PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte had said more than enough about it to stress his zero-tolerance policy for corruption, illegal drugs and criminality.
When he led the groundbreaking for the P4.8-billion Bicol International Airport terminal in Daraga, Albay, on December 8, Duterte vowed to complete the construction of the terminal in two to three years, “without corruption.”
Representative Joey Salceda, who served as governor of Albay under the previous administration, was quoted in news reports as saying that the project was delayed for more than a decade because of the snail-paced release of funds.
But under the Duterte administration, it cut through bureaucratic delays and was awarded after just four months. It took three years under the previous administration to bid out the project, he said.
The airport in Daraga will be the second in Albay province. The existing airport in Legaspi City has become much too crowded to accommodate more tourists, Salceda said.
If all the infrastructure projects badly needed to decongest Metro Manila and other urban centers would go through the same speedy process as the Bicol International Airport, there may be room for optimism that the horrible traffic congestion may still be eased.
Duterte has said on several occasions that he would stop corruption with the same vigor that he has devoted to his war on drugs and criminality.
Coming from a trip to Indonesia in September, he threatened to reassign corrupt government officials to areas in Mindanao like Basilan and Sulu that are marred by fighting between government forces and Islamist militants.
“When I say that corruption will stop, it will stop. Maniwala kayo (Believe me)…To all government (employees), ‘wag ninyo akong hiyain dito (do not embarrass me),” he had said.
“I am planning to put an extension office of the national government, I plan to put it in Basilan or Jolo. Be my guest, I will be happy to assign you there,” he added.
He said that poor Filipinos were mostly the victims of graft and corruption in government. “Huwag ninyong galawin ang maliit na tao, kasi sila ang nangangailangan ng gobyerno (Do not victimize the ordinary people, because they are in most need of the government),” he said. “Wala nang pahinga ang tao sa kanyang paghihirap (The people have not gotten a break from their hardships),” he added.
On one occasion, he even warned of drastic action against corrupt government employees and officials.
“Stop that. I will really skin you alive,” he said upon his arrival from a state visit to Vietnam. Duterte said he did not mind losing friends to maintain his integrity and, in fact, lost one or two since he became President.
He said he was considering a massive purge in government if it was the only way he cam fulfill his campaign promise of a clean government.
In August, Duterte said after administering the oath-taking of appointees: “I will be very, maybe, harsh – double the word – in the coming days because it seems that my appeal that this should be a clean government is not registering at all in the gray matter between the ears of some people in government.”
He had publicly aired his disgust over reports that corruption still persists in government agencies, singling out the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Duterte recognized that corruption in the country has become deep-seated and endemic and some crooked officials have refused to change their ways despite his stern warnings.
“I think there is a need, really, to purge. I don’t want to transgress the rules or ignore due process… But it’s hard to remove something that has been there. You need a new generation of workers to do the job,” he stressed.
However, the President still has to keep to his promise to make public a list of scalawags in government, including judges, policemen and some politicians.
Duterte has consistently spoken strongly against corruption. But some of his actions have been inconsistent with the strong words that came out of his mouth.
At an anti-corruption public forum last Friday, Makati Business Club Executive Director Peter Angelo Perfecto noted that a few “big fishes” were made accountable in the last few years on charges of massive corruption, but were lamentably set free through legal technicalities.
“In the last few years may mga napanagot, pero in the last few months may mga napawalang-sala or, by technicality, na-dismiss ang kaso. At mukhang nababaligtad pa ‘yung kwento,” Perfecto said at the forum organized by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).
Perfecto did not cite specific examples of those cases but the plunder cases involving Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo come to mind.
The Supreme Court released Enrile from hospital arrest on humanitarian grounds, citing his advanced age and ailment. After four years in hospital detention, the high court dismissed Arroyo’s plunder case for insufficiency of evidence.
Perfecto wondered what message the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was sending to young people.
Government policies should apply equally to both the powerful and powerless, the rich and poor, the influential and weak, the old and young.
Let deeds match words. When deeds don’t match big words, trust erodes and integrity is compromised.