I read very recently a report on how the Philippines improved a little in the corruption index from Transparency International. I also read how 35 percent of Filipinos believe there has been less corruption while 30 percent believed corruption has remained at the same level.
Sixty-four (64) percent of those surveyed by Transparency International believed that public officials and civil servants were affected by corruption, and 58 percent held the same view about political parties. Just as bad is that 56 percent believed the judiciary was corrupt, even after the impeachment and conviction of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Imagine, all these very disappointing statistics on our people’s views on corruption already carries with it the 35 percent who believed there was a slight improvement. How much worse was it during Gloria Arroyo’s term that some improvement in the last two years has the majority our people still thinking of public officials, politicians, judges and justices as corrupt?
Truly, corruption can be so embedded in our lifestyle that it needs more than a P-Noy to sustain transformation. I can understand about public officials and civil servants taking a long time to change, but I had hoped that political parties, the Liberal Party in this case, and the Judiciary could have done much better.
The Liberal Party has access to funds, to the most funds, and it represents in the people’s mind “political parties” because of that access to the most funds. The opposition have only small change. In fact, some have complained that their pork barrel has not been released at all. If Filipinos still think today that political parties are corrupt, they must be referring to the Liberal Party.
During Corona’s impeachment, it was in fact a defense, and a good one, that the Chief Justice then could not have carried out compromised decisions unless he had a cabal of other justices who would provide him with a majority vote. I had thought that a prolonged trial could have exposed more justices to corruption, that a paper trail from Corona’s accounts could have led to unusual deposits to accounts owned by some other justices.
But the thirst for blood was quickly satisfied when it was shown that Corona had hundreds of millions he did not earn from salaries or legitimate businesses. His guilt and impeachment acted as a shield on the possible guilt of other justices. In gangland parlance, it is said that Corona took the fall.
If it will take more than a P-Noy to sustain the crusade against corruption, it only needs him to start and pursue it during his term. His solo performance as an honest president is already so dramatic a contrast to Gloria Arroyo that a whole world, and not just 70 percent of Filipinos who trust him and approve of his performance, is so appreciative. That appreciation has translated to a much better image of the country and the Filipino has convinced global economic experts that change is possible, and financial ratings agencies have acknowledged the outstanding economic performance of the Philippines.
Where the Liberal Party and the Judiciary have not been able to keep up with P-Noy’s anti-corruption resolve, a few of the non-political cabinet members have. Savings from operating departments have been so substantial that tens of billions of additional infrastructure projects have been made possible. The collection performance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue has been a very pleasant surprise–and embarrassing to a lagging Bureau of Customs.
Already, there are reports about hundreds of billions worth of infrastructure projects for 2014 and 2015. These are meant to keep the country at par with its economic expansion plans and I can only marvel at the amounts being mentioned. Truly, the thrust to keep the economy at aggressive performance is being backed up with infrastructure support.
I have one question in my mind, though. The mantra that P-Noy pounded into us in his 2010 presidential campaign was “Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap.” I so believed in it – both in its simple truism and in the integrity of Noynoy the candidate to do it as P-Noy the president.
I had no illusions about his eradicating corruption in his term, especially since the Liberal Party from the beginning was not showing signs that they would be part of a transformative coalition with P-Noy. They would give him legislative support, but for a price, mostly positions with access to big budgets.
What I had serious hopes for was the purpose for his anti-corruption crusade – that it was not just a statement for what is right and wrong, but even more because P-Noy wanted to address poverty with the same passion and commitment. I have not lost hope, but I am beginning to feel very afraid that the economic gains from P-Noy’s anti-corruption stance will stay economic until mostly, or only, the rich benefit from it. From the hundreds of billions of projects in just two years, part of it can already resolve historical poverty, eliminate squatter-hood as a dark patrimony of the poor, and spark a new and brighter future for at least 30 million Filipinos.
If P-Noy believes that the poorest among us, at least the 30 million at the bottom, can rise from poverty through the profits of the rich, then he would have fallen for a failed formula as everyone before him. The benefits from a powerful economy would mean funds for the poor, but these funds would have to be spent for the most basic of needs – security of tenure, decent homes, food and health. These funds cannot be re-invested for more infrastructure hoping that additional business will trickle down their profits to the poor.
If the majority of Filipinos still believe that corruption hounds public officials and civil servants, political parties and the Judiciary, it is because the majority of Filipinos remain mired in poverty. Let them taste directly the benefits of an honest presidency, a dynamic economy, and watch how the perception of corruption will fall. Then see how the poor will rise.