By: Lucell Larawan
“THE ENEMY is us,” President Rodrigo Duterte said during his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), describing the real war we are fighting. No euphemism to make us look friendlier to ourselves. No need to mince words. He specifically refers to those pestering among us – the slackers, brilliant-in-their-parochial-eyes, greedy extortionists and thieves. This could be a pinch to their ears as they hold their vicious feasts.
I do not mind about what the three percent of the population say about president Duterte. They are always at loggerheads with a president who cannot bestow them the status quo. But for supporters of change, they want a leader to whack a whip.
What is the meaning of Duterte’s statement? If we observe the real score in the offices issuing business permits, we can see how bureaucrats still love to make things difficult for entrepreneurs. In their pursuit of formality, they always alienate their clients—an issue that makes bureaucracy a meaningless Jurassic invention. If these offices continue to slacken the processing of permits, ignoring warnings that their system has become dysfunctional, sometimes disapproving business permits out of vindictiveness towards non-allies, they become “enemies”. Meaning, those who become wet towels to burning ideas that improve markets and economies. Enemies of growth.
This does not just happen in one government office. Corruption has become so pervasive that it is almost impossible to deter a public officer from deliberately delaying transactions or opening his or her desk drawer, giving a signal that money be put in. In lieu of a diplomatic approach for such erring government official, a leader needs to bite. Duterte should not soften his stance if it seems he is seriously working while the rest are either napping or milking through their offices. So the message is clear: your milk will make you vomit.
Corruption is truly an epidemic in our country. At times, Duterte remarks with frustration, saying he sometimes think of quitting because of it. Just a few days since Duterte’s SONA, he makes a convincing message by closing all forms of gambling run by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). He declares their activities illegal. His rationale: the agency has become so depraved. What can we say? If the PCSO activities continue, they may make the fight for dishonest gain a Zarzuela.
The president always has the prerogative to bypass directors of agencies like the Bureau of Customs, BIR, LTO and COA if he finds some of their runners remiss. Duterte always listens to feedback from his 8888 hotline. Using grassroots information, he can fire employees from these offices—and this happened to the 64 customs employees who now cannot work with the same office. After talking to these employees to give them the right of due process administratively, Duterte gave them a floating status. Such a move could be drastic for some, but needed.
As a public example, Duterte’s whip for these customs officials should make the extortionists cringe. He also fired several high-ranking officials, remember. And let us take a look at the local government units that did not care to solve the drug menace in their locales: the governors and mayors lost their police power—a thing that is remotely possible before.
Looking at the supportive climate for whistle-blowers, anyone should report anomalies among public officials without fear of retribution through the hotline 8888. The feedback system gives the power to ordinary Filipinos. No longer can anyone look down on the lowly because if they report misdeeds, it ends the arrogant and dirty man’s peep-o-day. This is the ordinary man and woman’s leverage.
Let us use it because it effectively confronts corruption.