IT IS hardly likely but it would definitely help this country to get a President that would wage an all-out war against corruption. But make no mistake about it. The nation-wide corruption problem cannot be solved by anybody acting on the national level. Corruption has taken roots at the lowest levels of government and is perfectly matched with the crippling indifference of citizens at those levels.

Not too long ago, I had this problem with government red tape and I asked a Cabinet secretary why he did not computerize his department. He replied by telling me that in fact he has computerized the department but no sooner were they installed than the computers were sabotaged by underlings who decided the machines were bad for their business of asking facilitation money (through the old chaotic system) from citizens.

"The Manny Pacquiao Blog". Click here for stories and updates on the Filipino boxing champ.

Inspectors, clerks, signatories asking for fees sans official receipts are commonplace in local government units. This is bad, of course. But what make it worse are people who pay up in order to get their permits without any hitch. Why do you think we have buildings without fire exits? Why do you think we have taxi, jeepney and tricycle drivers that know next to nothing about traffic rules and road courtesy?

One-man rule is also the norm in many places and, as showcased in the worst way by Cebu City, the City Council goes right along with it. If, for political convenience, the City Council does not mind being ruled by one man, then democracy’s last line of defense would have been people protesting against anybody with dictatorial pretensions. But no, because people are either scared stiff about losing City Hall’s favors or indifferent enough not to want any trouble at all.

The compelling motives to fight corruption and dictatorial rule come from owning up to the fact that corruption in government exists because we the people ( businessmen, professionals, clergy and laity) allow it in exchange for a little convenience in getting permits, licenses, etc. If one man rules Cebu City without consulting or listening to anybody, it is because we allow him and the City Council to get away with it.

To solve corruption and restore democratic processes over the long term, we need to act at the lowest levels of government and community. It is at this level that we need to uproot the indifference that hides behind a feeling of helplessness.

We need to start, individually or in groups, to refuse to cooperate with corrupt practices and stop making them a source of easy money for the corrupt government employee.

More important than electing good leaders is insisting in participating in governance. Otherwise, even the best of leaders will always succumb to the temptation of power and money.