Dead and obscene

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Saturday, February 15, 2014


ANOTHER whistleblower comes forward with testimony in the biggest corruption scandal of the country.

We’ve always known that corruption is rife in our country. Many of us actually believe that government officials who do not steal are the aberration.

We’ve always known that politicians help themselves to public funds. What we didn’t know was how massive the scale of stealing was.

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I’m not sure what is more horrifying—the sheer size of the amounts involved or the impunity with which so many people in government have so casually claimed for themselves that they no longer feel any guilt in robbing millions of poverty-stricken Filipinos of much-needed public assistance.

Imagine the billions lost to corruption—the billions that could have been poured into housing, education, health services, infrastructure and calamity assistance. In a nation of teeming and abject poverty, how could anyone in power have the conscience to steal from those barely able to survive on a daily basis?

Sometimes I wonder how these people sleep at night. Soundly, probably. They lost their souls a long time ago. After the first, second and third heist, everything worked like clockwork. Where is our sense of civic duty? More importantly, where is our sense of Christianity?

Is there anyone left in government service who is truly there for public service? Or is everyone in government service there for personal gain?

When one considers one to two million pesos a paltry sum of cash to deliver to a Senator as commission for a ghost project, one begins to see the picture.

Some years back, I was at a now-defunct price club supermarket when I insisted that I be given the complete change due me. The cashier looked at me like I was lower than vermin. It was a matter of ten centavos but I thought it grossly unprofessional for any business establishment to ask a customer to give up the change due her (no matter how small) because of its inability to provide change.

When you toil long and hard, every centavo counts.

Still, even when money is simply handed to you to allocate wisely, you cannot remain impervious to its value. And yet we have senators who seem unmoved by the atrocities they have committed.

They actually believe they can get away by simply saying, I was defrauded by my staff. I did not know the funds were going into ghost projects.

Well, Mr. Senator, is it not your duty to know where EVERY centavo of public money entrusted to you, goes?

And yet I do pause many times to ask myself, if I were senator, would I steal as well? Would I be any less guilty than those charged today with plunder? Would my values and convictions stay steadfast and strong in the face of temptation to enrich myself with public funds?

I’m not saying that everyone in government is corrupt. What I’m saying is that many people in government have the wrong mindset.

Those in the rank and file believe working in government is license to be lackadaisical. Those who seek higher office, on the other hand, pursue government positions for money, influence and power.

This is so wrong. And so absolutely obscene. Is the call to public service dead in this country?

(email: sunstarcebucolumnist@yahoo.com, Twitter: http://twitter.com/melanietlim)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 16, 2014.

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