TALK about a party pooper. The Veritas Truth Survey on corruption, released Thursday by the Catholic radio station, has cast an unflattering shadow on President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s last State of the Nation Address on Monday.
When the SONA trumpets his claimed accomplishments, including the Matuwid na Daan anti-corruption campaign, the nationwide poll gives a balancing perspective from Aquino’s avowed “bosses” themselves, the Filipino people. The survey highlights:
Nearly half of the 1,200 urban and rural respondents (46 percent) believe Aquino failed in his campaign promise to curb corruption. Two out of five (41 percent) were unsure, and only one in eight (13 percent) considered his purported war on sleaze a success.
Explained Radio Veritas: “Majority of those from Luzon (53 percent) and 48 percent from Mindanao said they do not agree that the President successfully curbed corruption, while 47 percent from the Visayas said they are unsure.”
The most corrupt state bodies, say about half the respondents, are the two chambers of Congress: 49 percent cited the Senate, and 48 percent the House of Representatives.
Seen as “moderately corrupt” were the Judiciary (cited by 48 percent), Cabinet secretaries (46 percent), the Office of the President (42 percent), the Office of the Vice-President (39 percent), and provincial governments (39 percent).
Leaders gone astray
Morally speaking, the survey’s most disturbing finding is the widespread perception among Filipinos that corruption tars top national officials to whom the nation looks up as leaders and, for millions, as exemplars and patrons despite their graft-ridden image.
Clearly, our republic’s rulers are not leading by example — but leading people astray with their abuses. In a scandalous spectacle to be repeated on national TV this Monday, bigwigs in glittering attire bask in public stature, wealth and power, despite the corruption that the citizenry see amid the pomp, privilege and prestige.
Such unseemly scenes of the corrupt accorded respect and adulation, undermine righteousness and ethics by portraying sleaze as normal, respectable, and beneficial to its perpetrators, some of whom even have the shameless gall to claim they are clean and upright crusaders against corruption.
Such unashamed venality recalls the publicly revered, yet hypocritical high priests, Pharisees, Saducees, and scribes of Israel in Jesus’s time. Those corrupt, imperious and unholy rulers lorded it over common folk, claiming to represent and rule by all that is godly, right and just, yet amassing illicit monies through the unholy commerce and graft at temples where God’s truth, justice and mercy were supposed to hold sway.
No wonder Jesus reserved His harshest words not for the conquering Romans, nor the tax collectors and adulterers disdained by the Jews, but Israel’s ruling elite, whose abuses were decried ages before by the Prophet Ezekiel:
“Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. … Thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.”
Applause for the crooks
Despite such admonitions from prophets and even our Lord, Israel’s power elite continued in their self-serving, rapacious ways, even putting our Lord to death. Sadly, our own leaders too are largely unrepentant in their venal schemes. And we as a people have to admit that we have largely tolerated and even elevated these crooks, wishing to curry favor, fearing reprisal, or just plain being polite.
So even if one out of every two Filipinos see corruption in high places, most still want selfies with top politicians, applaud their speeches extolling public service and good governance, and otherwise show utmost respect and approbation for those with lofty titles. Thus, despite the sleaze perpetrated under their watch, our leaders have no shame or hesitation in claiming to be honest and railing against graft, casting the first stone despite having far greater sins.
Hence, on Monday, President Aquino will get 126 or whatever points of applause, including many for Matuwid na Daan. This despite unprecedented anomalies under his watch which not only stole from the people, but also burdened them and endangered life and limb.
The five-fold rise in smuggling to a record $19 billion a year, based on International Monetary Fund trade data, not only robbed the nation of P200 billion, by Aquino’s own count. It also allowed a flood of deadly guns and drugs, as he himself admitted in his 2013 SONA. That snuffed out countless lives and doubled crime incidence since 2010, as corrected police statistics have shown.
A sleazy maintenance contract turned the Metro Rail Transit from a reliable, safe ride into an accident-prone, constantly delayed disservice to millions of daily commuters. Even soldiers and police risking lives for our peace and security, are put in harm’s way with a botched combat helicopter deal and a billion-peso overpriced police rifle bidding, which Aquino himself ordered investigated, then promptly forgot.
And when legislators clap and cheer through the SONA, many Filipinos cannot but recall how the man addressing them trebled pork barrel to over P20 billion a year and juggled P157 billion more in his Disbursement Acceleration Program, so Congress would oust officials he didn’t like and pass bills he wanted.
Days ago, President Aquino urged Filipinos to shun dishonest leaders But on Monday, many of us will applaud instead. That is the state of the nation’s morals. God help us.