To cleanse the nation, create a Truth Commission

Ricardo Saludo

Ricardo Saludo

(First of two parts)
IN the struggle to rid the nation of corruption, we need a Truth Commission. Not the unconstitutional variety created by President Benigno Aquino 3rd with his very first Executive Order, issued the day he took office on June 30, 2010, but voided by the Supreme Court six months later for unfairly targeting the past administration.

No, the body needed would be akin to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established by South Africa in 1996, after the white racist regime ended apartheid two years earlier and gave way to a multi-racial government under Nelson Mandela. The TRC gathered voluminous testimonies on rights abuses and violence committed by contending forces in the nearly half-century conflict over racial segregation.

Under its legal mandate, the commission granted amnesty to those admitting unlawful acts. Besides encouraging people to tell the whole truth, the policy promoted the healing of wounds from decades of repression and rebellion. And most important for national security and harmony, the TRC reassured forces of the past apartheid government that they need not fear or fight the new dispensation just to protect themselves from reprisal.

Today, in addressing the gargantuan scourge of corruption, especially in the loftiest halls of power, the Philippines would do well to aim for the same goals of truthful, unabridged information; national reconciliation, security and stability; and most of all, the drastic reduction, if not eradication of top-level sleaze.

But hang on, aren’t those that the very same objectives of every corruption crackdown, including the latest investigation and prosecution of pork barrel schemers? Sadly, no.

Much as there are many well-meaning officials and investigators in every anti-graft probe and prosecution, too often the powers that be exert pressure and maneuver evidence to target opponents and spare allies.

Take the current purported exposes on the Priority Development Assistance Fund. Secretary Florencio Abad’s Department of Budget and Management gave the independent Commission on Audit only the PDAF documents for 2007-09, and just one-third of the fund releases for those pre-Aquino years. Thus, the COA report skipped the present administration, when pork barrel tripled from recent years, and focused on mostly opposition projects, sparing then Senator Aquino and his current allies.

Nor is the administration’s custody of alleged pork barrel operator Janet Lim-Napoles and the self-styled whistleblowers who used to work for her, any assurance of non-partisan inquiry by the so-called “Three Furies,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and COA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan—all handpicked by Aquino. Indeed, with their total dependence on his clout, Napoles and her former staff would be careful not to give testimony that may displease or worse, implicate him.

Nor would the current selective crackdown strengthen and clean up government. Those fearful of prosecution will have three choices—all unhelpful for the country: become Aquino allies to win protection or leniency, plot to bring him down, or flee the country. After all, they have seen how Aquino, time and again, protects shooting buddies, allied lawmakers, and lately, appointees in state corporations giving themselves fat bonuses.

So, join Aquino was exactly what hundreds of erstwhile allies of then President Gloria Arroyo did when his star began rising, lifted by his mother’s death. With those legislators and other politicians switching sides en masse, the present regime not only hid DBM papers for two-thirds of the 2007-09 PDAF. The P700-million fertilizer scam has also been all but forgotten; many congressmen implicated in it are now in the Aquino camp.

For opposition stalwarts and other politicos targeted by pork probes, departure or destabilization are the options. During his plunder trial, deposed President Joseph Estrada allegedly backed agitation and even uprisings against Arroyo. He also supported the presidential bid by the late superstar actor Fernando Poe Jr. in the hope of getting off the judicial hook.

This time, there will again be accused leaders eyeing escape or plotting putsch. Administration grafters, too (they’re not all clean, for sure). They will work doubly hard to keep their protectors in power, and that includes raising political funds by smuggling, jueteng and other anomalies still flourishing. And if it looks like their days in power would end by 2016, there will be escape plans put in place to put the schemers and their ill-gotten gains out of reach by the next regime.

In sum, the current partisan anti-graft crackdown looks set to only intensify the toxic, fractious and graft-ridden politics which has bedeviled this nation forever, with all its corruption, deception, destabilization, and violence. Another campaign against sleaze targeting opponents while sparing friends, will bring neither justice and good governance, nor stability and harmony.

Instead, there will be just the umpteenth round of opportunist politicians picking likely winners in 2016 or sooner, and joining the victorious side to protect themselves and preserve or expand their perks, privileges, proclivities, prestige and power. As the nation has seen even under an avowed anti-graft crusader like Aquino.

Hence, rather than the proven failure of partisan crackdowns and the corrupting power struggles they engender, the nation should explore the option of a Truth Commission led by national figures of unquestioned integrity and moral authority, backed by competent legal and investigative prowess, including retired experts and officials, granting amnesty for truthful and complete testimonies. It will report to the nation on this national enormity, and use the information to reform government, set up citizens monitoring, and launch a fresh start for the Philippines, as will be further explained in the final part of this article on Friday.


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  1. The truth commission is fine but the problem is how do we fill it up with members that have honesty and integrity. Members of the Supreme Court and the Justices in the department of justice are 80 to 90 percent corrupt. Imagine the Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona accumulating so much money in pesos and dollars that he can not even explain the sources of his wealth. Most of the Senators and Congressmen are also corrupt, Most people in the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Philippine National Police and other bureaus or department of the government are also corrupt.

    We need to build more prison to imprison these corrupt employees and politicians who have enriched themselves in office. Once these people are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt to have enriched themselves in office, all their properties should be confiscated by the government.

    If we cannot cleanse the government of corrupt people, then the Philippines has no more future. The Filipino electorate should elect honest people in all the government offices from the Barangay Captains, Town and City Mayors, Governors, Senators, Congressmen and the President.

  2. to cleanse the nation we need to build new prisons for white collar criminals like these crooks charged now, because they cannot be mixed with violent criminals plus the prisons in the country are becoming overcrowded and needs upgrades, then let these prisoners put to work in a government factory like they do in the US and China, then sell those products for profit yet cheaper price because these prisoners wil work for free and this the way for them to pay back, instead of sitting around being fed by taxpayers money.

  3. TRUTH COMMISSION?? -Is there any ligible to carry the task? Unless the system of this constutitution is ammended, well, might be?? If not, then, employ with crocks?? From crocks to good sheeperd is very, very imposible in the philippines. BETRAYAL was originated in the past from colonizer to colonizer, the very factor why we have a bunch of lawmakers who are branded and doing robbery in the country.

  4. I would hope if you got that & it worked as it did in south africa & current & ex politicians who have defrauded this country who by admitting it would be spared jail but what should happen is all their worldy goods should be taken off them as if they are left to benefit from what they did that is a form of corruption & no one should gain from stealing money like has been done in this country. If they are allowed to keep it they will be laughing at the foolishness of the people of this country.

  5. Now is the time to create the “Truth Commission”? Do you think the President will do/ agree to do that now? He will be on the spot not Gloria. Ha ha ha. I beat $ to Donut – the President will not create it again.

  6. yes….your kind of truth commission. just let these thieves admit; and everything’s back to normal again. reconciliation, your kind.