OUR page 1 banner yesterday “5 more drug dealers dead” repelled some, cheered a lot. The story told of how policemen and special agents have killed 69 drug dealers since President Duterte won the presidency on May 9.
It’s really good news that drug dealers are being made to disappear from the face of this earth. It seems that all that the PNP officers and men needed was to hear tough talk against criminals from someone in the government, even only a city mayor President-elect, for them to go into action. The dark shadow on this good news is that human rights groups are raising the cry against abuses and vigilante killings—as if the policemen who had killed the drug dealers have committed extra-judicial executions. As far as reporters could tell, however, the drug dealers killed were wanted persons with long records.
All this makes not a few of us, Filipinos, wish corrupt government officials would also disappear unceremoniously.
These corrupt officials really do a lot of harm to our Republic and to the people themselves. The corrupt government employees, from the highest national level to the barangay, contribute hugely to the state of poverty of some 27 percent of our population and to the near poverty of another 25 percent or so. Government programs that, if properly made to run, and funds in billions of pesos allocated to relieve the hunger and helplessness of our destitute, if properly spent as the law requires, would have begun to ease the lives of our poor and given them the possibility of a new start and a way out of their dead-ends. But the funds for these anti-poverty and rehabilitation programs are always diminished if not totally stolen by corrupt officials.
Unfortunately, while drug dealers and street criminals are relatively easy to pinpoint, arrest and charge, corrupt officials are almost impossible to expose and identify. Often, the only witnesses to corruption are the members of the public who are the other half of corrupt transactions. This makes the words of DOTC Secretary Art Tugade relevant, when he said some days ago to a businessman: “You expect me not to be corrupt. But can I expect you not to try to corrupt me?” His words were another way of saying that every act of government corruption always has two actors. The government official and the member of the public willing to pay for the official’s service of bending the rule or looking the other way.
President Duterte has promised to fight government corruption the way the police are fighting drug dealers. We, the public, must help the Duterte administration make that promise come true. The simplest way is by keeping our eyes open and blowing the whistle on corrupt officials who may be our friends and neighbors, and blowing the whistle also on people we know who are corrupting public officials and government employees.
That is how Lee Kuan Yew and his people made Singapore a world model in combating corruption.