Fighting Corruption-A A +A
An Independent View
Monday, October 21, 2013
THE 'Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) stands against corruption' announces the IBP in a recent advertisement in the national press. We are glad to hear it.
A motherhood statement is safer than a controversial one. In a previous advertisement, IBP trumpeted ‘No to Impeachment’ in the context of the then forthcoming Corona trial in Senate. Even with what has turned out to be a tainted jury, Corona’s unconvincing, almost non-existent defense to the proven assertion that he submitted untruthful statements of assets, liabilities and net worth produced what most of us consider to be a fair verdict. From an IBP perspective, many of its members publicly disputed the IBP assertion that Corona should not be impeached.
To assist the fight against corruption the IBP has constituted a Consultative Council Against Corruption. This council will ‘initiate studies to strengthen the rule of law, to promote a culture of integrity and ethical behavior and to offer proposals for the improvement of anti-graft and anti-corruption laws.’ Easy to say but not easy to put into practice.
The problem with proving fraud is that the fraudsters are able to bury the truth by creating a smokescreen of complexity which investigators are unable to unravel.
There are many government entities which exist to detect fraud when it occurs. We need much more effort to create government systems which reduce, rather than engender, corruption opportunities.
Constitutionally, there is one government instrumentality which is specifically charged with the responsibility of showing how corruption opportunities may be reduced. This is the Ombudsman’s office.
Art XI Sec 13 says:
‘The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the following powers, functions, and duties.’
Art XI Sec 13(7) states:
‘Determining the causes of inefficiency, red tape, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption in the Government and make recommendations for their elimination and the observance of high standards of ethics and efficiency.’
We wish the Ombudsman would give far more attention to this vital corruption prevention role. Instead it gets buried by those who present voluminous documentary evidence in a successful attempt to discombobulate the well-meaning (we hope) officials. The resources required to plan, design, develop, and implement government systems in which corruption opportunities are minimized are tiny in comparison with trying to find the truth from the van loads of documents dealing with a single case.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales says she believes the Janet Napoles case will be resolved within a year. We doubt. In the case of alleged overpriced computers in Bacolod’s schools, Pelagio Apostol, Ombudsman-Visayas submitted his resolution of the case and forwarded it to Conchita Carpio-Morales on 28 June 2012. But it took another 15 months for the Ombudsman’s Assistant Special Prosecutor Anna Isabel Aurellano to re-write Apostol’s resolution and for it to be approved by Ombudsman Carpio Morales. Was there any value-added in these last two steps? I doubt. The Ombudsman’s Visayas Office is perfectly capable of writing a definitive resolution.
We need more delegation so as to speed up the work of the Ombudsman.
Now the case is brought to the Sandiganbayan where we hope it is handled fairly but promptly.
Recently, Monico Puentevella, one of the respondents in the case called it ‘a recycled old issue.’ He is mistaken. It has not yet gone through one cycle!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 21, 2013.