WE support the Catholic Church’s anti-corruption drive, but we hope that it will turn out to be more than just a T-shirt campaign. Even before the recent formal launching, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines or CBCP has been running that campaign known by the Filipino translation of the 7th Commandment, “Thou shall not steal.”
To his credit, President Aquino has been pushing a campaign that uses a similar slogan but without real success. Why has it been ineffective? First, his premise is simplistic – that poverty can be eradicated by the mere absence of corruption. As it turns out, fighting graft and poverty requires competence. Second, the Aquino government’s campaign targeted political rivals and spared its allies. As many have said, a meaningful reform movement cannot be selective. As a result, he has been accused of being a hypocrite. But as a consolation, President Aquino has succeeded in elevating the fight against corruption to the national consciousness. Although non-conscript media and broadcasters have made his “Tuwid na Daan (Straight path)” slogan the butt of jokes.
Rightly so, the Church wishes to extend the anti-corruption drive past 2016, when President Aquino’s term ends. We hope that the Church and Filipinos in general have learned lessons from the Aquino government’s shortcomings.
First, the campaign should spare no one, whether they be in government or in the private sector. There are ample reasons to justify that campaign’s urgency. The national discourse is dominated by reports of corruption of mind-blowing proportions. For instance, a new scam involving the DAP or Development Acceleration Program alleges that about P670 million went to dubious non-government organizations that were recommended by both allies and opponents of President Aquino. On a larger scale, news citing a report from the US-based Global Financial Integrity said that the Philippines had lost an average of P357 billion annually for the past five years to corruption and crime. Indeed, corruption not only diverts resources meant for public service and poverty alleviation, it also funds criminal activities.
Second, the war against stealing – and in the larger context, corruption – requires sophisticated strategies and ability to execute. In other words, there are no simple answers, at least none that would fit on a shirt.
The Church’s call for clean and honest elections is a good beginning and deserves general support. We need to elect honest and competent leaders who will be vigilant against graft and capable of executing programs that stimulate the economy. And related to that, the media must do a better job in providing information that people can use to make better electoral choices.
Ordinary citizens could also do their part, first by reflecting on our daily practices and challenging widely held assumptions. Are we as good as we think we are? Are we instead resigned to the stealing and other wrongdoings that happen around us? Are we against crimes committed in government but blind to our own trespasses on others?
The more we think about the Church’s campaign, the more we see it as a call to arms. We need a revolution of the non-violent kind. Even as the Church echoes the Pope’s call for mercy and compassion, we need to apply force against all things that are wrong. We need to be intolerant of stealing, and those who perpetrate it in government and private circles.
It remains to be seen whether Filipinos can wage an honest yet relentless moral revolution. There are reasons to be doubtful, but we choose to be hopeful. More than that, we choose to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others willing to try.