Tenacity vs obduracy

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, December 9, 2013


Berlin-based Transparency International announced its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) rankings last week. This is a worldwide survey in which the Philippines now ranks 94th out of 177 countries. This continues a steady improvement over the past four years: 134th in 2010, 129th in 2011, 105th in 2012 and now 94th.

This is good news. Perusing the full ranking tables released by Transparency International, I cannot see any other country that has improved by 40 places in the past four years.

I am inclined to see the glass half full rather than half empty. National Competitiveness Council co-chairman Guillermo S. Luz agrees. He says that the ranking could be considered a “huge improvement from where we came from.”

But Transparency International Philippines Director Dr. Cleo Anne A. Calimbahin stresses that in absolute terms we have not improved by very much. On a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), the Philippines scored 36, marginally higher than last year’s 34.

In July 2010, on PNoy’s inauguration, I wrote that his presidency could be considered satisfactory if the Philippines could improve its ranking to 100th by December 2015. Well it has achieved this objective with two years to spare. Let us hope we shall see more progress before PNoy steps down.

The signs are promising.

The quality of the national conversation is improving. The populace is becoming more assertive and articulate. The government, for all its demonstrable inadequacies, is listening more attentively than before.

Peaceful rallies are taking place and are making a difference. The Constitution is not set in concrete but is a living organism which has different interpretations as the nature of our society changes. This accounts for the recent Supreme Court ruling which found the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to be unconstitutional.

We should not underestimate the value of rallies and the Supreme Court’s support for them. During the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rallyists endured the physical discomforts of fire hoses implemented under a fatuously conceived policy of “Calibrated Pre-emptive Response” (CPR) (whatever that meant).

The Supreme Court (SC), with admirable logic, eradicated CPR. This was based on the constitutional provision that peaceful, lawful demonstrations should be treated with “maximum tolerance” by the authorities. Hence, there was no point in having an Executive Order propounding CPR. If CPR represents maximum tolerance, the Executive Order is superfluous. If CPR does not represent maximum tolerance, it is unconstitutional was the SC’s ruling.

This morning there is due to be held a celebration of International Anti-Corruption Day at the Panaad Sports Stadium, Bacolod City. The program will be held in all provinces in Region 6 with Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon and Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella being present at Panaad.

We hope Monico will address the meeting. His unique and sustained dialogue with the anti-graft Ombudsman’s office is of great interest to us all.

His insights as to the efficacy of the Ombudsman would be most welcome.

The fight against corruption has several fronts. These include:
-Public opprobrium relating to the wickedness of corruption.
-Reducing corruption opportunities (rendering PDAF unconstitutional is a good start)
-Identifying examples of corruption and holding the perpetrators to account.

The weakest area is proving that fraud has taken place and to identify who is responsible.
Those whose role is to combat fraud need to raise their game. The obduracy and evasiveness of the fraudsters confronted by the Ombudsman’s office often defeats the finite tenacity of the graft investigation officials.

Even when those responsible for graft investigation have made what they believe to be a winning case, the justice system is of limited value in causing the corrupt ones to be held accountable.

Until the legal system can regularly prevail, in a reasonable time-frame, over the corrupt, the Philippines will not be even a moderately clean country.

This week Lawyer Lorna Kapunan is due to explain to the Supreme Court why she agreed with Umagang Kay Ganda’s host Anthony Taberna that a Supreme Court justice could be bribed.

Her explanation could be interesting and we hope she takes full advantage of the Supreme Court’s invitation. Can she subpoena Lucio Tan and Freddie Webb as witnesses?

“The essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer” - Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974); The Ascent of Man (1973)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 09, 2013.

Opinion

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