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Focus on stamping out criminality and corruption

THE LEAD of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte over his rivals in the latest three presidential surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia continues to widen. His dark joke on the gang rape and killing of an Australian lay missionary during a prisoners’ uprising in Davao in 1989 and his undiplomatic response to the remarks of the US and Australian ambassadors seem to have had no effect on his popularity. This is sending a clear message on what are top of mind among the survey respondents representing all sectors of society, from Class A to E: criminality and corruption.

It is surprising that the other presidential candidates fail to appreciate and continue to ignore this public clamor for personal security, safety and protection from criminal elements. Except for the usual rhetoric that nobody seems to believe anymore, not one of them has presented a platform with a coherent, believable and concrete program to address these paramount concerns, leading many voters to support the mayor.

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Criminality has continued to rise and corruption has only been reduced despite almost six years of “daang matuwid.” These have sadly overshadowed the P-Noy administration’s significant achievements in economic development, international relations, infrastructure, education, social welfare and healthcare, as compared to its predecessors.

In acknowledgment of the fact that a great majority of the Filipino people are concerned about criminality and corruption, the following reforms and measures are being offered for the consideration of whoever gets elected as our next president. Unlike the solution being espoused by Mayor Duterte, these suggestions can be implemented within the bounds of law or passed as legislation. They are intended mainly to: (a) fix the corrupt and broken judicial system that has miserably failed to provide true justice, security and equity to the people and speed up the judicial due process that is not only suspect but also seems to take forever; (b) address the rampant criminality and drug menace in society; and (c) address the persisting corruption in the government.

Here are the proposed reforms:

Clean up the judicial system (Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, regional trial courts, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court) by going after corrupt lawyers, prosecutors, judges and justices, with stiff prison sentences imposed rather than mere suspensions or dismissals.

The tools that may be used include entrapment and wiretaps (with the necessary safeguards); monetary awards and offer of immunity to
whistle-blowers, and commuted sentence or even pardon to convicted felons who are able to provide court-acceptable evidence leading to conviction for payoffs or briberies; and use of records submitted to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (a law may be passed that waives the secrecy of deposits of all elected officials and people in government above a certain office grade).

Strictly observe a mandatory period of maximum three-six months of trial, including an automatic Supreme Court review, for plunder, heinous crimes, major drug-pushing offenses, terrorism and corruption in the judiciary.

The current lackadaisical prosecution of perpetrators does not serve as an effective deterrent since it takes decades to finally convict the guilty. The adage “Justice delayed is justice denied” is well-accepted but falls way short in the Philippines. Another adage that should guide our judicial system is “Those who have less in life should have more in law.”

Bring back the death penalty and carry out the execution within a month of the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the punishment.

Though this may seem ironic in the only Christian nation in our part of the world, the people have spoken in clear terms that they have had enough of heinous crimes and want a permanent deterrent to the commission of such crimes.

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Adopt a biometric-based mandatory national ID system that can facilitate the identification and capture of criminals and terrorists.

The Commission on Elections’ biometric data on its 54.4 million registered voters may serve as a base start. Those who oppose a national ID system should realize that we are probably one of the very few nations in the world that do not have it. We have enough safeguards and democratic institutions to protect the illegal use of the system by the government to persecute the people. Unless one is planning to commit a crime, fear of a national ID system is totally unfounded.

Centralize a procurement system that is transparent, web-based and founded on open bidding for national and local purchases and disbursements above a certain amount, say P5 million.

We need a totally new system to address corruption in government procurement, both at the national and local levels, because the current system is obviously ineffective.

Institute triple penalties for crimes perpetrated by the police and other persons of authority.

Install more high-resolution CCTV cameras at crime-prone and sensitive establishments.

Pass the antidynasty and freedom of information bills.

Strictly implement the Comelec’s campaign finance rules that will disqualify candidates who overspend in elections.

Strengthen values formation in schools.

Those are just for starters given space limitations.

David L. Balangue ([email protected]) chairs the Coalition Against Corruption and the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections.

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