How can ordinary Filipinos help President Rodrigo Duterte beat corruption for good?
In his message on Monday’s Black Nazarene procession, he extolled the Filipino’s untiring faith and unrelenting fight against injustice and corruption. Duterte now needs both to win against sleaze for good.
Last Thursday’s column presented the problem he and the nation face in fighting crooks: While a courageous leader can suppress crime and corruption cabals for several years, once he or she goes, lawbreakers resume their nefarious schemes — unless the citizenry is mobilized to sustain the war on graft.
Plus: The anti-corruption Office of the Ombudsman sorely lacks graftbusters. In 2010, the OMB had about 75 prosecutors and 150 field investigators. Even if one doubled them, the agency would have a mere 450 integrity sentinels watching 1.5 million people in the public sector, including the uniformed services.
With that ratio of one investigator or prosecutor for every 3,300 state personnel, most sleaze slips through, making corruption a high-reward, low-risk game many can’t resist.
To deploy one graftbuster for every 100 public servants — about the ratio for Hong Kong’s feared Independent Commission Against Corruption — the OMB would need 15,000 crook-catchers. But good luck getting lawmakers to budget money for that.
And that assumes the Ombudsman and his or her charges resist political pressures and inducements. In fact, there are instances of the OMB ignoring anomalies of a given administration, while fast-tracking cases against the regime’s adversaries.
Just think of those tanim-bala extortionists never held accountable, or the schemers who let more than 2,000 uninspected and untaxed cargo containers get lost in 2011. Even investigations ordered by the Supreme Court are delayed. When will perpetrators be charged for the Aquino-era P157-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program, the largest malversation in Philippine history, as the High Court instructed one and a half years ago?
We need a CCGG
So what’s the solution?
We need a Citizen Coalition for Good Governance (or some catchier name). CCGG would be a nationwide organization harnessing key sectors — religions, academe, business, labor, civil society — and recruiting at least 15,000 volunteers with governance, investigation, prosecution, auditing, media, and other backgrounds useful in spotting, investigating, publicizing, and filling charges against corruption.
CCGG can bring together respected national institutions opposing graft, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and other religious entities, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and other professional bodies, the Management Association of the Philippines and other business groups, the Trades Union Congress of the Philippines and other labor federations, Kilusan ng MgaBrodkaster ng Pilipinas, and other media, leading universities and colleges, and non-partisan civil society groups.
To ensure integrity, impartiality and wide public support, CCGG should have a governing council of highly respected, non-partisan moral figures like the country’s four Catholic Cardinals, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod, GawadKalinga head Antonio Meloto, and business leader Washington Sycip, among others.
CCGG’s governing council can formulate its objectives, operating framework, and funding arrangements. Among parameters to consider:
• CCGG shall independently probe anomalies, with priority given to size, prominence and lack of prompt government action; it also does undertake lifestyle checks.
• CCGG shall report lack of cooperation from state officials and agencies, and file appropriate administrative and judicial cases to obtain information and sanction inaction.
• CCGG shall publicly report findings and activities, file information and complaints with relevant state bodies, press for action on its filings, and publicize what’s done or not done.
• CCGG shall take steps to protect and support volunteers, upright civil servants, and other personages facing threats or reprisals for assisting the coalition.
• CCGG shall espouse legislative and administrative reforms toward good governance, transparency, and accountability.
Once created, the coalition can deter would-be grafters, who could be probed by CCGG even if political allies and connections derail or delay official inquiries.
Plus: State officials and entities reluctant or slow to investigate anomalies would face unfavorable comparison with the coalition’s swift action.
Agencies and local governments blocking CCGG would contend with media exposure and charges in the OMB, the Civil Service Commission, and the courts. Plus Malacañang for agencies covered by President Duterte’s freedom of information order.
Investigative reports would be given wide publicity among CCGG member groups and media, heightening and informing public vigilance against graft.
Protect upright civil servants
Probably most important, upright civil servants privy to irregularities would have a nationwide entity to act on their revelations and accord them protection. Such insider exposure would further deter corrupt politicians and officials. And with CCGG support, more and more righteous public servants would be emboldened to oppose and expose corruption.
Days before Christmas, President Duterte awarded exemplary public servants, the latest among hundreds cited by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) over the decades. More than accolades, however, what upright bureaucrats, police and soldiers need is protection from reprisal and bias.
Consider Bess. A seasoned agency executive, she regularly tops ratings among midlevel officials, and often gets tough assignments requiring high-level expertise. Yet she is repeatedly passed over for promotion to assistant secretary.
Reason: her uncompromising stance against corruption. Indeed, Bess is often removed as chairperson of bidding committees she is initially assigned to head.
The CSC and CCGG can mobilize and support honest public servants like Bess, showing them they’re not alone, and linking them to other paragons of integrity.
CCGG can also obtain scholarships, discount groceries and fares, medical assistance, and other privileges for upright civil servants and their families.
The CBCP, Catholic schools, the MAP, the IBP, the KBP, and other national entities have been railing against sleaze for decades. If they join together to form CCGG, they can deter, expose and penalize far more grafters than ever before.
Every three years, these organizations mobilize some 400,000 volunteers for clean, orderly, peaceful and credible elections. If they also field 15,000 anti-graft CCGG sleuths, and with President Duterte’s avowed war on sleaze this year, government crooks may get just as scared as street hoods now spooked by Digong.