Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Corruption—A Social and Moral Cancer

Quotes From Some Prophets of Hope

IN this message, we would like to articulate our group’s reading of our situation not in our own words, but as discerned and articulated no less by citizens of our country, members of civil society as such. Let us hear and follow what they are prophesying and challenging us to do.

Twenty million hungry Filipinos will disagree with the proclaimed “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran” with their own experience: “Ramdam ang Kahirapan. Ramdam ang gutom.” According to an executive director of IBON, nearly 72% of Filipinos surveyed last year consider themselves poor. According to June 2008 Social Weather Survey, 59% of Filipino Families (10.6 million) rate themselves as mahirap or poor, 24% rate themselves on borderline poor and only 17% as hindi mahirap, not poor. By poverty it means basically among other things food-poverty or food-borderline. The benefits of the much proclaimed economic growth are not felt by the masses.

The biggest culprit and major cause of our nation’s poverty and hunger is graft and corruption which has invaded all public and private institutions. Corruption is the abuse and misuse of public or private office to unlawfully enrich oneself and those close to him, or induce others to do the same (ADB). It is not only an economic and social problem but by and large a moral issue and a moral problem.

How do ordinary citizens rate corruption in our country? In a Philippine Star INBOX, the question is asked: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten as the highest, how rampant is corruption today?” Of a total of 62 respondents, 20 gave a corruption rate of 10 and 5 gave a corruption rate of 10 plus. Nine respondents rated our country with corruption rate of 9; six rated her with 8; two with 7; two with 6, and 3 with 5. Fifteen respondents gave descriptions of corruption. These are ordinary citizens bothered by our culture of corruption.

In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics. The faces and symptoms of corruption are overprized projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners. Corruption is a social and moral cancer!

As to the consequences, corruption foremost in political election damages political legitimacy, integrity and competence. Corruption impedes economic development, worsens income inequity and poverty, endangers public order and safety. Corruption results in bureaucratic inefficiency and demoralization. “Corruption begets bad politics and bad politics begets further corruption” (Michael Johnston, cf. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Ehem!)

Is it any wonder that our country is tagged as the most corrupt country in Asia, and the 11th most corrupt among 102 countries in the world? (cf. Transparency International). If we are not horrified, disgusted, exasperated and enraged by these realities, can we still say we love our country?

Let us hear and follow what some members of civil society, prophets of hope (we might call them) have fearlessly articulated about out situation. We agree with Conrado de Quiros (cf. PDI 4/23/08) that in this country, we identify ourselves so easily with the victims of pickpockets or snatchers and throw these small-time thieves to (almost) forever languish in prison. But when it comes to big-time crooks and public officials stealing billions upon billions of the people’s money, it takes forever to prove their crime.
There is so much embarrassing hesitation and false respect to start mounting a campaign to show that corruption is the worst form of crime, because it kills the common good, it kills the poor, it kills the country. It violates God’s commandments “Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not kill.”

Ana Marie Pamintuan (cf. Phil Star, 10/20/08) has yet another prophetic statement to prick our conscience: “When there is corruption at the top, it becomes nearly impossible to eradicate corruption at the lower level of government. There is no moral ascendancy to demand honesty, decency, transparency. And where there is bad governance, it becomes harder to liberate people from the shackles of poverty.”

Listen to another prophet of hope reading the signs of the times. Randy David (cf. PDI 4/26/08) articulated it so well: “So much has been written about the roots of the present political crisis, and some people say it is now time to move past this crisis… Under these circumstances, 2010 elections, if they ever come, will only reproduce the crisis. The appearance of new faces in government may lull us into thinking that we have survived the crisis, and that a new is upon us. But, as the worsening poverty and hunger figures in our country show, unless we institute dramatic changes in the way conduct our politics, government will, sooner than we think, become irrelevant to the lives of Filipinos.” (There are many more like the three we mention here.)

Here, we can recall what the CBCP has said: “Philippine politics—the way it is practiced—has been most hurtful of us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving of full human development.” (Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics 1997 Sept. 16).

”In the strongest term we condemn graft and corruption as an offense against society and sin against God. God will certainly hold the perpetrators accountable. To combat this evil we also proposed the formation of citizens’ councils to promote public awareness, to monitor the use of public funds, and to initiate charges against guilty officials” (CBCP “Let Integrity Flow Like a Stream” July 7, 2003).

The Bishops again said “Moral accountability calls for radical reforms in various agencies of government to make them more responsive to the requirements of integrity as well as to the needs of the poor” (CBCP “restoring Trust.” July 10, 2005, no. 10). “We strongly condemn the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political order” (CBCP “Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity” Feb 26, 2008).

In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now. The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now. The time to prepare a new government is now.

But, who, who will pick up the broken, shattered pieces of our country, hurting from poverty and corruption, to make it whole again? Inspite of the seemingly hopeless and negative prognosis, our liberation may yet serendipitously happen. We are dreaming, praying and hoping that our country may yet have the needed liberators. Yes, liberators who will in a courageous peaceful way effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country. “Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog n gating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang an gating mga institusyon, kundi maging an gating pag-iisip at pamumuhay.” (Apolinario Mabini)