An Inconvenient Truth

February 17, 2015 at 11:13 pm 5 comments

Iris C. Gonzales
Photo Credit: Iris C. Gonzales

On his recent 5-day visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis urged the Filipinos at all levels of society to reject every form of corruption.

Will the Filipinos heed the call? As much as they love Pope Francis, I doubt it.

Corruption is the grease that keeps the machinery of the country going. It’s condoned and accepted within the system. Diogenes who carried a lamp looking for an honest man was fortunate not to extend his search in the Philippines. He’d be grossly disappointed. Worse, his lamp would be stolen to hide the evidence.

In a climate where corruption is tolerated, politicians operate with impunity, stealing from the very people who have voted them in office. If they get caught, they don’t get incarcerated in actual jails. They get confined to a first-class hospital or placed in a detention center with special privileges.

Just consider the case of former Philippine President Joseph Estrada. after 6 years of an expensive trial, he was convicted of plunder and sentenced to a life in prison. Would you believe that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who succeeded him in office. granted him pardon in the name of national unity? He eventually ran for mayor of Manila and won handily against all challengers. As for President Macapagal-Arroyo, she was herself booked and placed under hospital arrest for plunder of government funds.
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Under current President Benigno Aquino III, the level of corruption in the country has declined as noted in the Transparency International Corruption Index.

Before he assumed the presidency in 2010, the Philippines had a score of 2.4 out of a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the most corrupt. According to Transparency International, any score below 3 indicates rampant levels of corruption. In 2014, the Philippines received a score of 3.8. It wasn’t much of an improvement, but it was an improvement just the same.

As Aquino ends his term in 2016, it’s only logical that whoever takes his place should continue the fight against corruption, which, according to Pope Francis, diverts much-needed resources from the poor.

GMA News Photo
Photo Credit: GMA News

It’s rather unfortunate that, without divine intervention, it’s not going to happen. Vice President Jejomar Binay who tops current surveys will likely succeed him.

When Binay was mayor of the city of Makati, it’s alleged that he ran it like a mafia boss. Among other things, he had been linked to the overpricing of the P2.28-billion city hall building and pocketing millions in kickbacks from other municipal infrastructure projects. As a result, he became very rich on a mayor’s salary.

Wth his new found wealth, Binay has been able to hold on to power and build a political dynasty. After becoming vice president, Makati has remained his fiefdom by making his wife and then his son to succeed him as mayor. In addition, to achieve more political clout, he has made a daughter a congresswoman and another daughter a senator.

I hate to say it but majority of Filipinos will vote for Binay because they consider him as one of their own. They find his rags-to-riches story very inspiring and a way to get back at the country’s historically entrenched elite.

It’s not hard to imagine what he’ll do when he becomes President of the Philippines. His first order of business will be to release and pardon his political allies who are in detention for pocketing millions of their Priority Development Access Fund allocated to their poor constituents.

“Go forth and steal some more,” he’d probably whisper in their ears. “Happy days are here again.”

For one brief shining moment, there’s hope that corruption in the Philippines could somehow be abated. It proves to be wishful thinking. Sadly, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

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