Fighting corruption: “We must sit in judgment of ourselves because we have contributed to this mess”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 May) — “The university must make its contribution against corruption first and foremost in the products that the university produces. And here my brothers and sisters we have not done well enough,” the incoming president of the Ateneo de Davao University, Fr. Joel Tabora, said.

”Look at those in government. Where do they come from? We have really not done well. We must sit in judgment of ourselves because we have contributed to this mess,” Tabora said in his keynote speech Tuesday morning at the Davao Colloquium on the theme, “Beyond Fighting Corruption” where Dr. Ronnie Amarado’s book, “Kakistocracy: Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified” was also launched.

Tabora, former president of the Ateneo de Naga and one of The Outstanding Filipinos (TOFIL) for 2010 recognized by the Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd. and the Philippine Jaycee Senate, said that in fighting corruption, the university plays a crucial role.

“All universities of worth regardless of their religion or mission,” he said, have three major functions: instruction, research and service to the community. “If you only have one, you do not have a university.”

On instruction, he said, the university has a “much larger and possibly much more fundamental role” beyond the professional formation of lawyers, accountants, business people, entrepreneurs, and others.

“The problems we are confronting in fighting corruption needs to be worked out at the tertiary level. Issues of violence against women, landgrabbing with murder, rape and incest, these issues need to reach the classrooms,” he said.

Rage Rage Rage

“Issues of the NGOs need to reach the core of the university. Students must be formed to respond to these ills with indignation, with disgust, with anger, with moral outrage, forming in the student his or her commitment to change. It is the role of the university to engage itself in moral development not just in abstract,” said Tabora, who spent his first morning in Davao City on May 16 with “leaders here in Mindanao especially here in Davao,” discussing issues such as watershed, aerial spraying despite an ordinance banning it, fencing off a protected area, marine life, the coal-fired power plant about to be built, “violations against law, human rights and human life.”

Tabora said the university “must be involved in very serious moral developments” so that when students hear of issues, they will not say, “ahh, squatters? That’s God’s will” or when someone says “Look what’s going on in that kingdom,” the student won’t just say, “he’s god, is he not?”

“There has to be a way to get people angry about this, enraged about this, and that has to proceed from the central teachings of our university,” he said, adding books like Kakistocracy, “all of these belong in the central lessons of general education in our university.”

On research, Tabora said the response to what’s going on around us “must be rational.”

“Alright, we’re angry. Let’s do it rationally. Let’s plan so that our response must be rational. It is not just an appeal, not just a prayer. Many of us, we see evil, we see what’s wrong, okay we’ll pray for you. It is not just prayer, not just appeal, not just feeling out of a sense of panic. Response must be informed, with good information that is true, information must be rigorous … analysis, a product of genuine thought. It is rational and proceeding from recommendations that are appropriate.”


With problems of society such as injustice and corruption, “we have to proceed from recommendations that are appropriate and immediate. That is where research is situated here, bringing rationality to the response. What is the problem really? What is the case clearly? What is the problem as seen from various disciplines we have in the university, on the level of various disciplines interacting with one another, what is it that can and ought to be done about impunity, for transgressors of the law?” he asked.

The university must partner with NGOs. “NGOs feed the university just as the university feeds the NGOs,” said Tabora.

On social service, the university “must make its contribution against corruption, first and foremost in the products that the university produces. And here my brothers and sisters we have not done well enough.”

“There is such a thing as individual human freedom but we have to be perplexed, to be disturbed that so many of these people are coming from our schools. We have to undergo a reexamination about the way we teach and the way we try to form people.”

“Hopefully the university does not belong to and does not abet the kakistocracy. Hopefully this university will help to destroy it through the production of principled leaders for a humane Filipino society,” he said.

Citizens’ inaction to Citizens in action

The May 16 meeting with civil society representatives wasn’t the first time Tabora heard about the issues confronting the city. The issues raised were in fact familiar to him having served as member of the Ateneo de Davao’s board of directors for several years.

Some participants during the meeting, he said, talked about walls being built around protected areas for a “kingdom of a self-defined religious leader.”

“Normally there is no problem about walls being built,” he said, but it is different when that is done in protected areas “yet violations against these laws are taking place with impunity.”

Normally, he said, there is always a problem when a human life is being taken, more so when taken by “a person or persons entrenched by power and sworn to defend the land but who have in fact no sensitivity to moral principles, ethics and common good and apparently need not have this sensitivity because he or she is known to deliver millions of votes.”

Normally, he added, property rights are considered inviolable but “exponents of kakistocracy in this country fall in love with a piece of land… and they murder in acquisition of that land.”

Normally, he said, human rights and women’s rights are sacred but “why is there so much disenfranchisement, rape and murder?”

Tabora cited the need for judicial reforms, noting that a corrupt judiciary abets impunity.

“All these people there were expressing their concern for the wrongs they confronted in society, somewhere battling a sense of helplessness, battling the attitude, ‘that’s life, nothing more can be done about that,’  battling the attitude that ‘all that is the will of God, all that has to be accepted because that’s the way life is.’”

He noted that those who attended the meeting felt the need to “move against this helplessness…. to overcome the resignation that seems to be so prevalent, that abets corruption.”

Amorado’s book, he said, is a “call from citizens’ inaction to citizens in action.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)