Humiliation, not a ‘right direction’

By Alex P. Vidal

“Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be got rid of. Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective.”—Pratibha Patil

A FORMER Supreme Court chief justice now serving as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s executive secretary shot himself in the mouth by claiming that the Philippines is “headed in the right direction” only because the country’s ranking in the 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of Transparency International has “improved” slightly from 116th in 2022 to 115th out of 180 nations with a score of 34.

Lucas Bersamin called it “a challenge to do better and a reason for hope that the country is headed in the right direction.”

The Philippines ranked 116th in the 2022 CPI with a CPI score of 33. The country got its highest CPI score of 38 in 2014, and its lowest CPI score of 33 in 2021 and 2022.

A rank down or a notch lower isn’t a positive indication. It means the Philippines is still perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in Asia. And this is appalling and embarrassing.

We can hope that the country’s standing will improve in the next years yes, but, definitely, with our abhorrent ranking, it’s not a “right direction.”

It’s a humiliation!

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As long as our system and the politicians running the affairs of government are corrupt and evil-intentioned, the Philippines can’t improve its CPI ranking and will even continue to slide down and deteriorate in the next few years.

Let’s start with the legislature. There’s a maximum of 250 members in the House of Representatives, and 207 of them are elected from single-member districts.

These representatives are ridiculed and many are hated for being “representa-THIEVES”; in other words, people think they eat a big chunk of the taxpayers’ money and they don’t inspire the people they represent. They are also perceived to be performing below par and are poorly prepared for quality legislation.

The remainder of the House seats are designated for sectoral party representatives elected at large. This a bloated ship with overfed and over-pampered passengers.

Currently there are 19 such representatives in the House and they don’t enjoy a favorable or positive image from the public.

Ditto for the 24 senators whose positions should have been abolished a long time ago.

The executive branch is equally a source of terrible heartaches and disappointments when it comes graft and corruption.

There are agencies under the Office of the President with dishonest and abusive secretaries and administrators who squander and pocket the people’s money through kickbacks, junkets, among other scandalous and immoral appropriations.

The judiciary is not immaculate, as well. There are prosecutors, judges, justices who enrich themselves secretly to the prejudice of litigants and taxpayers. Who can forget the “hoodlums in robes” exposed by the equally corrupt former President Erap Estrada?

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Some claim that “culture,” not economics or politics, is the primary determinant of corruption, according to Cambridge.

This claim takes two basic forms. First, cultures differ, and hence the meaning of “corruption” as the misuse of power for private gain differs across the world.

In particular, transactions that are labeled corrupt in highly developed economies and well-established democracies may be perfectly acceptable and even normatively required in other societies.

Second, one may acknowledge that corruption is damaging but believe that the only route to reform is through a thoroughgoing change in prevalent social norms, moving beyond narrow economic models of self-seeking individuals:

The first critique argues that not all societies aspire to the ideal of state/society relations implicit in many discussions, and that this disjunction needs to be respected by outsiders.

The second acknowledges that corruption undermines economic and political development but concentrates on efforts to change norms, especially through the transformation of elite attitudes.

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Time to welcome the Year of the Dragon! Lunar New Year begins on February 10, kicking off more than two weeks of celebrations in China, Vietnam, South Korea and other Asian countries—as well as in any place with a sizable population of Asian immigrants.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)

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