Last of two parts
Perhaps, we can reconsider our approach at solving the cancer of Philippine society which is graft and corruption by talking more about the beauty of integrity and honesty, rather constantly denouncing the evil that we experience. Perhaps we can widen circles of integrity rather than creating fiercer watchdogs against corruption.
— Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Socrates Villegas
The first part of this article, published on Tuesday (“The way to real change is not ‘Aquino, resign!’ “), proposed a nationwide anti-graft movement, tentatively called Citizens Coalition for Good Governance, as a “fiercer watchdog against corruption,” as Archbishop Socrates Villegas corruption,” as Archbishop Socrates Villegas put it in his opening address to the July meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
As envisioned, CCGG would field 130,000 auditors, investigators, project monitors, lawyers, reporters, and other volunteers to achieve a one-to-100 ratio of graftbusters to government officials and staff. That legion of warm bodies can stop the corruption juggernaut far better than another presidential change in which the grafters simply switch sides to skirt accountability and continue their rapacious ways.
In this concluding portion, we discuss how the proposed CCGG could respond to Archbishop Villegas’s call to “widen circles of integrity” in government, supported by key sectors of society. Spawning and supporting those pockets of good governance is another indispensable weapon against official sleaze, alongside the citizens coalition.
With support from inside and outside the halls of bureaucracy, honest public servants could oppose and expose sleaze and abuse in the corridors of power. And we saw this during the 1986 People Power uprising that ended the two-decade Marcos regime.
Just as the National Movement for Free Elections, mobilizing half a million Namfrel poll watchers, helped bring down the dictatorship with its blackboard tally showing Corazon Aquino winning the 1986 snap polls, so did a handful of courageous Commission on Election computer operators who denounced electronic cheating and walked out of the nationally televised Comelec count.
That is what even a few upright civil servants can do: uncover, unmask and undo abuse, fraud and graft. But they cannot do it alone. Without the citizenry behind them, the good people in government are isolated, silenced and suppressed by corrupt elements who conspire to bulldoze obstacles to their schemes.
Even the fearless Comelec tabulators might not have dared to disclose poll fraud if they weren’t assured of protection by one of their number: the wife of Colonel Red Kapunan of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement which triggered the EDSA Revolution.
The upright face ridicule, oppression, threats
Sadly, countless other upright people in government are on their own. As recounted in my three-part article “What the nation needs to win against sleaze” (published May 9, 12 and 14), many of the good in government are marginalized like Bess:
“Year after year, the director has consistently topped ratings among midlevel executives in her agency, and often gets tough assignments requiring topnotch expertise. Yet she is repeatedly passed over for promotion to assistant secretary.
“Reason: her uncompromising stance against corruption, including pork barrel graft. Bess is also often removed as chairperson of public bidding committees she is initially assigned to head. The biggest tragedy, however, is that few outside her office know of her integrity, competence, and sacrifice. …
“There are countless Besses among the 1.3 million public servants in the bureaucracy and the uniformed services. Unsung but unbowed patriots serving a citizenry knowing nil about their integrity, industry, courage and sacrifice. And often snickering at their idealistic self-sacrifice.”
Hence, the article urged, “society and leading institutions must give ample attention, assistance and armor to the good in government. Not only will this encourage and safeguard the upright; it would also shame the corrupt and stop their schemes by buttressing honest civil servants who resist them.”
Protect and support our Lingkod Bayani
Mobilizing tens of thousands of Filipinos as well as leading institutions across the archipelago, the proposed Citizens Coalition for Good Governance would be well equipped to give attention, support, and protection to upright public servants.
Its media affiliates can expose underhanded moves by politicians and officials to sideline or squeeze bureaucrats getting in the way of corruption. Often, the threat of headlines would be enough to dissuade these venalities. If legislators, governors, mayors, and agency bosses threaten or file administrative cases to pressure those blocking their schemes, CCGG lawyers can provide counsel and representation.
Media, schools and associations under the CCGG umbrella can publicize the unsung heroism, sacrifice and dedication of exemplary public servants, starting with the hundreds of Dangal ng Bayan, Presidential Lingkod Bayan, and Civil Service Commission awardees given official recognition annually through the years, yet almost entirely unknown to the people they have served so selflessly in life and even death.
Then the patriotic martyrdom of Assistant Solicitor General Nestor Ballacillo, forest guard Elipidio Malinao, Zamboanga City teacher Lorna Ibban Pulalon, and other Lingkod Bayani, dead or alive, would not be forgotten. Instead, the nation can be inspired by the likes of Ballocillo’s lawyering against vested interests, Malinao’s patrols against illegal loggers, Pulalon’s defense of her pupils against a crazed bolo-wielding killer, as well as the equally admirable exploits of those still serving.
Along with recognition, CCGG must provide moral and material succor. First, form a support network of upright civil servants, who often feel they are all alone. They must be assured that when they stand up to abuse and graft, they would have the safety of numbers and the protection of the people they serve. That should include citizens witness protection or even foreign asylum.
Next, draw up a regularly updated and validated list of civil servants with sterling records of service and integrity, and provide them tangible privileges solicited from CCGG participating entities for them and their families, from scholarships and health care, to shopping and travel discounts, free groceries and bus rides, and other perks.
Most of all, for those killed in the line of duty, the coalition’s corporate and individual patrons should create an endowment to provide financial assistance to bereaved families, like the fund this writer established as his first official act as Civil Service chairman in 2008.
So will 130,000 of 95 million Filipinos and, say, 100 leading entities join a good goverance coalition? Frankly, if we can’t manage that, then we deserve PDAF, DAP, and every other acronymed anomaly that politicians and their cohorts cook up.
There’s no middle ground: If we don’t stand together against corruption, we fall under it.
(The first part proposing a nationwide anti-graft citizens coalition was published Tuesday Sept 23.)