‘I can buy you, your colleagues, and this agency!’-A A +A
The Point Being
Friday, December 6, 2013
WELL, that’s not exactly what a very inebriated Anne Curtis said but I’m imagining that those sentiments are at the heart of the actuations of those who bribe or try to bribe agencies. These musings are in light of the recent exposés this time concerning graft and corruption at the level of the national executive departments.
Take for instance the experience of Undersecretary Jerry “Jing” Pacturan of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) who executed an affidavit stating that he and another DAR official were handed on August 14, 2013 two paper bags ironically labeled with phrases like “God is Love” and “Jesus Gives Life” that upon later inspection each contained a million pesos. The source of the paper gift bags was a member of the House of Representatives. The reasons of the Representative for giving the money were not directly stated. But as the agenda of the meeting that the Representative herself requested were the DAR budget, programs and projects for her district, one could hazard a guess as to her motivations. In his affidavit, Undersecretary Pacturan said that he immediately reported the matter of the inappropriate and unacceptable “gift” to his superiors and took steps to contact the Representative and return the money.
Another recent example was news about the fake SAROs (Special Allotment Release Orders) that were being literally peddled in exchange for a fee.
Truly, the legislators do not have franchise over graft and corruption. They’re just more dramatic in showcasing it, going by the Napoles scam and their luxurious lifestyle, and the verbal skirmish between Senators Miriam Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile. The pork barrel issue of the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) that has recently been declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional provides a very dramatic handle, but the larger issue really is graft and corruption, and if you ask me, bureaucrat capitalism.
I wish it were just a case of extreme greed on the part of individuals or groups, generally few and far between. But what we are witnessing are systematic efforts and systemic manifestations and effects. Unlike more and more severe weather disturbances due to climate change that have been dubbed “the New Normal”, we cannot in all conscience acquiesce to massive graft and corruption as “the New Normal”. We have to name it for what it is, and we have to resist is. And its name is bureaucrat capitalism.
Months back I cited the description provided by activist Carol Pagaduan-Araullo (aka Atom Araullo’s mother) –“where the ‘ruling elite use the government machinery and resources to further enrich themselves and entrench their families in power at the expense of the people.’ These members of the ruling elite ‘make a lucrative business out of their government positions, (who) protect and advance their economic interests and privileged positions in society using state power, and (who) are therefore at the forefront of preserving the rotten political system and the socially unjust status quo.’”
Among the victims of bureaucrat capitalism are people who join the public sector with the intention to serve and carry out reforms. Undersecretary Pacturan who came from civil society experienced this himself. He joined the Department of Agrarian Reform in 2010 driven by his passion for sustainable agriculture and rural development. Recently, his name was among those tagged in relation to the release of PhP230 million from DAR to 16 dubious NGOs that were allegedly endorsed by Senators Greg Honasan and Jinggoy Estrada. Pacturan maintained that he did not benefit from the financial transfers. He signed as a matter of procedure, and that due diligence was supposedly done, indicated by the endorsement of former DAR Undersecretary Boy Nieto and the signatures of former DAR Director Tess Panlilio. Both Nieto and Panlilio have been charged with plunder in the PhP900 million Malampaya and PhP200 million CARP fund scams in DAR, prior to the current administration.
Undersecretary Pacturan went on leave to let the investigation process proceed, and expressed commitment to fully cooperate towards the resolution of the issue.
Does DAR have control systems in place? Most certainly. Are those thoroughly followed? Arguably yes. But those who wanted to “make a lucrative business out of their government positions, as well as protect and advance their economic interests and privileged positions in society using state power” used those same systems to precisely further their interests and privileged positions. Combating graft and corruption as manifestations of bureaucrat capitalism will take more than just setting up and institutionalizing controls to take away discretion.
At the end of the day, cross-disciplinary analysis encourages us to recognize the role of the individual and his/her sense of agency. To me, this goes beyond a question of values, which can narrowly be interpreted to religious tenets (remember the Representative who gave the gift bags emblazoned with religious slogans?) Nearly two decades ago we reminded students of Ateneo de Davao to not be swayed by student leaders who were OpElSeCar. That is, to be discerning of those leaders who were opportunistic, elitist, sectarian and careerist. The mnemonic device can be used as a self-monitoring tool as well, so that one can take stock to the extent that he/she is behaving in manners that are opportunistic, elitist, sectarian and careerist. Why does this reminder matter in a discussion about graft and corruption? Because an OpElSeCar leader is very vulnerable to being bought and corrupted.
I think the same reminder is still valid today, and not just concerning leadership in campuses but also in the larger body politic as well.
The point being that we need leaders who will be able to say a firm “no” a thousand times to those who would say to them “I can buy you, your colleagues, and this agency!”
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 07, 2013.