Corruption is evil but not the nation’s main curse


Your instincts tell you not to comment on the debate between Mr. Binay and Mr. Trillanes on which—between corruption and massive inequality—is the primary source of evil in the country. Except for those who crunch figures (who make up an insignificant slice of Filipinos), the vote-getter on the greatest evil is official corruption.

Official corruption is evil. It should be stamped out with extreme prejudice. And the perpetrators should all go to jail, in reclusion perpetua. No one will argue against the crippling impact of corruption on our country’s still-fragile democracy.

But to say that it is the country’s major curse is wrong, woefully wrong and off the mark.

Let us assume, for academic purposes, that all of these were true:

• The P10 billion that went to the Napoles NGOs lined the pockets of senators, congressmen, governors and mayors—and the Napoles family (plus their agents) exclusively.

• That some P5 billion more went to the non-Napoles phony NGOs and that the total vanished into pockets of corrupt politicians and the ringleaders of the non-Napoles NGOs.

• Let us assume that in a ten-year corruption binge that involved pork barrel funds, more than P15 billion, which was supposed to be spent for public good, lined the pockets of executive officials, senators, congressmen and LGU leaders. And that greed was of a level that was without precedent in a corrupted bureaucracy.

• Let us add another P5 billion more in squandered funds during that ten-year binge for a total of P20 billion in lost money.

The next step, after determining that P20 billion was lost to official corruption in a ten-year binge, is to compare it to two figures—the yearly national budget and the yearly GDP. How big is P20 billion when ranged against, say, a P2-plus trillion national budget and a larger GDP?

Again, we state that corruption is evil. But we also have to admit that with a little accounting trick, the P20 billion, which is less than 1 percent of the yearly national budget, and just a blip in the yearly GDP, can be hidden as transaction or operational cost and can disappear in the books.

Now, let us look at another set of figures.

The Walton family in the US owns wealth that is more than the total of what 42 percent of poor Americans own added together. Researchers on inequality in the US have been able to put figures on the great divide with real accuracy. So it is not far-fetched that the two wealthiest families in the country own more than what 50 million Filipinos in the bottom of the economic strata own. And we can say that that is a great understatement of the great divide in the country.

Legally, no one can be hauled to the courts and sent to jail over this great human tragedy. That Social Darwinism is perfectly acceptable—and considered a fact of life —in most capitalist countries makes that great divide a crime of zero accountability. Even then, it is hard to overlook the draconian human costs of the divide. Such as:

• At least ten million children of school age being wasted by malnutrition

• At least 11 million families self-rate themselves as poor: skipping meals, surviving without running water, toilets and electricity

• Two or three regions with poverty rates of over 50 percent (a sanitized stat) and with literacy rates that would make Uganda a paragon of educational excellence

• Seven of the three causes of death are all poverty-related

• The school drop-out rate is one of the highest in the region

• The marginal rural farms (that are tilled by 30 percent of the entire workforce ) are a Slough of Despond

• More than 2 million Filipinos are out of the country at any given time to work in back-breaking, horrible jobs such as domestic helpers in the Middle East and the richer countries of the Asean and as caregivers in developed economies

• An active Revolutionary Left that lives off the exploited, the aggrieved, the starving and the restless. This singular fact alone makes the country a global outlier

• A thriving market for body organs as the poor are forced to sell body organs to survive

From all angles and reckoning, a P10 billion to P15 billion theft of public money every year cannot be the proximate cause of our country’s many ills. It is contributory but it is not, as the mainstream media narrative says, the worst of the country’s many evils. With the size of the national budget and the size of our economy, a P10 billion loss can just be written off without pushing the Republic into the financial cliff.

So why is the narrative that official corruption, which reportedly made Cardinal Tagle tear up, is pointed to—and getting sustenance—as the root of grinding poverty and wasted lives? Why is no one talking of a society of vast inequality, which denies the poor the opportunity to live lives with a little food on the table, decent plumbing, running water and electricity? And a 40 percent chance for a poor kid to finish college? Many reasons.

