, April 22, 2024

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What is It About the Water in Government?

  •   3 min reads
What is It About the Water in Government?
Image by Kawita Chitprathak from Pixabay
By Vincent R. Pozon

I have always been puzzled by the strength of the corrupting influence of government service.

I have seen Christians, by birth and label, take on government posts and disappoint. Leftists are caught with all ten fingers in the cookie jar.  I have always wondered: what is in government that can mutate brothers in the church and comrades in the movement, that can affect good people who have fought against what they are later accused of?

There is corruption everywhere, yes, but in other countries, the conniving still whisper. They are countries where the people have not been inured by too many instances of misplaced billions. 

Here it is unabashed. 

Here, corruption is so brazen, they don't fear discovery. They know shoddy infrastructure will be found out, asphalt thinned by greed will be washed away after the first rain. 

Here, we cannot expect legislators to pass a freedom of information law, simply because the bill will not have enough votes. For if you scratch the surface of corruption, you will see all colors of the political rainbow. 

When Suharto was president, his wife, Siti Hartinah Suharto, known as Madame Tien, "became the object of quiet criticism, with her detractors calling her “Madame Tien Percent,” a reference to what were said to be commissions she received on business deals," wrote Marilyn Berger in the New York Times.

In the Napoles pork barrel scheme, the legislators and the operators took for themselves, not a sliver, not a slice, not ten percent, but 100 percent. The whole kit and caboodle. Nothing needed to be set aside because the causes and projects were concocted. 

A friend confirmed with a sigh, "I worked in government. Accepting corruption is indeed part of the culture, a way of life. It was exhausting, fighting this culture where even the best and brightest are involved. I had to quit to preserve my health and keep my sanity."

"The pervasiveness of the corruption in the government where I served my whole professional life as its dutiful soldier is so appalling that even the most patient and uncomplaining of us will be moved to acts of revolt," so wrote the late, great Gen. Danny Lim, while behind bars. "Sobrang dami, lalim, lawak, talamak. Nakaka-intimidate", added Ed Lapiz, Doctor in Philosophy in Philippine Studies and pastor.

Corruption is like a dagger in the body that is the country, plunged to the hilt, then twisted viciously, and left embedded while we wait for the sloth that is our justice system.

While I do not want to work for government, I do wish I could test it – test my own resilience. I hear though that while I can choose not to succumb, I cannot beg, affect, infect, expect others to remain steadfast, and that I will be firmly asked to 'leave corrupt enough alone'.

Is it an irresistible force? Nearing the end of The Dark Knight, the Joker, surprised that he could not turn the Bat, said, “you truly are incorruptible, aren't you?” Ours is a culture that accepts corruption. I realize that the problem is not a Gordian Knot easily solved by a single stroke of a blade. It demands a multi-pronged attack, or a thousand strokes. Contributing slashes from the priest and from the teacher. But the bigger sword is in the hands of the man in judicial robes. So confirms the latest Transparency International report: “The global trend of weakening justice systems is reducing accountability for public officials, which allows corruption to thrive” (The Philippines “remains on the lower end of the spectrum” among Asia-Pacific countries in the latest Corruption Perception Index).

When cases of the accused in government take decades before they are resolved, measures like Danny Lim's revolution become not just a possibility but tempting.

⁣Lacking swift justice, we wait for more Danny Lims and whistleblowers; we dream of Batmen, and we need many. Enough to upend the entire, entrenched bureaucracy of corruption, clean the Augean stables that is our government.

To be you, Batman. How to be you po?

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