CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 October) — It goes without saying that before rushing to judgment on a charge of wrongdoing it must be proved, evidence presented and passed upon.
But what can one do about wrongdoing in a system infested with barefaced scofflaws, expert dissemblers, wily manipulators, and shameless hypocrites?
In our society, corruption in politics and public office is rife, with far too many high and low officials implicated—presidents, senators, congressmen, no less. And, yes, the vice president!
Some say it’s normal in politics, that it’s just perception. But isn’t it so that where there’s smoke, there’s fire! There certainly is a lot of smoke and it’s on all levels of the bureaucracy.
But even clear evidence can be trumped by experts at cover-up, perjury, forgery, bribery, or a gun-for-hire.
In the ideal order, wrongdoing would be inhibited by conscience and sense of propriety or delicadeza—where ethical standards demand not only good conduct but behavior beyond reproach.
The culture of honesty would discourage corruption and even drive wrongdoers to self-retribution or, worse, self-immolation as in Japan where the code of honor demands hara kiri.
But what’s one to do where such refinements and civilized values are bastardized by people that ought to be society’s role models? Unable to make evidence stick, one is tied down and culprits stay free. Besides throwing up your hands in anger and frustration, what to do?
Obviously, it’s imperative that we do something about all the corruption in our system. Like the virulent Ebola virus, corruption threatens our society on a grand scale. And like the Ebola threat, individual and collective action is imperative if we are to contain its rampage.
We, someone, or some group, must take the problem to heart, to clean up what can be cleaned up, and draw the line beyond which no one gets away free. But to fight corruption on such scale requires from each of us an assertive brand of sovereignty—citizen power to clean up the system and restock it with the honest, the honorable, and the competent.
It must be a bottom up effort, all-inclusive if possible. The staging point must be in every community, the primal level of the social order, where everyone lives.
There are 42,078 such communities in our republic—the barangays in which all one hundred million of us Filipinos reside.
Our society needs good, honest, efficient governance in every one of them. But we seem so lackadaisical and lenient, tolerant and devil-may-care that we can’t even rid our community of the really bad ones!
We can do it through the power of Recall, if we care and if we dare. And it’s high time we do so. The law not only allows us to take back the power we delegated, it bids us to do it where warranted. Mere loss of confidence is all.
With thousands of ill-motivated, erring, and downright corrupt barangay officials who need to be removed and replaced, the anti-corrupt-official campaign must start now. Our national situation necessitates it; there’s still time. Otherwise there’ll be hell to pay when the 1916 elections roll in.
It’s barangay officials, remember, who lord it over the precincts during the campaign right up to Election Day. Any corrupt, incompetent, cheating, or trapo barangay official still in place by then will be sure to deliver the votes to corrupt and greedy national candidates.
They should be removed and neutralized now, barangay by barangay. They’re entitled to stay on only if they enjoy the community’s trust and confidence. If trust and confidence has been breached, the community has the right to boot them out.
The Power of Recall is a powerful tool for compelling good, honest, and dedicated governance; but so far, it’s only been potential power, dormant, with no barangay on record as having wielded it.
Imagine all the years and all the instances of corruption and bad governance that have been crying out for sanctions—and nary an official or set of officials incurred anyone’s loss of confidence! This has emboldened them and countless others to go on with their crooked ways. Violating laws before, during, after, and in-between elections go unpunished.
No wonder things can go haywire in Manila or Makati where the highest officials of the land can be so corrupt or incompetent—but no one gets fired, no one resigns, and no one incurs anyone’s loss of confidence. Like barangay, like nation!
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org