Cultural correction

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By Tibs Palasan, Jr

Spark of Law

Monday, June 30, 2014


THE lecture in my anthropology class still rings loudly. Changing something cultural takes generations. The culture of corruption cannot be corrected overnight.

Well, it’s almost 28 years now when Cory Aquino was catapulted to power through the EDSA revolution. The call to curb corruption echoed throughout the country. EDSA was supposedly governance which Marcos regime was not. But corruption remains an issue now.

Mao Zedong though showed one way of correcting culture: a bloody revolution. It was swift. It was a total overhaul of the system. But while the traditional elite were uprooted, the politburo not only controlled the coffers but also monopolized political power. The result was worse than what the revolution sough to correct.

History tells us that revolution is not a quick-fix to social malaise.

Good thing we have PNoy at the helm of power, he who has not been stained with the issue of corruption. He may be not as brilliant as Senator Enrile, but he too is so unlike the old man who has been corrupting since Marcos era. To his credit, Gloria Arroyo has been charged. Former Chief Justice Coruna who had been embroiled in corruption issues was impeached.

We now see the prosecution for plunder of the corruption triad in the senate: Pogi, Sexy, and Tanda. For those who are not familiar with the new corruption lexicon, let may translate: Pogi is Ramon Revilla, Jr., Sexy is Jinggoy Estrada, and Tanda is Juan Ponce Enrile. Memorize, and never vote for them and their likes again.

The prosecution of the triad is a plus for this administration. For a change, we are not only prosecuting clerks and janitors. We now have real big names in the list.

But the way this administration has provided the jail accommodation to the triad is another thing. It’s the minus side in the otherwise gallant fight against corruption.

They are senators. They are high security risks. Definitely they cannot be jailed together with the common criminals. Besides, they are not convicted yet so they are presumed innocent.

Grant that they are presumed innocent. How about those lowly citizens of this republic who are charged with a crime but who are jailed in the crowded, if not inhumane prison condition pending the decision of their cases, are they not also presumed innocent?

The presumption of innocence cannot be an excuse to treat well the triad while the cases have yet to be decided. This argument will simply collapse on its falsity. To follow this logic violates the equal protection clause of the constitution. The law must be enforced with equal measure, poor or rich, senators or janitors. This is a constitutional mandate.

Others may still argue. The three are not common criminals. They are elected by the people. They deserve to be treated decently even in prison. We may even add that they are honorable men of the senate.

One, the adjective honorable will only send shiver to the spine if we put the word as prefix for these senators. The moment the so-called honorable men commit a crime, they strip themselves with any claims to royalty. They descend to the level of the common criminals, and must be treated accordingly.

This matter of security risk is an elitist argument. The lowly janitor may be thrown at the crowded prison, let him be exposed to the real threats to his life; but not so with the senators. Are we saying here that the janitor’s life is dispensable but not so the senator who rob us with millions?

But the triad’s call must be heeded also. I don’t mean the more comfortable prison. The call to charge and imprison their co-conspirators in the grand larceny of our treasury deserves our listening ears, especially PNoy’s.

Meaningful change must not distinguish political stripes. We have cabinet men who are drag in the corruption issues. Department of Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad and Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala top the list. Butch Abad is mentioned in Janet Napoles’ affidavit. But PNoy is giving us his cold shoulders. Proceso Alcala is embroiled in many corruption issues but he is still there, grinning ear to ear.

The least that PNoy should do is to ask these cabinet secretaries to take leaves of absence while a thorough investigation will be conducted. Unfortunately, PNoy is not color-blind. He sees the yellow color clearly.

PNoy, owing to his credibility has the real chance at cultural correction. But change must apply to all despite political affiliations. A selective prosecution is a lip-service. It will not bring about meaningful change but will only breed for dissent and discontent.

Or, he might end-up like her mother: a failure at stamping-out corruption.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 30, 2014.

Opinion

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