A Way of Life
As the Office of the Ombudsman acknowledged rampant corruption in the country, it received flak for its performance. Church leaders, meanwhile, criticized the government for its dismal record on human rights and transparency. Some lawmakers tossed back the blame to the Church, saying the shepherds have failed in their spiritual guidance of their flock. Everyone shares part of the blame for the persistence of a problem that has been around since the colonial period. But this should not mean that the problem cannot be stopped. Procurement laws and government regulations can be overhauled to cut red tape, promote transparency and plug opportunities for corruption. Oversight functions at all levels of governance can be strengthened. The private sector can do its part by avoiding bribery to win lucrative contracts or facilitate transactions with the government. A sure way of perpetuating what has come to be described as the culture of corruption is the failure to punish violators of the anti-graft law — both those who offer bribes and the ones who accept or demand them. This is true particularly when the biggest looters of public coffers manage to evade punishment. This failure has been evident in the government’s pursuit of wealth illegally amassed by the Marcoses and their cronies. Under this administration, various sectors have pointed out that corruption is approaching levels not seen since the Marcos period. The failure to make the biggest suspects account for corruption during the Marcos era has emboldened others to continue overpricing government projects, pocketing public funds and collecting fat commissions. The administration likes to trot out statistics showing the rate of prosecution and conviction of the corrupt. But most of the cases in those statistics involve small fry. In this country, crooks who pocket P5 million rot in prison, while crooks who pocket anywhere from $2 million to a large chunk of $329 million get to take their money and run. This encourages impunity and guarantees that corruption will remain a way of life in this country.