Rekindling our hopes against corruption

Published November 15, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Brion (ret.) Justice Art D.

The Legal Front

Justice Art D. Brion (ret.)

Part II

I was elated when I saw in the news that the Department of Agriculture is undertaking fresh efforts to fight corruption. I was happier still when I noted from the growing campaign announcements that Senator Ping Lacson is taking up corruption as a campaign issue. Corruption, it seems, may yet be at the forefront of the election issues and candidates’ action may yet be the spark to light up our fight.

I hope that other candidates will soon provide the collective push we badly need as corruption now appears to be really pervasive in our society. Official response, at best, has been tepid, lukewarm and tentative. People themselves no longer seem to care much about it; it has become a part of the passing scenery, a new normal.

With no pejorative intent meant against anyone, highlighting corruption has never been difficult to undertake. The harder part has always been in the implementation. This is where we have been miserably failing. For this, we need a good guide and a courageous leader with the will to fight.

We now have a Sandiganbayan, a court solely focused on corruption law violations. We also have an Ombudsman geared, along the same lines but with emphasis on investigation; its net is even wider and includes unethical practices. We are not lacking in laws as we already have an anti-plunder law, anti-bribery laws, an Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and many others that, unfortunately, have all failed to stem corruption’s on rushing tide. Lack of palpable achievement from government and from our applied legal measures, loudly trumpet our failure. While we have not really surrendered to the corrupt, our efforts lack consistency and coherence, and hence, are not truly effective.

The upcoming elections present to us – as a people – the unique opportunity to contribute, even in a small way, to the molding of our future by choosing our leaders. Let us reflect our sentiments on corruption and good governance through our vote. This is our most obvious first step – to have a competent leader, armed with moral integrity and ascendancy, who can set our tone of governance, guide our direction, and show us, by word and by example, how we should act and interact with one another in facing our problems.

These leadership qualities, we should confirm, not on the basis of campaign rhetoric but by hard and clear evidence showing past achievements or related undertakings indicative of values and attitudes in solving the menace we face.

Otherwise, as in the past, we will get nothing substantially done and will only end up with a patchwork of solutions and halfway measures with no follow through to a clear and definitive conclusion.

We should be reminded that we are not the first in history to have the magnitude of problems now before us. Other countries have suffered problems bigger than ours, and managed to solve theirs, primarily through inspiring, imaginative and competent moral leadership whose lead their people willingly supported.

Winston Churchill assumed office while Great Britain was approaching the lowest point in its World War II fortunes. He came when the greater part of Europe had been subdued by the Nazis; when British land forces were about to be entrapped at Dunkirk; when the Luftwaffe was about to blitz and bomb London almost nightly for 8 months, and when other British leaders were already hinting at a peace settlement. Churchill, despite all these, doggedly kept fighting and courageously led his country and people to ultimate victory. Our Philippine problems have yet to reach these British lowest points.

Abraham Lincoln initially found himself in the same predicament. He assumed leadership when the slavery issue and national unity were at their peak and war was about to break out. Soon after, Fort Sumter was attacked and fell, triggering the American Civil War.America had no standing army and was ill-prepared, initially suffering repeated setbacks in the battlefield. Yet, President Lincoln steadfastly battled on and ultimately led the North to victory, backed largely by the people’s enthusiasm for his purity of intentions and moral leadership. We in the Philippines have yet to reach the extent of disunity and internal problems that the US then faced.

The case of US President Franklin Roosevelt was equally striking. He came upon a country in the depths of the worst depression in its history. He kindled people’s hopes and self-respect through people-oriented and liberal socio-economic programs, and slowly led the economy back to recovery. Through his Fireside Chat, he told everyone of his desire to make American society more fair and equitable, with economic possibilities open to all. People listened and responded. Thus, President Roosevelt succeeded, and even repeated this success by leading America and the world to military victory in the World War that followed. We in the Philippines should know all these as we were an American colony then and were at the WWII frontlines with the Americans.

Can these same feats somehow be approximated by our leaders today? Yes, I am sure they can, as we have seen one Filipino leader do this the past. We elected President Ramon Magsaysay in 1953 as we were facing a communist rebellion and the armed rebels were almost at the gates of Manila. He defeated the communists and no reason now exist why we cannot similarly make this kind of choice this coming May 2022 and why our chosen leader cannot repeat what Magsaysay had done.

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