reflecting on walang mahirap kung walang corrupt

Ugandan anti-corruption sign

Image by futureatlas.com via Flickr

CHINO HILLS, California – It is always helpful for everyone to step back once in a while to reflect on the bigger picture that may sometimes get clouded when we get inundated with the mundane and not so mundane necessities of daily life. Being away from the Philippines can provide this perspective and balance which allows me to validate the thoughts, assumptions and even biases that may have crept into my consciousness.

I have some very strong opinions and ideas about certain things particularly when it comes to what needs to be done to move our country forward. While I write this, I have to remind myself that putting ones thoughts down on paper, or in this case, in a blog post, cannot be thought of as an end. Rather, it should be thought of as a vehicle to spur others to action, to let the force of ideas incite, draw out and maybe tickle others’ consciences to do more for society. And this should be made real by walking the talk, so to speak.

In a previous post and in various conversations, I have been very critical and disappointed at the seeming lack of vision from the administration of PNoy. In the past few days, I have thought about this and have come to temper my own high expectations of his Presidency. Just because he may not be doing enough does not necessarily mean that what is being done is wrong. It  also does not necessarily mean that we are going in the wrong direction.

My sense of disappointment stems from my own impatience. This impatience is borne by a sense of urgency for wanting to have many more things done under the current dispensation for whatever PNoy’s shortcomings you still somehow know that his heart is in the right place – that he wants to do right by the Filipino people. This sense of urgency is also driven by the fear of uncertainty – the uncertainty of what a succeeding President might be like.

In a letter to prospective corporate partners and sponsors of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), I wrote the following:

“We will also be seeking to institutionalize basic financial control processes related to the request, review, approval and release of disbursements. This will of course include the submission of documentation for the actual expenses that were incurred. Many non-profit organizations are very lax with their financial control processes due to the lack of accountability. We aim to build this (accountability) into our system. It is my wish that when I leave, the systems and procedures that we will have in place will be strong enough to withstand the ability of any individual or individuals to subvert these processes to the detriment of Philippine Football. At the end of the day, however, a lot will depend on the ability of Philippine football’s stakeholders to select officers who will serve for the love of the game rather than themselves. There is only so much one can do to put financial safeguards in place. But such an effort will be made.”

The necessity of having to write this is meant to provide some level of commitment by the current PFF administration to accountability in light of the allegations of financial impropriety of the previous PFF administration which led to the removal of the federation president and other officials. In a sense, what we are doing constitutes the formation of institutional safeguards to dissuade or otherwise make it more difficult to commit wrongdoing. Having said that, we also realize that there is only so much you can do in this regard if you do not have the right people leading an organization.

Allow me to somehow relate this to what is happening to our country and what the current administration is doing. It has been said many times that we do not need more laws, what we need are the right people to implement these laws and the right people to bring wrongdoers to justice.

Thus, nobody can really argue that the almost singular focus of the PNoy administration on eradicating corruption is a step in the wrong direction. The actions of this administration, by design or by accident, on the surface appear to be a concerted effort to bring the right people to implement laws and replace those who stand in the way of bringing lawbreakers to the bar of justice. From personal experience or otherwise, I can only say more needs to be done. I say this because corruption has become a habit, a norm even, in many institutions. It has been taken as the “cost of doing business”. It is just the way things are.

But it doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be. Corruption is a cancer that eats into the moral fiber of not just the nation but of each individual citizen. Just like anywhere else, PNoy and his administration cannot do it by themselves. We have to do our part and take a stand. This includes being able to disavow little things which countenance petty corruption.

When we commit traffic violations, let us pay the corresponding penalties and not give in to the temptation to “make lagay” for the sake of expediency. At the same time, let us also be conscious of our rights and challenge those who contrive violations in a bid to make money off of us. Kung hindi natin gagawin ‘to, paano matuto yung mga nangongotong na mali yung ginagawa nila. Of course, the most expedient solution to these would be not to break laws in the first place.

Going back to PNoy’s fight against corruption, it should not only be supported in spirit but also by our own practice.

“Walang mahirap kung walang corrupt” goes the campaign slogan of PNoy. Simple, catchy and obviously effective. We have seen the campaign to bring about the “walang corrupt” part but what about the “walang mahirap” part? Does that mean that the government will return the money saved from ending corrupt practices back to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes? Or does it mean that the government will transfer the savings from ending corruption into programs that provide more subsidies for goods and services? I don’t know because it hasn’t exactly been made clear as to how government aims to use the fight against corruption in the elimination of poverty. Kung baga, bitin.

Don’t get me wrong. If PNoy is able to eliminate corruption, WOW! It can be done and it has to be done.

But, as the campaign tagline implies, the elimination of corruption is not the end but rather a means to an end which is the elimination of poverty. What we don’t have is a comprehensive, realistic and achievable plan for doing this. The need for such a plan is imperative because corruption alone is not the cause of poverty and the elimination of corruption alone will not end poverty. Thus, the campaign tagline will end up being misleading without attacking the other causes of poverty.

As we come close to end of the first year of PNoy’s ascending to the Presidency, I sincerely hope that such a plan is unveiled. Maybe at the SONA? Keeping my fingers crossed.

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