On The Move

Pedaling the Philippines backwards

A President who personally gifts the police with the discretion to accept “gifts,” throwing in the corrosive video-karera as a professional niche, is really bribing the whole police organization. He is cutting them loose to augment their income the “sariling sikap” (self-help) way. In wartime, this is like a commander not only turning a blind eye on pillage by his troops. It is also a corrupt act of personal benevolence at the expense of the hapless people of an occupied territory.

Occupied territory? That seems to be a fitting description for Filipinos under Mr. Duterte.


In 2005, I was among 10 Filipinos from the COA, CSC, OMB, CHR, PCGG and other organizations who were sent by the USAID to attend a monthlong postgraduate certificate course on corruption studies at Hong Kong University. Other Filipino batches attended the course headed by Hong Kong’s anticorruption czar Tony Kwok. We were joined by 30 other participants from all over the world, especially Africa and Latin America, to imbibe the effective anticorruption principles and practices Hong Kong was known for.

We learned that Hong Kong was more corrupt than many of our countries before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was formed in 1974. We learned that at the height of corruption in Hong Kong, foreigners (British) in positions of authority were among the masterminds. The ICAC reduced corruption by cracking down repeatedly on police involvement in “victimless crimes” — prostitution, gambling and drugs. We learned that the police could be honed into an effective and clean law enforcement organization. However, anticorruption work should never be entrusted to the police.


We learned that while in many countries people think corruption is only in government offices, corruption is actually the use of office, public or private, for private gain.

Receiving unsolicited gifts is corruption because it constitutes “sweetening the pot,” a form of injecting creeping influence on a person in authority. Anything that makes a public official beholden to another person, even a relative, is corruption. If you owe your mother-in-law the money you built your house with, not a bank, that makes you “pecuniarily embarrassed.” Our relations are more likely to plunge us into corruption rather than help us avoid it.

If you are charged with corruption and you commit suicide, that is an admission of guilt, and the property in question will be seized by the state. The best way to teach kids against corruption is to make them go visit the museum of corruption while in high school, so they know what corruption is and how society punishes the corrupt. The best way to promote corruption is to anticipate and prevent it and focus on community education.

Learning from these lessons, the Office of the Ombudsman established a set of anticorruption systems—the Integrity Development Review (IDR) and the Corruption Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) that it applied to critical government institutions in 2006 (BIR, BOC, DPWH, LTO, PNP) and in 2007 (AFP-PN, BuCOR, BFP, DAR, DENR, DOH, NIA, LRA, LRTA, PS, PVAO). The IDR found that the weakest link across these participating agencies in corruption resistance mechanisms are their gifts policy, whistleblowing and internal reporting policies, and corruption risk management.

The IDR and the CVA applied to the police yielded reform documents like the PNP Patrol Plan 2030 and MC 2008-04 (“Policy in Accepting, Receiving and Giving of Gifts and Mementos”), designed to help reduce corruption in the police. These were critical systemic measures. But their sustainability depends on the President’s moral compass, personal integrity and actual behavior to set the pathway for the government and the police to emulate. Many police and military officers, nurtured by poor but proud families, can be patriotic and honest if their institutions provide the proper systems.

So, it is rather appalling that, the system of anticorruption in the Philippines already beleaguered as it is, no less than
the President releases the police from the ethical and moral moorings that just very tenuously keep this country together. Sad. It is as if the President is trying to win in a game of perdigana — the more he pedals the country backwards, the more he thinks he wins.

Comments welcome at [email protected] gmail.com


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TAGS: bribery, corruption, On The Move, Rodrigo Duterte, Segundo Eclar Romero
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