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The Struggle against Corruption

October 29, 2010 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen

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President Benigno Aquino III believes that the Philippines has achieved a momentum in its fight against corruption as the country's ranking in Transparency International's (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index slightly improved by 5 notches.

President Benigno Aquino III believes that the Philippines has achieved a momentum in its fight against corruption as the country's ranking in Transparency International's (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index slightly improved by 5 notches.

No wonder that the new Philippine “Aquino administration” made anti-corruption its main drive against poverty. “If there is no corruption, there will be no poverty”, says President Noynoy Aquino. This was the slogan that won him the election. It’s so true and yet the solutions are still so hard to find and reform is seemingly impossible to achieve at this time with many corrupt politicians and their cronies still in positions of power and influence. They are entrenched and are opposing and thwarting the efforts of Aquino to fight corrupt practices. The juggernaut of greed is hard to stop.

The Manila Times where this column is published carried the front page headline – RP remains “Highly Corrupt”. It quotes Transparency International, the prestigious non-government organization that monitors the ethical practice of governments and corporations around the world. The Philippines has improved this year but has a long long way to go. It ranked a low 141st in 2008 in the ranking out of 178 countries but has come up to 134th this year. Denmark, Singapore, New Zealand ranked first place with identical scores 9.2 out of a top score of ten. The Philippines scored a dismal 2.4.

The question is can the Aquino Administration deliver reform and reduce corrupt practices? There has to be a “complaints center” where people can report and make a complaint without having to go through the complicated process of filing administrative charges when they are being victimized by local bureaucrats or inspectors. Last week, the Preda Children’s home installed all the necessary fire protection equipment and complied with all the improvements and requirements suggested by the fire inspectors. But still they would not issue the fire certificate, waiting for something. We had to threaten to file administrative charges to get it issued. The pervious year, they wanted us to refill the fire extinguishers at their designated refilling station or would not issue the certificate. The fire marshal had to step-in and resolve the problems. Small issues indeed but it shows how things are.

On the national scene there is an epic struggle brewing. Despite the bright hope and trust placed in the Aquino administration to bring about a reasonably clean and corrupt-free rule, there is still a fierce struggle going on behind the scenes. The shocking and sad reality is that this so-called democratic nation of vast mineral resources, with a population of 93 million intelligent, generally well-educated, religious, friendly, hard working, lovely, but very poor people; mired poverty is ruled by a corrupt power-grabbing elite of about 200 vastly wealth families and their corporations.

This small elite of wealthy people and corporations, masquerades as a paragon of church-going virtue. The corrupt elite is like a rapacious T-Rex dinosaur, at times dressed-up as a cuddly stuffed toy that has misled and manipulated the electorate with empty promises, vote buying and cheated in elections but this year that did not work as before.

The most recent village elections of thousands of local government officials, (many are representatives of the elite at the village level,) has been no better.

It is through force and fear the few dominate the many. Corruption was allowed by the ruling elite among the higher officers of the police and military and they were brought into the ring of corruption and in return they have to defend themselves and their masters. As a result, we have seen death squads and assassination teams kill over a thousand social critics, community organizers, opponents and even priests, pastors, and journalists that have been stabbed, tortured and shot to death in the past ten years. A truth commission to investigate these violations of human rights is needed to bring an end to impunity. Only by holding those accountable for crimes can there be a just society.

The idealistic and upright members of the military rose up in protest and staged several failed attempted coups to end the corrupt practices of the last Arroyo administration. They have been granted an amnesty by President Aquino. This is a time of opportunity for good people of integrity to work for fairness and honesty, to take a stand for justice, truth and good clean governance. It’s a time to unite efforts, hopes, resources and talent to work for a just and equal society.

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