Political Corruption, Business and Reform (Part I)
By Christian Lee R. Ramirez
University of Mindanao
I spoiled myself earlier this week to reading materials so as to help realizing this paper, and when I read a tale about the issue, I could not stop convincing myself from putting this tale here: at the height of a political corruption trial, the prosecuting attorney attacked a witness: “Isn’t it true,” he bellowed, “that you accepted one million pesos to compromise this case?” The witness stared out the window, as though he hadn’t heard the question. “Isn’t it true that you accepted one million pesos to compromise this case?” the lawyer repeated. The witness still did not respond. Finally, the judge leaned over and said, “Sir, please answer the question.” “Oh,” the startled witness said, “I thought he was talking to you.”
This paper talks about political corruption. The news had it. Magazines, radios, TVs – they both expose the upheaval brought about by politicians who are said to be corrupt. Former President Joseph Estrada was imprisoned of plunder. The illustration presented above also portrays the ubiquity of corruption. And one unsurprising case is when a political candidate offers a ‘pahalipay’ or ‘padulas’ or sweetener during Election Day in order for the voters to pen in their ballot the name of that certain political candidate. These are cases of corruption. These issues are not new to our ears, I mean to every Filipino’s ears. We normally hear all these stuffs that happened in the Philippine political setting. Not to exaggerate, but the Philippines is really surrounded by lots of opportunistic minds whose main concern is to grab fame and fortune, not the kind of opportunistic human being whose pure intention is to grasp chances in life and share good things to humanity.
But who says corruption is bad? The term itself suggests that it is detrimental to any society. That it degenerates the meaning of our own identity. But let’s take a closer look. The moment we are paid by the political candidate in equivalence with our vote, we also get the smiles at our faces that at least, we, the poor, are making business out of it; weird though when we post on our respective residences, “votes for sale”. This means that corruption is one way in answering needs for practicality. It’s not even wrong to constantly think of things as opportunity. Thus it makes that at some point there is still good that happens out of corruption.
We are generally battling political corruption for over a decade or more, yet what happens? Is it totally defeated? Instead of organizing commissions on solving the problem, our country is still on the glory of its peak in mystifying political corruption. This might be the case for another decade or more to come because my stance regarding political corruption is that we have not yet carefully understood the so-called problem. I am writing this not to give full picture of political corruption as we see it but simply to examine why political corruption having seen as totally condemned is never eradicated at all. This paper will discuss why humanity tolerates corruption despite its largely negative implication. It will further argue about the beneficiality of corruption as it occurs in the society.
Political corruption takes into various forms. These include nepotism and favoritism; embezzlement; extortion or giving of protection money; and bribery. Nepotism and favoritism is quite simply the normal human inclination to favor friends, family and anybody close and trusted. This exemplifies the employer and the employee relationship where employment easily takes place when both agents are closely affiliated with each other. Embezzlement means the misappropriation of funds and it best exemplifies when say there is budget for road project but the budget has been cut-off and appropriated to another scheme by the person involved. Embezzlement is theft of public resources by public officials, and as such it is understood as another form of misappropriation of public funds. The state official steals from the public institution in which he is employed and from resources he is supposed to administer on behalf of the state and the public. And bribery is very popular. In fact, it is best enjoyed by many during election days where a certain ‘gift’ is given to the voters as a consolation for penning in the ballot the names who give them the higher amount.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
The Philippines has a history of political corruption, and practically all governments throughout the country’s history have struggled with the so-called problem.
As said by “The 2009 Index of Economic Freedom”, the Philippines ranks 104th country to be the freest among 170 countries. The low ranking of the Philippines is perceived to be primarily a result of the so-called enduring problem of corruption. As of 2008 based on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) our country is placed 141st among 180 countries. In a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being “highly clean” and 0 as “highly corrupt”, the Philippines “Confidence Rating” score ranged from 2.1-2.5.
Philippine anti-corruption laws do not provide clear definition of graft and corruption. However, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019) enumerates certain punishable corrupt practices of public officers while the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees (Republic Act 6713) lists the prohibited acts and transactions of government employees. A number of those include Tax evasion; Ghost projects and payrolls; Evasion of public bidding in public contracts; Sub-contracting; Nepotism and favoritism; Extortion or giving of protection money (tong, in Filipino); and Bribery (lagay, in Filipino).
Our courts of law do not generally prescribe clear-cut definitions of the terms ‘graft’ and ‘corruption’ since it may be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to contain all the elements of the different types of graft and corruption in one sweeping generalization (Obejas, 97). But our constitution lists various forms of political corruption for comprehension.
It thus makes sense to say then that the existing literatures and laws to wipe away political corruption are loose. Aside from the Filipino culture which justifies the act of political corruption, the system which prevents and punishes those who corrupt seems to be unrestricted. So it is not the fate of our country to be corrupt; it is our choice. With such case, political corruption will really exist and continue to procreate. And so we treat political corruption as a form of business. What do you call someone who sells votes or bribes someone to get the job done? Same with selling your pre-owned car, you call him a businessman.