"Will we ever be able to stop it?"
The government fight against corruption is not going anywhere. Even President Duterte is so frustrated that he is beginning to think that his efforts to rein in corruption are failing. I cannot say that I blame him.
For one, it was from the beginning a monumental effort whose success was doubtful at best. But at least, he is trying. If it is any consolation, we are not the only country seriously afflicted with the disease. Corruption is everywhere. For instance, the head of government of Israel is going to go on trial on alleged corruption charges. But at least that country has a legal system that can put a sitting Prime Minister on trial—something we cannot say about many countries around the world. Israel is not an isolated case. The former Prime Minister of Malaysia is now on trial also because of corruption.
For us, corruption cases are nothing new. In fact, it seems that it is deeply ingrained in our national psyche. The current corruption allegations against the Bureau of Immigration, PhilHealth, and now the Department of Public Works and Highways are just part of the cyclical corruption stories that we read every so often. This is not to mention the yearly congressional corruption allegations every time the national budget is being deliberated on account of the unequal distribution of pork barrel allocations among our lawmakers.
According to the latest date from the world corruption index, our country is currently ranked as the 113th most corrupt country in the world. It is down from no. 99, which shows that we are deteriorating. This is in spite of the much publicized rants of the President against corrupt public officials.
What is telling and tragic is that not too many people are outraged by this news item anymore. People have somehow grown indifferent to such reports. The old saying that public service is a public trust has been thrown out of the lexicon of many public officials. In fact we do not hear it being said anymore. Everyone who enters government service is exposed to the same temptations as they scale the ladders of the government bureaucracy. There are people who will succumb to the temptation and take advantage of their positions and end up being corrupt but filthy rich.
There are many however, who are made up of stronger stuff and go on to end their careers honorably.
When it comes to corruption, there are government agencies that are the usual suspects. The Immigration, Customs, Police, and the DPWH are the ones we often read about. Other agencies that are normally not in the ‘line of fire’ are however, not immune to corruption. A case in point is the Comelec, PhilHealth and now the Philippine Retirement Authority on account of the suspicious thousands of 35-year-old Chinese retirees.
Every agency has a different clientele. The police have, for instance gambling lords and drug lords. Immigration, on the other hand, targets illegal aliens and the Customs, the smugglers. The Comelec has those candidates who cannot accept defeat and are willing to do anything to reverse a proclamation. Lastly, the DPWH has its contractors.
Let us take the case of the Bureau of Immigration. The allegation is that P40 billion was taken by immigration officials from Chinese nationals who want to enter the country visa-free. What makes this more than just another corruption case is its national security implications. Those involved are traitors and have committed treason for selling the country for 30 pieces of silver, so to speak.
Suspending them is too light and not enough. Such an act is so unforgivable that those responsible should be investigated vigorously, charged and then locked up forever if found guilty. What these corrupt officials did was to reinforce what many Chinese nationals think of us Filipinos—that they can do anything in this country so long as they have the money to bribe government officials?
With the DPWH, it boils down to the percentage of the peso that is actually spent on a project. Some estimates put it at between 20 to 30 percent. The rest are apparently split among many layers in the chain of command. The drill is actually known to everyone in the agency, according to some reliable sources. This is why it should be easy to identify and charge the corrupt officials involved if the DPWH really wants to.
In the end, the question that we all want answered is: Will we ever be able to stop corruption? The answer is unfortunately no. The best that we can aspire for is perhaps to be able to reduce the level of corruption to a degree that we will be perceived as a country that is on the level when transacting official government business.