Who will win the next elections? If critics lambasting the two leading political juggernauts are right, whoever wins in 2016, the big loser would be the Filipino people.
Consider this: only two groups have the resources, machinery, and high-name-recall candidates to win big nationwide:
President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s ruling Liberal Party and LP allies, and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance under UNA Chairman and consistent voters survey frontrunner Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The LP and its die-hard allies have used both Senate and media to warn Filipinos about the Binay family’s widely reported excesses as Makati’s rulers since Corazon Aquino named the rights lawyer as mayor of the country’s financial center a day after she took over as president in the February 1986 People Power Revolution.
On the other hand, it is getting harder and harder to hide or deny the sleaze spawned by Aquino’s coddling of his “kaklase, kakampi, kabarilan” or KKK cronies. To name just recent anomalies reprising many others in years past:
• Metro Rail Transit mishaps continue with Aquino never probing the MRT maintenance contract behind the mess, which recalls the attempted $30-million shakedown of Czech rail company Inekon.
• Customs Commissioner John Sevilla quits under pressure from the politically dominant clique which has ramped up smuggling five-fold to $19 billion a year, also uninvestigated by Aquino.
• The Commission on Audit reports mammoth waste of funds in the Departments of Agriculture (P15 billion) and Agrarian Reform (P12 billion), whose heads remain despite calls for their removal.
• COA cites the anomalous channeling of P670 million in Aquino-era pork barrel funds to dubious non-government organizations in Mindanao, bringing to mind NGOs not with accused grafter Janet Lim Napoles and spared from investigation.
• Justice Secretary Leila de Lima proves the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines right in decrying “selective prosecution” of pork barrel: she says filing new cases, expected to nail administration legislators, is no longer priority.
• While grilling the Binays, the Senate kid-gloves Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin over the P1.2-billion helicopter deal cancelled after The Manila Times expose.
All these are on top of the illegal P150-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the COA-reported misallocation of the P40-billion-a-year Conditional Cash Transfer for poor families, and the trebling of pork barrel under Aquino to P20 billion a year.
Whoever wins, the people lose
Thus, the voter’s choice for 2016 is down a much decried presidentiables survey leader and Aquino’s annointed, who would be pressured to protect those behind administration excesses (which aren’t over — watch public-private partnership projects worth half a trillion pesos to be awarded in Aquino’s final year).
What to do? Clearly, depending on the next administration to probe, punish and prevent corruption is iffy, if not foolish. We the people must take action against this enormity.
To this end, we reiterate our past proposal, now being discussed with governance advocates, is to establish a citizens organization similar to Namfrel, but assisting the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), instead of Comelec.
With just several hundred OMB investigators and prosecutors watching 1.3 million people in the public sector, and its P3 trillion-plus spending, the chance of corruption being caught is too minuscule to scare the corrupt.
We need many, many more graftbusters. Hence, a citizens anti-corruption watchdog group should be formed with 13,000 or so volunteers from the ranks of retired bureaucrats, retired or active auditors, lawyers, investigators, and other professionals, as well as civil society and youth.
That number would yield a ratio of one graftbuster for every 100 state personnel — better than Hong Kong’s feared anti-corruption commission. An initial group of 6,000 or so volunteers could be formed in Metro Manila, focusing on national agencies, Congress, courts in the metropolis, and the military and police headquarters.
The proposed entity, which can be called Citizens Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), would monitor major public sector revenue, regulatory and spending activities, and investigate anomalies, with corporate and international funding.
To ensure integrity, impartiality and broad public support, the CCGG should be led by a governing council of highly respected and non-partisan moral figures. It also needs support from religious, civic, professional, business, labor and other sectoral groups.
Citizens must take action against graft
The CCGG’s governing council shall draw up its objectives, operating framework, and funding arrangements. Among parameters to consider:
• The CCGG shall independently probe anomalies, with priority given to size, prominence and lack of prompt government action; and undertake lifestyle checks.
• The CCGG shall file charges and investigation reports with agencies that can act on them, including OMB, Office of the President, Civil Service Commission, Supreme Court, National Police Commission, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the agencies of public servants under investigation.
• The CCGG shall monitor and publicize actions taken on its findings or lack thereof, and file further motions and other measures to expedite cases.
• The CCGG shall report any lack of cooperation from state officials and agencies, and file needed administrative and legal cases to obtain information and sanction inaction.
• The CCGG shall protect and support whistleblowers, witnesses, volunteers, civil servants, and other personages facing threats or reprisals for assisting the coalition.
• The 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. Agencies and local governments blocking CCGG would contend with media exposure and cases in the OMB, the Civil Service Commission, and the courts. Investigative reports would be given wide publicity among CCGG member groups and media, to educate the citizenry.
Probably most important, civil servants privy to irregularities would have a nationwide entity to act on their revelations and accord them protection. Such a threat of exposure from within the bureaucracy would further deter corrupt politicians and officials.
Many will scoff at CCGG and point out all manner of obstacles to its success. But mobilizing Filipinos against graft still has a better chance of beating it than depending on the next cabal of political bosses to clean up their mess.