CHANGE is not coming because it has always been there.
That was Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales speaking at a public forum marking the International Anti-Corruption Day a week ago.
As it has been said, change is the only thing that is constant, she pointed out.
President Rodrigo Duterte came to power because of his promise of change. In his first five and a half months in office, we have seen changes in policies, new faces, and a drastic change in the style of governing.
The Philippines has figured in international news more frequently now than under the last few administrations because of our President who curses and curses a lot, because of the killings of suspected drug users and peddlers, because of his unconventional leadership style.
Six months may be too short to measure the current administration’s capability and capacity to bring about change, but then it was Duterte himself who, during the campaign, set the six-month period to accomplish his target of stopping the illegal drugs trade, corruption in the bureaucracy, and criminality.
Barely two months after he assumed office, he said he had realized that the problem of illegal drugs was overwhelming with too many people in authority who are involved as protector, financier and supplier.
The other day he said the drug problem has become so virulent because administrations before him did nothing to curb it. But with more than 6,000 people reported killed as of the first week of December, law enforcement authorities have yet to come out with data showing that the killings have helped solve the drug problem.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has reported hundreds of thousands of drug addicts and peddlers who have surrendered, but the President’s aggregate figure of drug users has increased from three million in the first few months to four million now.
The drug problem became as big as it is now because of corruption. Drug traders corrupt police officers and local government executives for protection. So the President should be more passionate in going after the corrupt officials and those on top of the structure of drug trading, rather than—as he has been doing–against the poor who were forced into drugs because of poverty.
In the administration’s fight against illegal drugs, corruption and criminality, the shoot-to-kill policy is obviously not enough to scare the so-called big fish principally because of the selective application of laws in favor of those who have money and influence.
How many of the 6,095 people killed in Duterte’s war on drugs were drug lords or protectors from the police and military? So far, the most prominent person we know is Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera town in Leyte who was killed inside a jail cell by members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) who were serving a search warrant at 4 a.m. on a Saturday (November 5, 2016).
Of the 6,095 persons killed as of December 14, only 2,102 were suspected drug personalities killed in legitimate police operations, while almost double the number at 3,993 were victims of extra-judicial or vigilante-style killings.
Don’t you think that corruption is behind those EJKs?
Illegal drugs, organized crime, and corruption are intertwined problems that erode the rule of law and threaten democracy.
The administration’s war on drugs has been alienating people who believe in democracy and the rule of law. Well, except those who believe in Duterte regardless of his inconsistencies, tactlessness and abrasiveness.
Much is lacking in the war on drugs in the areas of leadership and proper application of rules to exact accountability and transparency.
As the Ombudsman said at the anti-corruption forum organized by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on December 9, accountability and transparency are key elements in the effort to prevent corruption and promote high standards of ethics and efficiency in the government.
Another key element is the rule of law.
“The Philippines may no longer be a young democracy. The justice system is not perfect and it might never reach perfection. But the rule of law will always be the bedrock of civilized society,” Morales said.
“The moment we disregard it is the moment we disregard human spirit and dignity. Consequently, anarchy and tyranny follows,” she stressed.
Most, if not all, of the country’s past presidents may not be as disturbing as the current one, and that is perhaps the reason for the apparent indifference among many Filipinos to engage in government.
The country is wanting in good leaders who can make a real difference in our daily lives. Again, I quote the Ombudsman on the kind of leaders we need in this challenging time:
“We need leaders who put a premium on the rule of law more than anything else. We need leaders who uphold the rule of law regardless of the times. We need leaders who strengthen public institutions. We need leaders who serve as a moral compass and a beacon of righteous public service. We need leaders who provide a sanctum of inspiration and a motivation to decide and do what is right even when nobody is watching. We need leaders who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice to preserve human dignity and basic rights.”
But we also have to do our part in the equation. As the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Let us start changing our ways. Let change begin from us, from the simple ways of following traffic rules to how we transact with government offices.
We should not expect change if we are not willing to change the bad things we got used to doing.
Let us be the change we want to be for the good of our nation. Let rule of law and participatory governance be the cornerstone of Philippine democracy. This is the challenge to all Filipinos.