Wake Up, Philippines!

The hammer of corruption

POLITICAL CORRUPTION is not just harming business; it is damaging the nation. It seeks illegitimate personal gain from bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft and embezzlement. It is odious rent seeking where access to politics is organized with limited transparency and competition to promote and protect narrow interests.

Intentional wrongdoing

Consequently, it has sullied society’s integrity and corroded its institutions. Its intentional wrongdoing has derailed the country from performing or conducting itself as envisioned by the Constitution.

Because politics is our country’s daily diet, our social, economic and cultural tattered landscapes testify to corruption’s brutal impact on them.

Last year, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) issued a statement supporting the call of five senior bishops led by CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo to “combat corruption and rebuild our country economically, socially and politically.”

Out of sight, out of mind

The bishops’ clarion call got the people’s attention. But as soon as a new issue arose, it got out of sight and out of mind.

Before it did, MAP issued a public statement expressing its deep concern that the span and depth of corruption has badly shattered trust and confidence in the country because of the way the government has become. One proof lies in the comparative inflow of foreign direct investments and foreign aid to the Philippines vis-à-vis its Asian neighbors, which is a fraction of what the others get.

The world has been increasingly critical of the thriving culture of corruption in government with near-total impunity. The consequences of corruption are direly affecting the country’s competitiveness; business growth; and capacity to survive. It is worsening poverty; compromising public order and safety; mocking the rule of law; and destroying society’s moral fabric.

And there is no let-up.

Corruption indices from Transparency International and the World Bank, for instance, point to a palpable deterioration from where the Philippines was measured 10 years ago, now just a quarter percentile away from the bottom. Yet, despite the consequences, the government remains oblivious, apathetic or intractable, favoring self-good over the national interest.

Transformation

To stop the spreading malignancy and save itself from a living death, the obvious way out is for society to transform itself into a nation of no-nonsense upright citizens. But then, how can a society wracked with social cancer heal itself? Through radical treatment? By whom? Alternative options? In what ways?

Corporate governance practitioners in the private sector who ensure ethics, transparency and accountability in the workplace, are vital human resources that can be harnessed to help transform the country.

For example, MAP’s growing circle of Management Men of the Year could link up with Ramon Magsaysay, Galing Pook, TOYM, and alumni of other national and international awards to campaign for good governance in their respective fields.

Such an alliance could also reinforce the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) composed of organizations from the business sector, civil society and the Church. Together they could further strengthen society’s ethical backbone and promote greater public participation in governance in a vigorous bid to stem the creeping tide of corruption, apathy and helplessness.

The absence of effort by society, or vital sectors thereof, to effect self-change invites intervention. Weak societies make iron-fisted rule possible. In cultures where the leadership takes its responsibilities seriously they excise swiftly those deemed to have betrayed the public’s trust like a malignant tumor, more so in bad times when corruption is not only a crime but also an act of treason.

No borders

Corruption respects no borders. Rich and poor societies alike are afflicted, their corrosion differentiated only by the state of their national condition, that is, by the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders, institutions, systems, processes and peoples. But if we inhabit the Hall of Shame, for now, the West merits a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Its bacchanalian orgy of greed and fraud has led to global chaos, inflicting widespread misery and anguish throughout the world. It’s not the first time either that they mess up the planet, to include global warming. Because they enforce the rules that they craft on the weak and exempt themselves when it doesn’t suit them, hell has broken loose time and again. Be it political or financial, the consequences are always deadly.

Black hole

MAP, either alone or as part of a growing coalition, should continually militate against practices that undermine good governance, business excellence and competitiveness. What is good for the nation is beneficial for business. To look askance would be to abet the crime, increase risk and inevitably sink deeper in a black hole that the country can ill-afford.

For the Philippines to have a better quality of life, the line must be drawn on the sand now.

By Rafael M. Alunan III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:07:00 02/01/2009

(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is a member of the MAP board of governors and president of Lopez Group Foundation Inc.. Feedback at map@globelines.com.ph. For previous articles, please visit map.org.ph.)

Shameful Culture

Posted in Graft and Corruption, Impunity/Indifference by Erineus on February 1, 2009

Generally, the term “culture of impunity and indifference” is used to describe a situation in which repeated human rights violations elicit very little public reaction or where the public outcry is totally ignored. The killing of journalists in the Philippines, with the authorities either unable or unwilling to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice in spite of widespread public outcry here and abroad, would be a case in point.

