WORM’S EYEVIEW: It’s not enough to replace corrupt leaders

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/1 May) — Unfortunately for the elite and the elitists who claim to want reforms, they don’t seem to know that voice and visibility are important for the reform movement. Nor do they realize that to straighten out politics, arrest graft and corruption, or neutralize abuse, one can start right in his own community.

All political chicanery and the insidious schemes of trapos (traditional politicos) and dynastic officeholders are played out in the barangay’s neighborhoods. The problems of governance start there and stay unless responsible residents next door do something about them.

The trick is to know what brings about corruption and bad governance: how it starts in the neighborhood and spreads, how it spirals upwards, how it trickles back down, how the cycle goes on and on, and why only vigilant members of the community can break the cycle.

Actually people generally know the causes of corruption and bad governance but either ignore them or prefer to do other things. Mostly they think nothing can be fixed except in a spectacular way such as through another Edsa uprising or through a coup or revolution.

But they’re wrong. We’ve had two Edsa upheavals and all we accomplished was replace Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada while the national condition continued to worsen.

Simply replacing the one in power with another who’s eager to be in power doesn’t solve the problem. The motive for being in power would still be the same; the way to the top would still require guns, gold, goons, or “Hello, Garci….”

Ultimately the officeholders would still dictate the conduct of governance, defy the Rule of Law, or ignore the will of the people.

Bottom line, the people would still be powerless, bypassed or taken for granted, unable to influence governance. The system becomes a mere caricature of democracy.

Strictly speaking, there’s no way to stop graft and corruption for good. Like sin, it may be prevented momentarily or minimized but there is no guarantee that the sinner will not sin again. The transgressors are human, after all. They are endowed with free will and freedom to do what they like for whatever motive, good or bad.

It’s these people who make it necessary to build prisons—to punish wrongdoing in hopes it will reform them and deter others.

But it’s a measure of our society’s values that we fill the prisons with petty criminals and let big-time plunderers stay out to enjoy their loot.

Nonetheless, although there’s little one can do about the motives or the ethical sense of traditional politicians—trapos— there’s a lot sovereign people can do to inhibit wrongdoing, arrest their corrupt acts, and reform the way they behave.

It just requires judicious, relentless application of People Power and vigilance in one’s own community, whence originate all cultural values and traditions as well as what’s wrong in them.

Try straightening out governance in your own barangay and see how fairly easy it is. Simply be attentive and be willing to participate in the community’s governing processes—guided by the Local Government Code and related laws.

Then go on to work on weeding out misleaders, replacing them with true leaders until you and your allied neighbors can take control of the Barangay Assembly. This is the supreme governing body of the community (literally a Constituent Assembly) and is all powerful.

Through the Barangay Assembly’s deliberations and proceedings, decent standards and practices for good governance can be discussed, adopted, and ultimately institutionalized.

Manny among others is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, member of the Permanent Mission to the United Nations, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. valdehuesa@gmail.com