Last of Two Parts

Imagine a nationwide volunteer organization of current or retired lawyers, investigators, accountants, auditors, and other experts in probing dubious transactions. Plus present or past bureaucrats providing inside knowledge to the anti-graft movement.

Backing the entity in its mission of monitoring, investigating and filing charges against corruption are major religions and leading civil society, professional, labor, business, academe, and other sectoral organizations. And leading the group — let’s call it Citizens Coalition for Good Governance, or CCGG — would be a governing council of non-partisan public figures renowned for integrity.

With a planned core of 13,000 probers, plus millions of citizen-supporters across the archipelago, the CCGG would make sleaze a far riskier proposition for its perpetrators among the 1.3 million politicians, officials, and rank and file in the public sector.

With just several hundred investigators and prosecutors, the Office of the Ombudsman cannot but fail to catch and punish most grafters. But with the CCGG backing the OMB, just as Namfrel and PPCRV support the Commission on Elections, the ratio of probers to public servants in the country would jump to one for every 100, exceeding even that of Hong Kong’s feared Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Building a national integrity movement

The CCGG is one of the integrity initiatives respectfully proposed for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to spearhead. With the coalition in place, the nation would be more watchful and active against sleaze. And that would do much to stanch corruption, whoever gets elected.

The Coalition’s governing council shall draw up its objectives, operating framework, and funding arrangements. Among parameters to consider:

The CCGG shall independently probe anomalies, with priority given to size, prominence and lack of prompt government action; and undertake lifestyle checks.

The CCGG shall file charges and investigation reports with agencies that can act on them, including OMB, Office of the President, Civil Service Commission, Supreme Court, police and military authorities, and the agencies of people under investigation.

The CCGG shall monitor and publicize actions or inaction on its findings, and file further motions and other measures to expedite cases.

The CCGG shall report any lack of cooperation from state officials and agencies, and file needed administrative and legal cases to obtain information and sanction inaction.

The CCGG shall protect and support whistleblowers, witnesses, volunteers, civil servants, and other personages facing threats or reprisals for assisting the coalition.

The CCGG shall espouse legislative and administrative reforms toward good governance, transparency, and accountability.

The coalition can deter would-be grafters, who could be probed by the CCGG even if political allies and connections derail or delay official inquiries. Officials and entities stonewalling inquiries would be exposed in media and sued in the OMB, the Civil Service Commission, and the courts.

Probably most important, civil servants privy to irregularities would have a nationwide entity to act on their revelations and accord them protection. Such a threat of exposure from within the bureaucracy would further deter corrupt politicians and officials.

Upright civil servants need public support

Two other campaigns are proposed in this article for CBCP support and leadership. One is the Samahang Lingkod Bayani, creating and buttressing what CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas called “integrity circles.”

SLB is envisioned as a nationwide network of upright civil servants backed by social organizations, including major religions. The goal is to provide support and protection for honest bureaucrats, police and soldiers who face threats, isolation, discrimination, and other pressures for espousing integrity and opposing irregularity.

The Lingkod Bayani movement would also provide a secure confidential whistleblower system, especially for public servants wary of telling government officials about graft, for tipping off the corrupt and provoking reprisal.

Thirdly, SLB can harness businesses for material benefits, including freebies, discounts, scholarships, medical care, and other assistance for accredited members in good standing, along with their families. Plus: the movement can provide emergency aid and financial support for families of civil servants killed in the line of duty.

If established as envisioned, the Citizens Coalition for Good Governance and the Samahang Lingkod Bayani can fight corruption and advance integrity, while raising public awareness, commitment, and action for upright, exemplary government.

For a more detailed discussion of CCGG and SLB, google “How the People can win in 2016,” published on May 14, and “The Way to Real Change,” a two-part article that ran in this column on September 23 and 25, 2014.

Getting transparent candidates elected

The third initiative for CBCP to consider was discussed in this column on June 9: forming a nationwide integrity coalition to select and publicize upright candidates.

Rather than endorsing them outright, the coalition can set certain criteria or commitments for politicians to accept before being considered for the list of vetted candidates to be posted by the Church and other coalition partners nationwide.

The proposed conditions for listing are intended to promote transparency and democratic consultation: no-holds-barred interviews on their time in public office and their governance platform; waivers allowing disclosure to the coalition of assets and business interests of candidates and their immediate family; periodic dialogues on governance and policy matters with coalition representatives; and written pledges to release official information relating to their actions in office.

With the seal of transparency and the nationwide publicity given by the coalition, voters will know better which candidates are committed to openness and dialogue. Then the people would be more likely to “vote for the right reasons,” as CBCP President Archbishop Villegas urged recently, “because you trust a person to lead the community and to lead the country.”

In terms of priority, the CCGG is most crucial, followed by SLB and the transparency list.

For honest, orderly, and peaceful elections, the CBCP established the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. In this Year of the Poor, it is time for the Catholic Church to again mobilize the people for good governance. So help us God.

(The first part was published on Tuesday.)