By Alex P. Vidal
“Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.”—Karl Kraus
GRAFT charges are the most embarrassing court cases among public officials in the Philippines. They are 10 times more humiliating than a murder case.
Even if they would be found innocent, the accused were already damaged.
Many Filipino public officials charged with graft or Violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were never the same again even if some of them managed to wiggle out from the murky mess.
There’s no distinction between VIPs in government and ordinary public servants when reputations are shredded like ribbons by allegations of dishonesty and malversation of public funds.
The chagrin and anguish extend to their family members who assimilate in the mainstream or go to their schools, offices, and organizations every day.
It’s not always okay to have a relative in government facing cases in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“No case filed” is always better than “sue me so I can clear my name in the proper forum.”
The most “proper” and best “forum” is when our names are untarnished after a retirement from public offices. A “forum” ceases to be “proper” if it will only expose us to indignity and disgrace.
“Your father/mother or sister/brother or aunt/uncle has been accused of killing someone” is less painful than “Your father/mother or sister/brother or aunt/uncle has been accused of stealing the people’s money.”
Filipinos have no sympathies for people in government accused of stealing their taxes—technically or otherwise.
Filipinos can tolerate neurotic leaders who love to insult others and slander their adversaries, but not thieves who enrich themselves after occupying elective or appointive portfolios in civil service.
Filipinos can forgive leaders who are womanizers and man-nizers, but not plunderers.
A thief is a thief; and their wrongdoings can’t be camouflaged or rebranded just because they have family names or political clans to protect.
We aren’t concluding that all those facing graft charges are guilty. What we are saying is once a public official has been indicted for graft, his goose is cooked in as far as his political future and public reputation are concerned.
SAVING OUR PLANET. Let’s disinfect naturally. Not only do disinfectants contain harsh chemicals that are damaging to the environment, they smell strong, too. Let’s make our own natural disinfectant by infusing leaves of rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, sage, and thyme in water.
THE THREE THINGS WE MUST DO. According to The Nature Conservancy, there are three things we can do to save our planet.
—Produce More Food on Less Land. Problem: Today’s version of large-scale agriculture is the biggest source of land conversion, drives deforestation that worsens climate change, uses 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply and relies on fertilizer practices that pollute our waters. As the need to feed a billion more people increases, agricultural expansion could devastate habitats, release even more carbon into the atmosphere, and dry up rivers.
How to fix it: Produce food where it’s most likely to thrive, which will use less water and less land.
How we’re taking action right now: We’re analyzing satellite images and local yield potential to pinpoint where soy farming and cattle ranching can expand without destroying nature. This approach is especially vital in Brazil’s Cerrado region, where half of all natural habitat has already been converted to cropland and pasture. Cooperating with farmers on sustainable practices can help save what’s left of the Cerrado’s rich savanna.
—Eliminate Overfishing.Problem: Overfishing and poor fisheries management is not only devastating to the fish species being pushed to the brink of collapse. It endangers food webs and ocean ecosystems by disrupting the balance of all sea life. And it threatens billions of people who rely on seafood as an important source of livelihood and animal protein. Without serious changes, 84% of the world’s fish stocks will be in peril in our lifetime.
How to fix it: Refine our fishing methods to only take what the fish populations can tolerate now, so our oceans can be more abundant and healthier in the future.
How we’re taking action right now: We’re making it fast, easy and affordable for fishers to use data to manage their catches more sustainably. Like image recognition software, FishFace technology we’re pioneering in Indonesia uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify fish species and track their numbers so fishers can avoid catching too many or the wrong kind.
—Increase Clean Energy. Problem: Climate change is the single most serious threat facing our planet today. We must reduce carbon emissions to, or below, levels agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement to prevent catastrophic harm. And with global energy demand expected to increase 56 percent over the next couple decades, it will be impossible to meet those emissions targets if we stick primarily with traditional fossil fuels.
How to fix it: Shift 85 percent of the world’s energy supply to non-fossil fuel sources and invest in strategies like reforestation that capture carbon dioxide.
How we’re taking action right now: We’re championing regulations that allow former mining lands to be repurposed for solar and wind energy. Tens of thousands of acres of degraded mine sites in Nevada’s Great Basin are now available for renewable energy development. By targeting already-disturbed land, new turbines and solar panels won’t need to destroy more natural habitat.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)