Charges of corruption, among others, resulted in the ouster of then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada on Jan. 20, 2001 in a people’s uprising popularly known as EDSA Dos. Immediately after being sworn in as Estrada’s successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promised to lead by example and to be Estrada’s exact opposite. Four years later, corruption remains a major social concern.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
What do cellular phones and corrupt practices have in common? Both have become ubiquitous and part of the Filipino psyche.
The prevalence of corruption has come to a point where selected government positions are seen as quick tickets to immeasurable fortune. For example, employment at the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is perceived as an opportunity not to serve the people but to amass wealth.
Such public impressions are based not only on occasional news about government anomalies but also several studies that have identified various government agencies as havens of corruption. The latter, however, is not just confined to the public sector but is also evident in the private sector.
The prevalence of corruption in the country was highlighted at the National Study Conference on Corruption (NSSC) last January 14 and 15 at the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Community Development (UP CSWCD).
That corruption is everywhere has been proven by the plenary and workshop papers that analyzed corruption in various spheres of public and private life.
One of the speakers, IBON Foundation Research Director Antonio Tujan, said “The prevalence of corruption…implies that corruption is not simply an individual act but is a phenomenon that is systemic…and defined by particular social relations in the realm of ethics and culture, politics and economy in each society as well.”
Former Army Capt. Rene Jarque, on the other hand, stressed that corruption is pervasive in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He said that the AFP has its share of “normal” corrupt practices like commissions, kickbacks, overpricing, padding, substitution, rigged biddings, under-delivery and ghost delivery.
The AFP, however, is said to have a more sophisticated form of corruption called “conversion” or the process of converting the budget for military supplies into its cash equivalent by circumventing government accounting and auditing rules through fraudulent documentation.
Aside from government, corruption in media also happens. National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Chairperson Inday Espina-Varona said that the conventional definition of media corruption is manipulation of news for personal or corporate interests. According to her, corruption in media is an open secret. “Sadly, in the last two years, as killings of journalists steadily rose in this country, media corruption has even been touted as an excuse for the heinous crime of murder,” she said.
For their part, a study of Luis Teodoro, Danilo Arao and Evelyn Katigbak on the media’s coverage of corruption showed the weakness of selected print and TV media agencies in analyzing the roots of corruption. According to them, “this necessarily requires looking closely at the workings of government, understanding it, and conveying that understanding to readers, viewers and listeners as a living expression of the necessarily adversarial and watchdog functions of the mass media in the Philippine setting.”
In the wake of pervasiveness of corruption, Tujan pushed for “people’s governance” as the antidote to corruption, a governance which he described as one that would “take the issue of equity as a preeminent concern, ensuring positive action or even a preeminent role for the poor, marginalized toiling masses and develop democratic governance from the perspective of the poor and marginalized.”
The NSSC was jointly organized by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN or New Patriotic Alliance) and IBON Foundation. Participating organizations were Plunder Watch, Patriots, Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), Action Against Corruption and Tyranny Now (ACT Now!), Muntinlupa Alliance Against Corruption (MAAC), Citizens Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), Labor Network Against Corruption and Tyranny (LANCET), Citizens’ National Network Against Poverty and Corruption (CNNAPAC), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Kairos Philippines, Center for Communication Matters (CCM) and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC). Bulatlat.com