KUNG walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

President Benigno Aquino III’s electoral campaign slogan might not have ignited so much the people’s enthusiasm and hope.

If it were untrue, the slogan might just have been pooh-poohed away as a near-successful attempt at good rhyming, and nothing more.

After all, “Anti-Corruption and Good Governance” was a commitment of the Arroyo administration to the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. In layman’s terms, corruption refers to the abuse of entrusted authority for private interests and gains, and subtly or flagrantly takes such forms as bribery, embezzlement, fraud, extortion, favoritism and nepotism.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Towards the UN goals, Arroyo’s Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MDP) planned to reduce poverty through job creation and enterprise. We know now how “enterprise” got mangled into “enterprising.”

Part 5 of the Plan explicitly stated the four anti-corruption strategies to explore and implement: punitive, preventive, formative and/or reformative. Hindsight now says all these were merely statements of hope, not direction.

Take punitive, which included lifestyle checks and heightened investigations by the Ombudsman. Sure, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered lifestyle checks and the Ombudsman conducted investigations. But was any big fry thrown into jail? Wasn’t the Ombudsman not too quick at exonerating GMA and husband from the NBN-ZTE project?

Sure, there were some arrests and trials, but these all involved foot soldiers. The big fish simply relaxed in broad daylight, still evading taxes, and with not a dent enough to dislodge them from the millionaires and billionaires row.

The arrests of the small fry were simply meant for “pakitang tao” gimmickry.

The preventive strategies were to include opening up of government projects and the enactment of the whistle-blower law. Now that defeated presidential candidate Manuel Villar has licked his wounds and is back at the Senate, will the C5 project issue be resurrected and resolved to everyone’s contentment?

Not resolved as in “pwede na” but resolved to mean leaving no mental reservation in any Filipino. And the whistle-blower law: Is it in the making? Quo vadis the Freedom of Information bill?

The last Congress dragged its foot on it up to recess period.

Formative strategies meant promoting zero tolerance for corruption. This includes values formation and mobilizing media and civic organizations to deliver the message of societal reforms.

That most elected officials, particularly including senators, congressmen, vice-presidents and presidents continue to show fat increases in their statement of assets and liabilities year after year is enough proof that the concept of zero tolerance is a Greek term.

This is where another presidential hopeful, Nicanor Perlas, and his following among non-government organizations could appropriately contribute to good governance. What is it in these elected officials’ salaries that multiply a thousandfold once they sit in power?

Aquino promised to hold government to account for its excesses and misgovernance. The President knows where he speaks.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)