But the term can just as easily be applied to corruption, or, for that matter, to other sins of omission or commission which are publicized but evoke nothing more than a ho-hum from our authorities, and worse, are justified and defended by them. Two recent examples illustrate the existence of such a culture and serve to show just how large a problem the Filipino people are faced with.

The first is the case in which the House of Representatives, after two committee hearings, cleared three Filipino contractors who had been banned (debarred), along with four Chinese contractors, by the World Bank from bidding for any project which it finances. The House claimed it found no evidence of collusive practices in any of the materials supplied them by the World Bank. And the contractors claimed that they were denied due process. The image conveyed is one of a foreign giant (World Bank) picking on helpless and innocent local firms.

Let’s look at the other side of the picture, as posted on the World Bank website. It turns out that between 2003 and 2006, the World Bank team identified excessive pricing and other signs of possible collusion on the part of the firms during three successive rounds of project bidding.

What process was followed after that? It is called the Sanctions Process, and here’s how it flowed: The team reported its observations to the Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) of the World Bank. The latter then conducted its own investigation, found that there was evidence, and prepared a proposed Notice of Sanctions Proceeding which it submitted to the World Bank’s Evaluation and Suspension Office (OES). The INT, by the way, also sent its investigation report (this, in November 2007, or 14 months ago) to our Department of Finance and the Office of the Ombudsman.

The OES reviewed the evidence, determined that it was sufficient to support a finding that an alleged sanctionable practice occurred. It then issued a Notice of Sanctions Proceedings to the firms/individuals mentioned above (which they received in May 2008), temporarily suspending them pending the final outcome of the proceedings. The latter contested the allegations, and the case went up to the so-called Sanctions Board, which is composed of external legal experts and senior WB officials. It is this board that studied the submissions of all parties concerned; and, had the firms also asked for a hearing, it would have been granted.

In other words, due process was observed, the firms involved given every chance to explain or defend themselves. This is an administrative and not a criminal proceeding.

Look at the time line: 2003-2006, the World Bank team thinks some hanky-panky is going on; from 2005 to 2007, INT conducts an investigation. End of 2007, INT sends its investigation report to the Philippine Ombudsman, and submits it to the OES for evaluation. May 2008, OES sends notice of sanctions proceedings to the firms, giving them opportunity to respond and ask for a hearing. January 2009, Sanctions Board debars the firms.

From end of the INT investigation to the decision of the Sanctions Board, it took 14 months. Does that sound like a kangaroo court to you?

And yet our congressmen, after only two hearings, saw fit to clear the firms of any wrongdoing. My information is that Roger Mercado, chairman of the House of Representatives’ public works and highways committee, was himself a contractor (still is?) before he entered politics, and that six of the committee members are also contractors. (By the way, Mercado’s brother, the governor of Southern Leyte province, is also a contractor.) Culture of impunity? Indifference to public opinion? The World Bank, by the way, is sticking to its guns.

The second case has not gotten the glare of publicity as the World Bank case, but it serves to show that the culture of impunity and indifference permeates everywhere, even in the academe. The case involves Godofredo E. Gallega, president of the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP). A case of sexual harassment was filed against him with the Civil Service by one of his faculty (Prof. Mila Espinosa) sometime in December 2007. It was in the course of the filing of this case that Mila discovered that Gallega had secretly married a member of the faculty, Dr. Evangeline Dayap sometime in May 2006. Dayap was later appointed as a dean, and then later — upon the strong recommendation of Gallega — as vice president for academic affairs. The two did not disclose their relationship until early 2008, after Espinosa filed her case. The Faculty Association of the TUP (headed by Dr. Juliet Catane, an alumna of the University of the Philippines) filed a case of corruption and nepotism against the couple with the Ombudsman last August.

Here’s where the culture of impunity and indifference comes in: The Civil Service placed him under preventive suspension last week, but he ignored it, reporting for work until yesterday. Meanwhile, some members of the faculty, as well as deans and directors, are signing a petition asking for an extension of his term, which ends this October. This, even after they were apprised of his behavior. Shameful.

Author:  Solita Collas-Monsod
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
Date: February 01, 2009