• By blaming politicians for being corrupt, the oligarchs and the plutocrats escape scrutiny

• Media are either lazy or compromised, or even members of the oligarchy-created power structure

• The main media outfits are owned by the superrich

• It will require research and hard work to do a Pikkety or a Saez and our public intellectuals are either very lazy or are compromised

• It is quite tough to inject science and empirics and accurately pinpoint what is the real source of the country’s many ills

• As a society, Filipinos would rather stick to conventional thinking than go into a critical examination to find out the truth

Aha. The president, in 2012, said “Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap” and used this mythology as a governing philosophy.


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  1. Is this supposed to be an analysis? Of what? What is the conclusion? That inequality is a greater ill than corruption? Why do we even need to compare? And please, if we are “analyzing”, can we use more accurate figures? The estimated 20B wasted on corruption, a so-called “blip” in the national budget, is grossly underestimated. Who said that only pork barrel funds are used in corruption? What about local government budgets ( hello makati parking building!), kickbacks at every level, preferred vendors which undergo rigged biddings, pay outs during election time, etc, etc? As for the “draconian human costs of the divide,” where did this list come from? Who cites hese figures?? Could these so-called effects also be caused by massive corruption because government services are so maligned that they no longer benefit society? Oligarchs and plutocrats excape scrutiny because they pay politicians and media to do so – isn’t this yet another form of – gasp – corruption?!

    Sir, please read the whole column. It also condemns corruption and other ills. And Ric Saludo is consistently and ethically against corruption.
    But the concern of the writer in THIS column is for readers, like you to realize, that all our hopes to elect a better and more anti=corruption govrnment will not happen in 2016 because of the Smartmatic-PCOS machines!!! These now control our election results from the precincts, sir. And the current Aquino regime and the LIberal Party caolition will be able to manipulate the PCOS machines to make their candidates for president and vp, senator, congressman, governor, mayor, etc. forever if the illegal Smartmatic contracts are not rescinded.
    Sir, please be more JUST and PATRIOTIC and WELL-informed. Join our call to OCCUPY COMELEC!

  2. Jim Bernardez on

    Can we really avoid or reduce corruption? Make your guess.
    How do we expect corruption to be less if we ask politicians to be the ninong of our children in weddings or baptisms. Do we even think that politicians somehow have to find the money to spend for being ninongs/ninangs? A small town mayor may have to sponsor hundreds of baptisms a week and how much would it cost? Tens of thousands a week,or hundreds of thousands a year may be a low figure. Now ask ourselves where would the politician gets the money. Most likely from an illegal source.
    Next time you get a ninong for your child, just select one of your siblings. Never ask a politician to be a ninong, you are just causing another person to become corrupt.

  3. Hector David on

    The politicians and the oligarchs have conspired to keep the people poor and to impoverish the middle class . The first to stay in porwer yby buying votes ,, the second because of unlimited greed in the name of capitalism and the free market economy.. Where is PCCI MBC Finex IBP in all of these … Enjoying the spoils?

  4. thank you. I’ve been coming to the same conclusion. It’s like the super rich are playing an end game. They are trying to accumulate all the wealth. I see billions of dollars coming into the Philippines yet, i don’t see the end of poverty like in China. IF you want the economy to grow you give more money to low income earners (like people on the minimum wage). It’s sad to see this country that has more potential than any other in SEA squandering it, so that the super rich don’t miss a few pesos… I found the image of houses with Jesus and Mary ties below electrified razor wire very upsetting. Jesus said more about easing the plight of the poor than he ever said about his mother…

  5. puebloerrante on

    i think you should also look into foreign interests using oligarch proxies to manipulate the government by controlling most of the nation’s public utilities.

    ie : check salim + mvp

    though i am currently unsure if i should think of them as a benevolent or malevolent entity. what are your thoughts on this mr. ronquillo?

  6. jesus nazario on

    The present governing policy is more of “Kung walang corrupt na di ko ka-KKK, walang mahirap.”

