Tracing back corruption in Philippine history, a group of experts at the University of the Philippines says Filipinos in the 21st century can finally solve this problem that dates back from the Spanish colonial period’s polo y servicio which conscripted men, 15 years old and above, to work by force on shipyards and churches, among others. This, aside from the tributo paid in cash or in kind to feed Spain’s growing population of frailes and Gobernador General’s guardia civiles plus the Indio laborers who serve them.
To be exempted from forced labor and separation from home for more than a month, our relatively moneyed ancestors bribed Spanish officials to be listed as sick, lame or disabled while the penniless poor sweat it out, lest they be imprisoned or whipped. From this time, bribery has become a way of life to maneuver one’s way through government red tape; be able to get a business or driver’s license at much speed; or cover up money trails of a multimillion non-existent government project – from the clerk at the bottom rung of the ladder up to the highest seat in you-know-where.
However, no matter how hopelessly systemic and endemic corruption may seem to be, Professor Leonor Briones said solutions to age-old corruption are possible based on the successes of Pinoys, which she highlighted in her presentation of the study recently.
While the Pinoy has the “Divisoria style” of bidding where everyone wants to buy everything at a bargain price, bidding here and there to be able to pocket more money, the “Cory Model”, a.k.a. housewife style, cleaning, managing and checking her own Cabinet has been the best so far. She cited improvement of government systems and procedures, provision and distribution of more public goods and clear rules and regulations are the solutions to corruption, among others.
Former President Corazon Aquino had held each member of the Cabinet responsible in eradicating graft and corruption in the executive branch of government, monitored them and asked for a written monthly report of what had transpired during the anti-corruption campaign, Briones said.
“To combat corruption in a public office , its head must lead the way,” Briones, endearingly called Ma’am Liling at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, said.
She also cited as example former Commission on Audit Chairman Francisco Tantuico, who upon finding “irregular, unnecessary, excessive, and extravagant” expenses in the Marcos government, acted immediately and dismissed summarily government officials who had been corrupt.
Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Regalado Singson quietly removed corrupt officials under his agency that resulted to the decrease of contractors’ price by 20 percent, she noted.
Also a good example of government agencies that had been successful in eradicating “market-centered corruption” are the National Census and Statistics Office, Bureau of Quarantine and International Health Surveillance and the Makati Municipal Government for its traffic enforcement, she said.
Briones likewise cited the National Kidney and Transplant Institute and the country’s Treasury Office for their transparency in their bidding and awarding processes.
While corruption remains a scourge among poor and developing societies, the Philippine anti-corruption campaign has already moved on as number of corruption cases has decreased since 2005, claimed Professor Danilo Reyes, member of the group conducting the study. Its status has changed for the better until 2011. As per Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Reyes said the Philippines ranked 6th among the most corrupt countries in the APEC region, tying with Vietnam; Cambodia ranked 5th, Indonesia 4th, Pakistan 3rd, Myanmar 2nd, and Bangladesh at the top in 2005. From 6th rank, the Philippines has slid down to the 17th, according to the recent CPI, a welcome development.
Topping the list of countries with less corruption in 2011 are Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia, respectively, according to the study.
Back home, the World Bank study recommends that the school system should “inculcate discipline and strict implementation of laws and for the Filipino people to discipline themselves.” It also suggests that the Philippine school system craft teaching modules on cultivating honesty and advocating against corruption from the kindergarten up the tertiary level.