By Henrylito D. Tacio
“Corruption,” said Pratibha Patil, “is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be gotten rid of. Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective.”
American President Joe Biden likens corruption to cancer. “A cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy,” he explains, “diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity; already-tight national budgets, crowding out important national investments. It wastes the talent of entire generations. It scares away investments and jobs.”
Let’s define corruption first. The dictionary defines it as “dishonest or fraudulent by those in power, typically involving bribery.” Examples of those in power are government officials or police officers.
More often than not, corruption in the Philippines is associated with politicians. In fact, in this May election, one of the issues being brought up by opponents of the sitting government officials is corruption.
The Philippines ranked 117 out of 180 countries and territories in the 2021 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Its corruption perception index (CPI) was 33, a one-point dip from 2020.
Right beside the Philippines in the index were Algeria, Egypt, Zambia, and Nepal. It is the country’s lowest score on the index since 2012.
The CPI score indicates the perceived level of corruption on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as “highly corrupt” and 100 means that a country is perceived as “very clean.”
Transparency International is a German registered association founded in 1993 by former employees of the World Bank. As a global organization, it has national chapters in more than 100 countries, and its goal is to “end the injustice of corruption” in all fields of life – from business to government.
The data TI use to measure CPI covers the following: bribery, diversion of public funds, officials using their public office for private gain without facing consequences, the ability of governments to contain corruption in the public sector, excessive red tape in the public sector which may increase opportunities for corruption, and nepotistic appointments in the civil service.
The data also include laws ensuring that public officials must disclose their finances and potential conflicts of interest, legal protection for people who report cases of bribery and corruption, state capture by narrow vested interests, and access to information on public affairs/government activities.
A TI survey of nearly 20,000 citizens from 17 countries was conducted between June and September 2020. The result of the survey, which was released in November of that year, showed that more Filipinos are confident in the government’s tackling of corruption compared with Asian neighbors. Most of those surveyed also believed that corruption in government remains a big problem.
As reported by Business World, 64% of Filipino respondents think that corruption has decreased in the last 12 months, while 24% believe that it has increased.
Now, my question is: Who made these government officials corrupt in the first place? I am sure everyone will disagree with my observation, but my answer is the people themselves, the voting public.
How come, you ask. Well, it is the people who select these government officials. Remember, the definition of corruption is “dishonest or fraudulent by those in power.” During the election, who are “those in power”? Yes, you are right, the voting public.
Since the voting public has the power, they generally ask from those who are running for some favors. There are those who ask money “just for drinking some alcoholic beverages” or ask for money to build a basketball court or something in the form of a donation.
The tendency for these candidates, in order for them to get the vote they want, is to give these people whatever they ask. In fact, during the election, there are those who buy votes from the public in order for them to win.
Now, there are those who win that are not really deserving. But they win anyway because of money. And those who have really the capabilities to serve the people emerge losers because they have not given anything during the campaign.
The sad thing is: once the winners are proclaimed, it’s payback time. How will these winners cope up with the expenses they have incurred during the campaign? Because of the huge money they released during the election campaign, these politicians have to get money from the office.
It takes all forms to siphon funds from the government treasury without the people knowing it. For every project they initiated, there is always that kickback and percentage. For every document signed, money is always involved.
Those who helped during the campaign are given some offices or jobs they actually are not capable of. So, what happens? Your answer is as good as mine.
The Philippine political arena is mainly arranged and operated by families or alliances of families, rather than organized around the voting for political parties, said The Rulemakers, published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
Called the padrino system, one gains favor, promotion, or political appointment through family affiliation (nepotism) or friendship (cronyism), as opposed to one’s merit. The padrino system has been the source of many controversies and corruption in the Philippines, Wikipedia reports.
If only the voting public doesn’t ask favor, donation, or anything from those who are running, then presumably corruption can be lessened. The proclaimed winners may be less likely to usurp money from the government because people voted for them because of their capabilities to run the office they are aiming for.