Can be done, if…
THE BISHOPS are skeptical.
“That’s a tall order,” says Bishop Carlito Cenzon about P-Noy’s vow to wipe out corruption by the end of his term. “First he must prove his competency.”
“That’s not attainable,” says Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez. “Maybe a 10-percent reduction in five years. But he must fire and not protect his friends if they are found guilty of wrongdoing. He must also select competent officials.”
I grant P-Noy’s vow isn’t the easiest thing to fulfill. Corruption is next only to prostitution as the world’s oldest profession, and probably tops it in this country. It’s been around longer than anyone can remember and will probably be around longer than anyone will remember. But it can be pushed back heroically, enough for it to gain sufficient momentum. And if there’s anyone to do it, it’s P-Noy. There’s no one better. He can do it, but it will require a lot of “ifs.”
He can do it if he can enlist the aid of the moral guardians to his cause. First and foremost, the bishops. That is one very monumental if, to go by their record thus far. Throughout the years, and over the last 10 in particular, the bishops have not been part of the cure, they have been part of the disease.
It’s all very well for them to say P-Noy should hire competent people. But the thing is, are they capable of discerning competent people? For a very long time, they not only propped up Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, they actively championed her. They did not just say, “Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt,” they said, “Everybody cheats anyway.” Can you have anyone less competent to undertake cleaning up government, let alone society, than the person they hoisted and foisted upon the people all these years?
Just as well, it’s all very well for them to say P-Noy should first prove his competence. But the thing is, do they know what competence is? Of course, P-Noy is not as willful, resolute and domineering as Gloria. He does not demand blind obedience from his officials while he screws the country. He does not resolutely steal the money, the vote, and the hope of his people. He is not obsessed with keeping power.
But he is honest. He is upright. The kind of honesty and uprightness that does not confuse morality with piousness, integrity with hypocrisy. There is no mistaking his sincerity when he vows to rid this world of corruption. There is no mistaking his determination when he vows to cleanse this earth of its dregs. There is no mistaking his desire to lift the stench from this country.
Can anyone be more competent?
But it will take more than desire to rid this country of corruption. It will take strategy. It will take more than will to make this country breathe easier, it will take way. It will take more than madness to dream the impossible dream, it will take method. That’s where the other monumental “ifs” come in.
He can do it if he punishes the corrupt of the past the way they ought to be punished. “Corrupt” itself does not do justice to the crimes of the former rulers. They were corrupt only in the sense that Marcos was, a corruption that went beyond the theft of this country’s money to the ransacking of this country’s soul till nothing was left. That is the corruption for which they ought to be hounded with the implacability of the Furies. At the very least as a matter of justice: The victims of that theft, particularly the theft of lives, deserve it. At the very most as a matter of being able to say, “Never again,” and mean it. The very life and future of this country rest on it.
But as it is, one year after P-Noy came to power on the strength of a universal loathing for the past regime and an equally universal craving to see its overseers ground to heel, not a single case of corruption, broadly or narrowly defined, has been filed against them. You can talk all you want about ending corruption, you can want all you want to end corruption, but none of it will happen if you cannot show that where there is crime, there is punishment, where there is embezzlement, there is imprisonment, where there is wickedness, there is retribution.
He can do it if he can enlist the aid of the people to his cause. This is the part where People Power is vital in pushing corruption to the sea. It bears repeating again and again: Government alone cannot stop corruption. It needs the help of the people to do it.
You need public opprobrium to stop corruption. You need culture to stop corruption. You need people violently incensed at corruption to stop corruption.
Government alone running after the corrupt won’t make the corrupt quake in fear. They can always hire high-powered lawyers to keep the prosecutors at bay. And that is assuming the prosecutors can’t be bribed. You need the people themselves reviling the corrupt the way the Japanese and Koreans do, compelling them to disembowel themselves when they are found out to have dishonored themselves lest the dishonor fall upon the children, to do it. At the very least you need the people not inviting the corrupt to become godfathers and godmothers of their children at baptisms and weddings to do it.
Government alone issuing threats won’t make the thieves quake in their boots. You need the people themselves shouting, “Magnanakaw! Mandurokot! Snatcher!” the way they do in sidewalks when they see one, feeling the depth of the loss of a handbag or wallet, knowing they have been stolen from, they have been dispossessed, they have been oppressed, to do it. You need the people themselves doing to the corrupt, the pillagers, the mandarambong what they do to the magnanakaw, mandurukot and snatchers when they corner them, which is to beat them within an inch of their lives, figuratively or not, to do it.
A lot of ifs, yes, but it can be done.
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