"Yet another task force is given a gargantuan task."
Whenever it faces strong public demand for decisive action on a matter of great national significance, the Philippine government’s usual response is to create a military-style task force. Thus, over the years, the Filipino people have seen the creation of task forces to examine and make remedial recommendations for reform of this country’s political, legal, economic, and social systems.
The task force of most recent creation is that created last month by President Rodrigo Duterte to look into “all aspects of corruption” in this country. The Department of Justice has been designated as the task force’s lead agency. Like all task forces, the anti-corruption task force is a multi-agency entity, with all of the departments and agencies involved in the investigation and prosecution of corrupt practices required to work with and provide full assistance to the DOJ. Chief among these are the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Commission on Audit and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.
The creation of a task force invariably generates much public attention and media mileage. After all, they are created by no less than the President of the Philippines with all the fanfare that Malacanang can muster. And numerous big-time departments and agencies are designated as components of the task force and ordered to provide all-out assistance to the task force’s lead agency.
But hoopla and media noise do not necessarily translate to mission success. At the outset, a task force gives the appearance of success because it is ever in the spotlight, but if, after a while, the task force still has not shown the nation any major accomplishments, public interest wanes and the task force is slowly forgotten by the people.
As its name suggests, a task force is given a task – a special task – and Malacanang and the nation expect it to accomplish that task. An objective review of the performances of the task forces that have been created over the years shows that not one of them left an indelible mark on the history of this country. They all came in with a bang and then left with a whimper.
Every right-thinking Filipino wants the task force against “all aspects of corruption” to succeed in its assigned task, but it is likely to go the way of its predecessors and become just another also-ran. The reason is not that it has been given a huge task – ferret out and recommend the prosecution of “all aspects of corruption.” The reason is that the present national environment is not good for a successful crusade against corruption. For such a crusade to succeed, the entire governmental structure, from the President of the Philippines to the barangay officials, must be absolutely committed to doing everything they can, each in accordance with his or her capability, to help maintain an environment of transparency and accountability in the government.
The right environment for corruption-free governance isn’t there. What are the people of this country to think when no big-time public official – the proverbial big fish – goes to jail, when the proposed national budget is riddled with legislators’ pork, when President Duterte merely reshuffles clearly delinquent officials, when magistrates sell decisions and temporary restraining orders and when the COA red-flags instances of misuse of public funds?
To place things in context, the after-corruption task force was launched after 1) the billion-peso anomalies were brought to light at PhilHealth and 2) Duterte declared that he could not control governmental corruption, four years after his I-can-kill-corruption-in-six-months campaign promise.
One of these days, the environment will be good for a successful anti-corruption drive. Hopefully it will be there soon. But it is not there today.