Today, we join the throngs standing United Against Corruption: rich and poor countries, North and South, which has become, to quote UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “an assault on the values of the United Nations.”
The Philippines itself has the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which criminalizes active and passive bribery, extortion, abuse of office, and conflicts of interest.
The law prohibits giving gifts, except for gifts of insignificant value given in line with local culture. But facilitation payments are not addressed by anti-corruption regulations and private sector bribery has this far been not criminalized.
And this is where the problem cannot seem to be properly dealt with. The legislative framework for fighting corruption, which undermines the rule of law and abets crimes, is strewed and not effectively enforced by the markedly weak and non-cooperative law enforcement agencies.
Guterres’ own observation that tax evasion, money laundering and other illicit flows divert much needed resources for sustainable development is properly on the board, which should not be ignored by countries and government agencies as well as private bodies.
A World Bank study suggests businesses and individuals pay more than $1 trillion in bribes each year while the World Economic Forum has estimated the cost of corruption at $2.6 trillion, or 5 percent of global gross domestic product.
In the Philippines, corruption breathes through the judicial system, police, public services, land administration, tax administration, Customs administration, public procurement, natural resources and civil society.
Some things have been done, for certain, since the world stood up to this menace it acknowledged 14 years ago. But much remains to be done, which includes, but is not limited to, raising awareness with the public, media and government about the costs of corruption for major services like health and education.
We must all be united in crushing corruption.