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Our Culture of Corruption

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As the mind-boggling enormity of their government’s pork barrel scams continue to overwhelm Filipinos, it lays bare the reality of the deep and extensive culture of corruption among their kind.  This is a culture far worse than the so-called culture of impunity ascribed  to private or lawless armed groups notably in Mindanao. A bullet fired in impunity may or may not kill, but every few thousand pesos – not to say of the millions and billions in the scams – stolen by a senator,  congressman, mayor, councilor, barangay chairman, and even a kagawad can kill and have killed when the act deprived people of basic social and health services. The infamous Ampatuans in this context are angels compared to these corrupt, smiling politicians floating high and low.

Now we know more clearly why poverty has been so insoluble and acute in this country.  The cause is not a damaged culture of the poor, but the culture of violence of the mostly already rich yet insatiable politicians. This crime is usually varnished over by patronage politics practices – the victims are fooled over and over again until they needlessly die of disease, despair or uninvited violence.  Yes, there is capital punishment in the country and the executioners are not the judges.

In the past few years, Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) and Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) have been implementing a good governance training and incentive program for selected barangays in the city and neighboring Basilan. Its goal is to mobilize residents to pro-actively promote transparency and accountability among barrio officials, and to help the latter formulate socio-economic and peace-building plans with the participation of their constituents, especially women. This year this program was leveled up by the addition of a disaster risk and prevention component. The program has been funded by the Australian and Spanish governments.

Its central concept is that good governance is not an ethos gifted by some political or technocratic angels descending from heavenly Malacanang, such as its crumbling Daang Matuwid. Rather, it is a way of life that springs from an awakened citizenry. If this and more like it won’t work yet, then only something like the magnitude of Mao’s Cultural Revolution may save the Philippines from itself. An oligarch-led Potemkin revolution like EDSA 1986 was in the long run a political mirage.

Without a wide and thorough cleaning of the Philippine Aegean stable, millions more of poor Filipinos – in the remote upland sitios, in evacuation centers, in squatter shanties, under bridges, among the homeless sleeping on sidewalks and parks, in drug dens, among trafficked girls, in kidnapping lairs, in over-congested government hospitals and jails will continue to senselessly die without seeing the dawn. 

By: Peace Advocates Zamboanga




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