Rampant bribery in the government is a sign that the daang matuwid (straight path) advocacy of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has failed, and only a “crackdown from the top” can solve the problem, a political analyst said on Wednesday.
While the practice of some government officials and workers to solicit bribes is not new, its continued prevalence shows that corruption under the Aquino administration continues, Casiple noted.
He was commenting on a survey commissioned by the Office of the Ombudsman showing that while there are fewer people offering bribes, there are more government officials and employees demanding such an inducement.
The survey said when Aquino took over the presidency in 2010, bribery was initiated by the giver (3 out of 4 families).
Three years later, it added, the trend shifted, with more government officials and employees demanding bribes (7 out of 10).
When asked what the government must do to fight bribery, Casiple replied: “Crackdown from the top.”
He said the tuwid na daan policy “failed in both perception and [actuality]because instead of discouraging those in the government from asking and taking bribes, they seem to have become more daring.”
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. admitted on Wednesday that the problem persists.
“Big or small, a bribe offered and received is illegal and a disservice to the citizens who pay the civil servants’ salaries through taxes deducted from their hard-earned income,” Coloma said.
To Casiple, mere admission of the problem is in itself a disservice, stressing that Aquino’s advocacy must reach down to the smallest unit of government.
“Matuwid na daan failed to impact on government bureaucracy. There is lack of political will from the top,” he said.
Dante Jimenez, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption chairman, said bribery has deeper roots than what the Ombudsman report has exposed.
Even big law firms tolerate corruption by including bribes to court officials and personnel in their “acceptance fees,” Jimenez added.
“In courts, big law firms and lawyers include in their acceptance fees bribes for court personnel,” he said.
Even official investigation reports issued by local police stations are “for sale,” Jimenez said. “You practically have to buy any document from any public personnel. That is, without being issued a receipt,” Jimenez added.
The Ombudsman study also showed that majority of those who were asked for bribes were families seeking justice or securing registry documents and licenses.
This only means “that people in government are not convinced that there is sincerity and political will behind the anti-corruption drive of the administration,” Casiple said.
He added that the government’s commitment to curb corruption should lead to fewer incidents of bribery but such reduction is not happening.
Casiple said the Aquino administration needs to go after corrupt government officials, and prosecute and put them in jail.
The jailing of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., according to the analyst, is not a display of political will but more of politics, because other government officials implicated in the pork barrel scam were not charged.
Acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said the Ombudsman study gave the government a “black eye.”
Several party-list congressmen also on Wednesday said bribery thrives in an environment where people can get away with it.
Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-Bap said it was irrelevant whether the initiative for the bribe comes from the government official or the ordinary citizen.
“It is still considered as bribery. The point there is that bribery exists and you cannot really distinguish where the bribery was initiated,” Bello told reporters.
“Those who received PDAF and DAP, which amount to billions, get away with it, so you cannot blame humble employees who submit to such practice. Because they will say, ‘My bosses receive billions anyway,’” he said.
PDAF is the Priority Development Assistance Fund while DAP is the Disbursement Acceleration Fund.
Gabriela’s Luzviminda Ilagan said bribery, whether small-time or big-time, flourishes in a too bureaucratic system where ordinary citizens feel nothing will happen if they do not give bribes.
“Look up the agencies where corruption is ripe. These agencies undertake certain procedures that take a long time, [making]business people impatient for results and [encouraging]bribery,” Ilagan added.
Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list said the bribery mindset is at its worst level.
State workers “will only act if there’s a bribe, even if it was their job in the first place to do it,” Zarate added.
Antonio Tinio of ACT-Teachers party-list cited an alleged attempt of officials from the Department of Transportation and Communications to extort money from Czech company Inekon Group, in exchange for the contract to supply trains to the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3.
“We are talking about the lower levels, the front lines, but it [bribery]also takes place in the highest levels,” Tinio said.
Former MRT 3 General Manager Al Vitangcol 3rd is facing investigation at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P3.76-billion MRT 3 capacity expansion project.
WITH REINA TOLENTINO