AS I sit to formulate visions for the next 18 months, my mind is wordlessly scribbling ideas for that period, following the election of President Marcos—for those of us who dream like children, let’s look forward. Will we enjoy a level playing field from now on? Will we be tough and walk away from all corruption challenges?
Unfortunately, every loud proclamation that corruption—as we know it—is “dead” is followed by something new. Let’s agree that there is plenty of resourcefulness out there to redefine and reinvent corruption. As I said in one of my earlier columns: corruption enablers are created daily.
But we are dreamers and dreams are not progress reports. Under the new administration, we are attempting to reach a business environment free from corruption, giving businesses the opportunity to fulfill their potential in an ethical environment. We are daring to dream higher and encouraging others to do the same, knowing, however, that we have to be aware of four situations that can shatter our dreams:
• The first condition necessary for the emergence and re-emergence of corruption is that there be rents associated with a government’s regulatory powers. Senator Cynthia Villar said: “If BBM can’t stop agri smuggling, no one can.” Allow me to add: “If BBM can’t stop corruption, no one can.”
• The second condition requires that corrupt bureaucracies be somewhat independent within the remaining (if honest) administrative structure of the government. External controls of the bureaucracy—whether imposed by the remainder of the administrative system or by society at large—must be weak. Let’s create strong Integrity Circles, composed of business and civil society, and hopefully LGUs.
• The third condition requires the public institutions controlling corruption be weak and ineffective. These institutions include civic groups that exert moral pressures, political parties and the media that could expose the wrongdoing, and the legal system that would have the authority to prosecute and punish the guilty (in the Philippines, the poor have to go to jail but the rich can easily get away or delay processes). Without judicial reform, corruption will continue to blossom. Impunity is a close ally of corruption!
• The fourth condition is a lack of whistleblower protection. It is obvious that strange deals between government and the private sector and private sector to private sector (price fixing, collusion in biddings, bribing technical and purchasing staff, etc.) will only become known if people inside those companies become whistle-blowers. This is the reason why we advocate the protection of whistle-blowers. At the present situation, I would not be courageous enough to be a whistle-blower. You?
It’s time that companies and individuals commit to integrity. Do it now and let’s create the Integrity Nation.
And remember, Integrity starts with I—meaning YOU.
Let me close by saying: YOU are the final authority. Not the government. Not the president. Not Mom or Dad. YOU. No community of philosophers, scientists, priests, academicians, politicians, or generals—no school, legislature, parliament, or court—can bear responsibility for your life, or your words, or your actions. This authority is yours and yours alone. YOU can neither get rid of it nor escape from it.
To all of those that have been with us during the anti-corruption journey, I say, it’s just the beginning, but progress toward the impossible dream makes us believe it could just be possible!
Comments are more than welcome —e-mail [email protected]