Fighting corruption must always be top gov’t priority

Published March 5, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Pandemic or endemic, the usual normal or the new normal, ECQ or Alert Level 1—whatever the situation is inside the country, the fight versus corruption must be relentless, unforgiving, and encompassing. Corruption, in whatever way, form, or manner, must be stopped at all costs, and government must use everything in its arsenal to weed out its roots.
Corruption is “as old as time” and historical records have shown that it has ravaged the fabric of societies and tested the conscience of rulers ever since the ancient Egyptian times.  In fact, the word corruption comes from the Latin word “corruptus,” roughly translated as “to bribe, to mar, to destroy.” Throughout history, pages of books and newspapers have detailed stories of corruption involving the bribery of government officials to curry favor, offering money in exchange for passing a student, or fixing a sports game to allow a team to win. People initially express shock that these kinds of corruption happen, but accept it eventually as a “way of life.”    

Because this is viewed as “a way of life,” corruption is hard to stamp out or be given an exact value as transactions are done in secret. It is now even done virtually, easily transferring funds to hidden bank accounts or offshore holdings. The World Bank has estimated that bribery all over the world is at US$1.5 trillion per year. Transparency International, in a 2017 study, revealed that one-third of the world’s population considered their government officials, business executives, and police or military heads as corrupt.  

 For the Philippines, Transparency International also had some disconcerting news when it unveiled early this year its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. In it, the country dropped two places to 117th out of 180 countries, or a score of 33 out of 100 (100 being “very clean” and zero being “very corrupt”). The organization noted that this ranking for the Philippines is a “historic low” — lower than the global average of 43 and the Asia-Pacific region’s average of 45.
What’s more alarming is Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, which surveyed the experiences of everyday people confronting corruption around the world. It was revealed that 86 percent of the people surveyed in the Philippines said that “government corruption is a big problem,” and that 19 percent of public service users “have paid a bribe in the previous 12 months.”

Given these realities, the government has no choice but to continue its fight versus corruption in whatever way or manner possible. For example, the Task Force Against Corruption (TFAC) has launched a video campaign to boost the government’s fight against corruption, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said last March 2, 2022. “The campaign aims to eliminate the seeds of corruption that grow into massive forms of corruption, which inevitably destroy the moral fiber and future of society. The campaign also calls upon the public to have the courage to call out all forms of corruption.”
“The campaign points out that people have become desensitized to small forms of corruption making it possible for these dishonest individuals to get away with their illegal acts,” the DOJ said. “It also emphasizes that the amount of money pocketed by unscrupulous individuals, regardless of the amount, for so long as the money appropriated by a person for himself is not his, the act constitutes corruption.”

It may be unrealistic to say that we can totally end corruption with the showing of some videos; nevertheless, it is imperative for the government to continue to do so and aspire for a society that treats its dutiful citizens fairly and punishes its corrupt entities harshly. Let us not allow corruption to flourish as left unhinged, it can destroy families, communities, even a country.