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Leveling up the Anti-Corruption Drive

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Last week, Ateneo de Zamboanga University sponsored a dialogue forum entitled "Echoing Heidi Mendoza: Truth Sharing in Zamboanga" to stir up local community-wide action against graft and corruption in and out of government. Heidi Mendoza and her much-publicized exposes of financial malversation and theft in the military and her crusade against this widespread affliction in our country was harnessed as a symbol as well as catalyst for a general public campaign. 

Ateneo schools initiated an anti-corruption program succinctly dubbed "Ehem!" a few years back - and which continues to this day - that focuses on personal responsibility and integrity as its  principal strategy.  With fighting corruption as overriding thrust of the Aquino administration, "Ehem" and other similar movements are going mainstream, striking out as a frontline social movement.  Just a few days ago, government departments formally teamed up with business and civil society organizations to encourage whistle-blowing by anybody via an online website (www.perangbayan.com).

Corruption has existed for so long in the country such that uprooting or reducing it will certainly be a Herculean task. "Ehem" chief advocate Fr. Alberto Alejo, SJ admitted during the Ateneo forum that it exists even in the Catholic church, implying it is also perpetuated by some priests.  A priest in the forum said he was shocked to discover what amounted to vote-buying among his school's students who were running for positions in the student council. A teacher revealed that all of his students admitted to cheating in their exams and assignments.  As it goes, there is no shortage of cheating and corruption being committed daily in our society. Oh well, we all know how Judas sold Jesus to the pharisees for 30 pieces of silver.

There are societies, especially where democracy has not been established firmly enough, that are quite tolerant of corruption.  To them, there is no corruption for as long as the receiver of the kickback largesse gives it back to the community to support communal concerns and gifts in cash or in kind his relatives, associates and relatives - in other words, the money or some or most of it is given back to the immediate community, a kind of distorted social benefit system. Bribery, even in some older nations, is considered acceptable for as long as it facilitates transactions and gets things done by cutting through the bureaucratic hassles - a deal is no big deal.

Corruption in the Philippines especially in government, for which we rank very highly among nations, is something else, though. It is the single most important negative factor for our persistent and deep poverty, which in turn breeds widespread criminality, insurgencies, and political oppression.  It is massive and massively cultural.

It’s no brainer to say that the nation with all the modern-day challenges to nation-building will not go forward, or even survive, without taming if not eliminating corruption. The current effort of the Aquino government to bring to justice every corrupt government official it can get its hands on is a giant step forward - and deserves total public support.  President Aquino has appealed for people to use online media to unmask cases of corruption - and mainstream media, too, can be more pro-active and enterprising in this regard.  Perhaps, laws against corruption as well as the judiciary can be strengthened to facilitate prosecution and punishment to be harsher than they are at present.  Indeed, Philippine democracy, whose restoration's 25th anniversary through EDSA People Power Revolution the nation celebrated recently, will remain an empty promise for as long as corruption will continue to thrive and kill. (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

By PAZ




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