Today we are at war
As he campaigned, President Noynoy Aquino vowed to wage a battle against corruption, a promise that won
the nod of the electorate over those who pledged economic recovery, education, progress (in the vagueness of it) or efficient
leadership.Today, President Noy begins the real work towards corruption-free Philippines, a task both daunting and overwhelming
in its enormity. The new president believes eliminating corruption opens doors. By fighting it, he eventually delivers the
promises of his other contenders such as economic recovery, poverty eradication or progress. He blames corruption for the
staggering poverty in the country – a view shared by the international community.
ARE WE LOSING TO CORRUPTION?
“Foreign investors are having a hard time doing business in the Philippines because of corruption,” said Michael
Hershman, co-founder of anti corruption group, Transparency International and President of Fairfax Group, a risk management
organization closely working with multinationals and countries on high level corruption issues.
According to Hershman, the Philippines may have a lot of resources appealing to investors such as raw materials and efficient
labor but the cost of doing business here is saddled with practices that drive away investors, such as bribery, kickbacks
and cuts from government officials and offices.
“Corruption also affects international aid, grants and even loans,” Hershman said. “If the Philippines
cannot use loans and aid efficiently it cannot earn the trust of foreign governments, businesses, and global financial institutions.”
PLUG THE HOLES
About 20 percent of the country’s fiscal budget is lost to corruption. According to Transparency International, this
is enough to do more for the country if spent as intended.
Transparency International pegs the Philippines Corruption Perception Index (CPI) at 139 in 2009. The CPI is a list of
180 countries ranked by investors, governments, aid organizations and global financial institutions in terms of corruption
perceptions. While a rank of 139 in 2009 is better than 141 in 2008— it is barely a marked improvement.
What does it mean to be ranked 139?
Conversely, if investors and international lending bodies were to invest or extend assistance and loans to countries the
Philippines is only the 139th country they will invest in, because of pervasive corruption.
PUNISH THE CORRUPT
The new Aquino administration must adopt a strategy that would effectively send a message to Filipinos and the world that
it is serious in fighting corruption. We are up against a perception and it takes more than just a declaring a war against
corruption to change it.
According to Hershman, the government must spend extensive resources and time to prosecute corruption cases and punish
those behind it.
“Punishing the corrupt eases perceptions of impunity,” Hershman said.
It also achieves as sense of justice to the millions of Filipinos robbed of mutually-owned resources.
THE NEW GENERATION MUST UNLEARN CORRUPTION
It also pays to invest on a long term anti-corruption drive through education. Like values education, the evils of corruption
must be taught in schools, calling for an end to corrupt practices evident in transactional politics and government services.
It’s time transactional politics ceases to be “standard operating procedure”.
“Transparency, accountability, and ethics in public position should be taught to the young, and adults must set examples,”
These small steps will eventually lead Filipinos to a tipping point as experienced by other countries. Hong Kong, once
plagued with corruption, made a significant leap by prosecuting the corrupt and embarking on a marketing and education campaign
that led to culture change.
But it took Hong Kong 30 years to see its gains. It certainly takes more time than just six years – the term of a
president – to fight corruption. No matter how overzealous he may be, he needs help.
WORK WITH THE NEW PRESIDENT
Today we have a new president, one who’s taken the cudgels against corruption. The battle is uphill and corruption
exists massively in all layers of government. Normally, a skeptic would not expect to see changes. What he would see is another
promise a president will fail to keep.
But today is no time to be cynical. Filipinos must believe there is an end to corruption. It may be far off in the future
but it is opportune now. Losing hope is not an option.
Corruption hits Filipinos right to the core. It has made us poor. Ending it now, is a basic need.
--- By Stanley Palisada, The News Today Online