  7. For the Binays their conscience knows what they are doing and they cannot denied it to themselves. No matter what how much billionths of pesos they keep to their pocket. But their wrongdoings will haunt them forever

  8. I think the majority of the Filipinos are too busy ‘scrounging’ for food for their families that other matters affecting the country are no longer of any consequence to them. Despite all the glaring scandals and missteps of the administration, and ‘impoverising’ calamities, people seem not to care anymore. To make things worse (or worst), the members of the institutions who are supposed to be their guardians, are also busy enriching and aggrandizing themselves. The affluent, of course, are not bothered. But, God forbids, when all hell break loose, I hope not one of these people leave the country in order to face the music.

  9. All that have been enumerated by Mr. Ronquillo are tjust the EFFECTS of the root problem in our country . The real source of all evils in the our country is the : rotten , corrupt , inefficient , ineffective JUSTICE SYSTEM . Have we not observed that there is a pattern . Look what is happening right now about the corruptions of the BINAYS . All they have to do is to go to court and buy a TRO . THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE IS NOW AT A STAND STILL . Now , what will deter any corrupt government official to loot the public funds if he/she can easily run away from the hands of the law ??
    What is really very saddening is that it seems only very few Filipinos really knows , including Mr. Ronquillo , the real problem of our country . Let us remember that identifying the real problem is the first basic step in solving the problem .

  10. I would just like to correct the line: “• Seven of the three causes of death are all poverty-related.”
    I think you mean: “Three of the seven causes of death are all poverty-related.”

    Besides that small typographical error, the article was great.

  11. If I may add, whatever is lost, it is re-injected into the system in the form of consumption or private investment, unless it is taken out and hidden in banks abroad.

    No one disagrees, corruption must be minimized, but putting too much control also creates choke points in the administration of government projects resulting often in administrative paralysis. Kumbaga sa sasakyan, puro preno, hanggang 1 kph lang yung accelerator. Wonder why this government could not seem to get anything done with its PPP projects?

  12. One of the reasons you have corruption on the scale you have in the philippines is partly because of how you explained its only 1 % of the national budget. Then take it down to the individuals portion & he will look at it as a minute part of the national budget so its all ok. The more people that look at it like that the more will start wanting their share & as that happens so the % of the national bdget being stolen increases.
    Then you say about personal wealth like its an evil.
    Well lets simplify that as you did the pork scam.
    cain is given £10 & abel is given £10. Cain gambles drinks & womanises & after 1 year his £10 is all gone.
    Abel wisely invests his £10 & at the end of the year he has £20.
    Should now abel give cain some of his money as its unfair he has more than cain.
    That in essence is what you are saying.
    I loved what warren buffet ( well i think it was him ) said when told he had this ammount of money. He said I want to make even more money, so i can give away more money.
    Making money in itself isnt evil we all want to make more money.
    & to nancys answer above, nancy stop praying for the lord to help you & start doing something to stop these people stealing from this country & start holding the people who run this country accountable for their actions & deeds. That will help this country more than praying for them.

  13. Amnata Pundit on

    Let me guess, the main curse is the oligarchy/plutocracy that is expressed through the yellow regime that has ruled over the country since EDSA 86, right?

  14. Trillanes must prove his allegations of justice for sale and Binay bribery of the 2 CA justices or else he will suffer the consequences of his actions, political immaturity and military adventures. He has not yet proven anything against the Binay family.

    • Nancy, is that you? Or Abigail? Or maybe Junjun? Has not proven anything? Have you not been following the senate hearings? What proof are you waiting for? Binay’s selfie with billions of cash in the sports bag in the background?

  15. Well said. We need this kind of incisive analysis which should be brought to the level of the masses. Sad to say, our so called middle class and educated sectors are blind to the realities you mentioned are easily taken by mainstream media.

  16. Nancy Bulok Cake on

    Yes blame the Binays for its obvious corruption. It is an open secret and common knowledge of the Filipino that the Binay family amassed wealth. They might have shared a centavo( bribing – paying P300 each with free meals – the poor to join rallies in support of Gagong Binay) but the Binay family pocketed by the millions pesos. And if they say that Marcos was corrupt, the Binays are worse than him. Let us pray to save the Philippines from the Binays.

    • jesus nazario on

      It seems that you did not get the point of Mr. Ronquillo’s very incisive out-of-the-box- or beyond-the-nine-dots kind of thinkingt.