Wake Up, Philippines!

Zero Tolerance

Posted in Governance, Government, Graft and Corruption, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 17, 2009

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The right noises are being made. Now if only there could be leadership by example. The administration that has been hounded by the worst corruption scandals since the Marcos regime has just launched a moral renewal program, advocating “zero tolerance” for corruption.

In Administrative Order 255 dated Jan. 30, President Arroyo ordered all Cabinet officials and agency heads to implement the moral renewal program with the participation of religious and civic groups. Moral renewal, the order explained, “refers to values formation and ethical behavior for government officers and employees.” The President also referred to Filipino values embodied in the Constitution that must be strengthened, among them respect for the law, justice, truth, freedom, equality, peace and faith in God.

Against the backdrop of events in the past eight years, anyone reading the administrative order will wince. The Cabinet members and agency heads with the longest staying power in this administration are those who have been implicated in corruption scandals, those who signed anomalous deals or who know how to invoke executive privilege to suppress information about official wrongdoing.

The administrative order might have some use in slapping sanctions on the small fry who are foolish enough to think that, like the big fish, they can get away with graft. The government needs to trot out statistics in its efforts to fight corruption, and who cares if only the anchovy gets caught while the whale gets away?

AO 255 can have some use in the bottom rungs of the bureaucracy where fixers and penny-ante extortionists operate. This administrative order will be added to the list of measures undertaken by the government to address corruption. Who knows, it might help persuade Washington that Manila is sincere in its efforts to fight corruption and the Philippines therefore qualifies for bigger aid from the Millennium Challenge Corp.

The Department of Finance received the World Bank report on bidding anomalies in a WB-funded road project. What was the government’s response? It sat on the report for a year. Where is the zero tolerance for corruption? Considering the fate of people like Rodolfo Lozada Jr., this administration has zero tolerance only for those who blow the whistle on corrupt acts.

Philippine Star
Updated February 17, 2009 12:00 AM