Editorial: Sustaining war against corruption-A A +A
Sunday, September 15, 2013
MIGHTIER than the sword and the pen are social networks.
Zamboanga resident Eyrhil Tom Bulahan posted on the social network site, Facebook, photos that show the plight of government soldiers in the siege of Zamboanga.
The caption of a photo of soldiers squatting on a sidewalk while eating recalled an incident when a soldier begged for leftover food from Bulahan. In another caption, Bulahan wrote that soldiers bought food with their own money as the porridge rationed by the government was not enough.
Bulahan lamented that funds were short for soldiers’ food and even ammunition while the waste of billions of taxes was being exposed by whistleblowers in the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon Hearing on the pork barrel scam.
According to www.mb.com.ph, Bulahan’s photos of the soldiers have gone viral, shared 8,721 times, as of Sept. 14, 2013.
Social media are not just powerful for surfacing and coalescing citizens’ sentiments on issues. This was shown in the Aug. 26 Million People March that took place at Luneta Park and major cities of the country in a collective call for the abolition of the pork barrel.
Netizens can be truthtellers, acting as witnesses of wrongdoing through their stories and images.
The news media will soon not be the only ones tapping citizen-journalists. The Office of the Ombudsman will link with Netizens in harnessing social media to monitor and fight corruption.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales disclosed this in the recent “Integrity Lecture,” which also featured Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas, head of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission from 2003 to 2007, according to a Sept. 14 report in The Philippine Star.
Morales and Hardjapamekas focused on the role of civil society in the war against corruption.
Government investigators can get leads from photos and tips uploaded by Netizens.
Morales said that the government will also verify online information before undertaking a full-blown probe.
Greater access to gadgets and the Internet does boost Netizens as corruption watchdogs.
However, self-regulation should also be practiced by Netizens. Images can be manipulated in form and intent. Government has limited resources that can be swamped from checking false leads or penetrating conspiracies. Not all forms of irregularities can be captured by smartphone or digicam.
To sustain the fight against corruption, more than education and technology must equip the watchdogs.
Pass FOI Bill
The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill must be passed soon.
The enactment of this law will institutionalize the constitutional right of citizens to full access of information about government transactions, as well as the state’s obligation to disclose and account for its actions in the interest of the public.
The passage of the FOI bill will strengthen traditional journalism and citizen-journalism to serve as checks-and-balances of state powers.
The country will then be not hostaged by changes of administration that may, on mere whim, subvert the current leadership’s platform of good governance anchored on the fight against corruption.
Aside from focusing the public’s awareness on social realities ignored or unseen by the government and news media, as well as galvanizing public opinion as a tool against apathy and social injustice, Netizens should mobilize social networks to educate the masses about their right to information and lobby for the immediate passage of the FOI Bill.
It’s one cause that should have gone viral a long time ago.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 16, 2013.