Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Graft & Corruption

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

Walter Scott

Let’s imagine you are engaged in some enormous scam. Let’s also assume it is about something improbable; hmm, how about manure?

You are huli (caught). Would you rather your evil manure schemes were judged by a jury of honest men and true, or by a group so hopelessly compromised that to find you guilty would be to open themselves to prosecution?

This of course is exactly the situation facing the House panel investigating former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc Joc" Bolante’s involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Although the absurdity of distributing funds for agricultural fertilizer to congressmen representing districts in Quezon City and Bolante’s flight from justice might seem to a jury of honest men and true evidence that something stinks in all this, the panel is expected to hold its nose and clear Bolante for the simple reason that, as Rep. Teddy Casiño points out: “more than a hundred administration representatives benefited from that scam in 2004.”

Bolante’s smelly dealings lead me to a broader issue.

It seems to me that the current set-up in the Philippines helps to criminalize virtually all of us, limiting our capacity, and even our desire, to support justice.

Do you pay all your taxes? If you run a business, have you waited patiently for the endless licences the state requires, or have you “eased” the process with a few hundred pesos? What about that time a cop pulled you over for swerving, did you hand over your licence quietly or slip him a couple of hundred?

I won’t go on, but even you have stoutly answered “yes” to all of those questions, what about your family? Is your dad’s business 100% legal? Your mother works in government service, are you sure everything she does is by the book?

The fact that almost all of us are forced or at least encouraged to commit these misdemeanours is an enormous advantage to the high rollers in the grimy game. To return to Bolante, the real beneficiary of the fertiliser fiddle was not the congressman who received an addition to his election war chest, it was not even Joc-Joc. The spider who wove the web was the president, who through this and similar schemes managed to manufacture an unlikely election victory and to ensure that everyone along the way was caught in her trap.

Those of us in the outer circles of the web are not caught as tightly as those in the middle, yet still we can’t quite kick ourselves free. Even businessmen and women who support a fair taxation regime baulk at the idea of even more BIR interference in their companies. At a philosophical level, our enmeshment breeds a kind of resignation, almost a kind of solidarity with the playmakers.

If convicted plunderer “not one centavo” Erap were seen as an aberration, his interest in another run at the presidency would surely be laughed out of court. As it is, although I doubt whether he is quite as popular as he thinks he is, Erap benefits from a sense of hopelessness that no one else is any better. He, Gloria, and the other king pins may sit at the centre of the web, but we have all been caught in its sticky embrace.


orionjri said...

It does stink! And one way or another, we are all tainted by it (your metaphor - all caught in its sticky...) but what can we each personally do to extricate ourselves from this web or to help redeem our country without becoming a Don Quixote caricature?

It would seem like a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't.

It's not difficult to understand why many subscribe to this saying: "If you can't lick them, join them."

Just consider some of the "rewards" of compliance.

A fat wallet is so much more appealing than an empty piggybank; more empowering than an honest ballot.

One is much more sikat when one has oodles of cash, regardless of the questionable source of his wealth. And let us admit it, we tend to defer more readily to cashed up people.

Personal success and public esteem appear to be directly proportional to the value of ones' financial holdings, enshrined in multi-level palaces.

And face it, bribes grease the governmental offices' machinery. Like it or not.

The harsh reality is that it is utterly detrimental to one's safety and sanity to swim against this massive tsunami of corruption. To wit, take the case of Rodolfo Lozada.

One who does not "ride along with the system" is commonly perceived and derided as either naive or stupid or a loser;or worse, "cleansed".

Is there any more honour, or financial benefit in upholding moral integrity?

Can we still get out of this moral train wreck?

Or should we tell those who still harbor thoughts of redemption for the country: Manigas ka diyan (English translation, harden you there.)

ErnestoDR said...

Miss Orion JRI, thanks so much for the intelligent observation of Phil. affairs!
It does stink indeed, so profusely that the stench reeks all over.
That aphorism "If you can't lick them, join 'em!" has sadly and undeniably found its place in the hearts of many many Filipinos!
But even as our country seemed deeply stuck in the quagmire of moral degeneration, I still believe, a hero will emerge. Remember, heroes are born out of crisis.
I am not optimistic though that it will happen in our lifetime.
Let us not just allow ourselves to get entangled in the web of disarray, but pray harder that whatever is left of our moral fortitude be harnessed in an effective way!
I do appreciate the exchange of our lamentations!
Your comment certainly elicits reactions from the batch. I hope they too post their comments!