Tough talk against corruption needs concrete action to succeed



THE government’s anti-corruption efforts will find meaning and generate widespread support if those leading the fight would subject themselves to the same tough standards they impose on others.

It would seem that the Duterte administration needs to convince the United States about its seriousness and commitment in its anti-corruption efforts to be able to continue obtaining financial assistance through the Millennium Challenge Corp.

Reuters reported over the weekend that the Philippines, through presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, defended the Duterte administration’s campaign against corruption to be able to continue to have access to MCC funding, after the initial five-year grant of $434 million expired in May 2016.

MCC’s scorecard for 2018 showed that the Philippines fell short of the “control of corruption” targets. The MCC cited human rights concerns for not renewing the financial aid package to Manila.

We have heard President Rodrigo Duterte curse the US and former President Barack Obama for critical remarks from Washington about issues concerning human rights and corruption. He even threatened to cut economic and military ties with the superpower.

However, recent moves indicate that the Duterte administration has gradually been trying to mend fences with the US. Military officials have acknowledged the significant contribution of the American military in ending last month the fighting in Marawi City with Islamic State-allied terrorists after five months.

The defense of Roque and Dominguez, as reported by Reuters, is another indication that the administration has realized the importance of US financial aid to the Philippines, despite President Duterte’s remark that America’s money could be replaced. Duterte was eyeing China and Russia as potential funding sources for development projects in the Philippines.

Roque said MCC’s failing rating on the Philippines’ anti-corruption efforts “may not completely reflect the reform initiatives of the Duterte administration in the area of fighting corruption and good governance.”

He said Duterte has fired government officials over corruption allegations, ordered agencies to open their records to the public, cut red tape and set up a hotline for people to report graft.

“We are hopeful that the MCC board would take into account these initiatives and see our commitment to further reforms in the areas covered by the compact assistance,” he was quoted to have said.

To be convincing, Roque should make a list of government officials fired for corruption and indicate the status of the cases filed against them, if any, as well as the cases reported and acted on through the anti-graft hotline, instead of issuing motherhood statements with no concrete proof.

Dominguez, for his part, said Duterte has been “relentless in the campaign against corruption in government,” noting efforts to cleanse the Bureau of Corrections and the setting up last month an anti-graft panel to investigate cases against presidential appointees.

Dominguez should perhaps keep an update on presidential appointees under investigation and the actions taken against them.

Duterte won largely on the promise of change, anchored on ending corruption at all levels in the bureaucracy, fighting criminality and illegal drugs “within six months.” But before his sixth month in office was up, he admitted that it would take him a year to do that. Still later, he said he had seen the gravity of the problems and that six years in the presidency would not be enough to accomplish what he had promised to do.

The President himself is being investigated by the Ombudsman, an independent anti-graft body, over allegations of non-disclosure of wealth when he was mayor of Davao City, based on a complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th.

However, instead of welcoming the probe, Duterte said he was not submitting himself to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. He even dared Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to resign while his allies threatened to abolish the constitutionally created anti-graft body and have Morales impeached by his allies dominating the numbers in Congress.

Duterte said the allegations levelled against him were fabricated and evidence presented illegally obtained.

For Duterte’s promise of change to find meaning and support from a larger population other than his rabid fanatics and allies in government, he should heed Mahatma Gandhi’s advice: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Or, perhaps, he should take a cue from Chinese President Xi Jinping who has been succeeding in winning popular support, and power, because of his determined anti-corruption campaign.

When he started the campaign upon assuming office in 2013, Xi banned Chinese officials from attending luxurious banquets in private clubs.

In a brief conversation during my recent trip to China, Zhang Yi, deputy section chief of the coordination bureau of the communist party’s Central Committee-International Department, said Xi’s crackdown on corruption in the military resulted in the dismissal of more than 200 ranking officials, including generals occupying key positions. He said it showed the people their leader’s commitment to stamping out corruption.

Wang Qishan, until three weeks ago the most senior official in charge of the anti-corruption campaign, said 282,000 officials were punished for “discipline violations” in 2015. Of these, 82,000 faced severe punishment.

The result of last month’s reorganization of the Communist Party of China (CPC) during the 19th National Congress was a clear indication that Xi Jinping has been succeeding in restoring the reputation of the party through his policies against corruption and openness.

Indeed, fighting corruption and showing meaningful results is a sure way of generating genuine popular support. This is the kind of change we ought to see. We need more leaders who subject themselves to the same standards they impose on others, and those who match their tough words with concrete deeds.

Leadership by good example, as we have always believed, is what we want to see.


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