but they end up accomplishing little. Summits and partnerships have been launched and forged but simply lacked the coordination and will to result in a relevant program and implement it. And indeed, all efforts boil down to the action itself. But how can action unfold if there is no comprehensive framework to work with?
The situation, therefore, is instructive: What we need is a total package of institutional reforms that would nip the roots of corruption. No amount of pronouncements or grandstanding from politicians can scratch the surface of corruption. A concrete program for institutional reforms backed by an unambiguous policy framework can be the formidable solution to weed out corruption. In effect, the embodiment of all anticorruption efforts into law is an imperative step that will transcend political timelines.
Democratic governance is the cornerstone for far-reaching institutional reforms and the crafting of a sincere anticorruption policy. In the promotion of the values of transparency, accountability, and participation, the space for corruption will be severely restricted. In turn, the institutions of society can now serve as breeding ground for a noncorrupt system and culture.
Perhaps what is still lacking in the analysis of Transparency International is the people’s role. It is in this aspect where we Filipinos can be heroes. In our own little ways, our daily actions and work ethics, or in how we bring up our family, we can plant the seeds of a noncorrupt mentality. More importantly, we should stand together to support anticorruption policies and programs and ultimately be united in fighting for the passage of a comprehensive anticorruption law.
We still need national heroes, and this is a tall order. But the call of the day is the need for everyday heroes to arrest the chronic problem of corruption. Through collective participation, we Filipinos can effectively thwart corruption. And then, we can all be heroes.
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Dindo Manhit is founder and managing director of Stratbase Group.