I’ve been doing the rounds of meetings in different government offices for various projects, and I’ve noted one common sight: low-rank staff (not excluding measly paid security guards) toting at least two ridiculously expensive gadgets—iPhone, Galaxy, iPad, BlackBerry and combinations thereof.
First off, let’s do the math. For a clerical-level position (and trust me, I’m well-versed in the Salary Standardization Law and the fringe benefits), these folks would, at the maximum, be taking home a monthly salary of P21,000. Of that amount, at least P5,000 goes to rent; P2,000 to utilities; P3,000 to public transport or gas for the car; P5,000 for meals (not including those occasional eat-out meals); and the soaring cost of even public education for at least three children.
Assuming they don’t have credit cards to avail themselves of those zero-interest monthly installment programs of gadgets shops (hey, even I don’t have a credit card!), they would only then have paid for those gadgets in another installment program to yet another source. Who do they turn to? Smugglers who have actually earned the cooperation of customs officials. Better yet, the enterprising breed of the latter who have made a business out of “confiscated” or “distressed” shipments.
They could simply have amassed so much “savings” from the bribe money they get in their daily work. Come on, does anyone think all those fixers in long queues at documents-obsessed and extremely bureaucratic agencies operate independently? Let’s not kid ourselves. Or, as in another blunt but highly representative example, remember that “clerk” dude, whose job was to stamp and staple sheets of paper he did not have a clue about, who drives a Porsche? Daang matuwid, my eye.
Sadly, it is not confined to the government system. Ever thought of how private-sector organizations engage local government communities who, in turn, seek huge favors in return for their cooperation? Or private corporations and their morality-and-integrity-preaching bosses in their scheming dealings with their industry partners, suppliers and service providers? Or company bosses who stand in the way of an employee’s (legitimate) opportunities for growth elsewhere simply because they have their own hidden agenda?
Then again, they might ask, why bother keeping things clean when the whole system is—and traditionally has been—as dirty as a public toilet?
Indeed, corruption has, whether by accident, sheer evolution, or desperate need, slowly crept into our culture. Generalizing aside, we are, have been or will be bound to succumb to even the slightest corrupt attempt on our own or toward our fellowmen. Why not? We try as much to live an honest life only to be gobbled up by a structure that is so mired in corruption and incompetence.
That’s why no matter how much this administration—probably any administration, for that matter—trumpets a crusade to fight corruption, it will only look good on paper and in a revenue-hungry media. All this hypocrisy of weeding out corruption as a political platform is a joke. Many others have made this flowery promise in the past but nothing much has changed. The real change is not in lambasting this and that person; it is in everyone, even the common man, living honestly.
Mike Saycon, 29, is an independent political affairs and communications consultant. He is preparing to return to work in the Senate after a two-month break.
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