The perennial issue of corruption that seemingly continues to defy solution all these years has heated up anew.
At the height of the recent word war between President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Manny Pacquiao on corruption, my friends Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson told the boxing champion: To land a knockout against corruption, make sure all your exposés are backed by solid evidence.
“Our advice to him was to make sure the evidence he has is substantial, because if only one item in his exposé turns out to be lacking or baseless, that is what the public will remember,” Lacson said in a radio interview.
My friends are right, solid evidence is essential not only in the court of public opinion, but especially so in a court of law.
All our laws to curb graft and corruption are more than sufficient. We have RA 9l84, an act providing for the modernization, standardization, and regulation of the procurement activities of the Philippines; RA 30l9, the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act; RA 6713, an act establishing a code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees; the Revised Penal Code provisions on malversation and bribery; and the special law on plunder.
But all these laws cannot stop or substantially reduce corruption if the corrupt are not deterred. Only certainty of arrest, prosecution and conviction in a swift and impartial justice system can be a very powerful deterrent to corruption. And solid evidence is necessary so that justice is served and the guilty are jailed.
So how can Sen. Pacquiao get hold of solid evidence to support his claim of widespread and continued corruption that apparently caught the ire of President Duterte?
An extensive network of informants capable of spotting corrupt practices and potential sources of thievery in all levels of the government bureaucracy would have to help Sen. Pacquiao.
It is a widespread belief that graft and corruption is most rampant in the government’s procurement process, especially in public biddings for projects, goods, and services conducted by the Bids and Awards Committees (BACs) of all government branches, departments, bureaus, independent constitutional bodies, government-owned and controlled corporations, and local governments.
It is no secret that even at the start of procurement, when the agency estimate is heavily padded to ensure kickbacks, the procurement process is already tainted with irregularities, leading to rigged bidding, ghost deliveries, substandard products, and other anomalies.
The network of informants who ought to be knowledgeable in the various anti-corruption laws must be able to determine whether a particular project to be bidded by the BAC is legitimate or not. The informants should record and document the BAC proceedings and ferret out irregularities that could be reported to the Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman, and used as basis for appropriate charges filed against erring public officials and conspiring private individuals.
To score a knockout against systemic corruption, Sen. Pacquiao can also help in efforts to change the typical mindset apparently existing in our culture. It is a widespread belief or expectation that one inevitably gets rich by joining government service. Such belief is so deeply ingrained that it comes as a great surprise that a poor fellow who gets appointed to a “juicy” post remains poor. Many think that something must be terribly wrong with the poor guy.
Sen. Pacquiao can contribute a lot to efforts of various stakeholders — the Church, media, business groups, non-government organizations, civic associations and the like – to help enlightened Filipinos in propagating good values of honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness to bring about much-needed change to a mindset that foments corruption. Knocking out such mindset can lead to a knockout blow against corruption in the Philippines.
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