A house divided

The former chief of staff of ex-president Gloria Arroyo, Rigoberto Tiglao writing in a piece entitled Whatever happened to…? scored the president administration for its poor follow-through on its promised anti-corruption campaign. The noted former journalist states in his regular Inquirer column that

We haven’t heard though of any revitalized anti-graft campaign in the “usual suspects”: the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Transportation and Communication, the Bureau of Customs. If Education Secretary Armin Luistro doesn’t comment soon on how he will deal with the oligopoly of loan sharks preying on teachers at his department, I’d be praying for his discernment. All eyes are on Carlos Garcia’s plunder case. But has the Armed Forces set up the mechanisms to prevent other Garcias?

There are so many things wrong with a former government official especially a former presidential chief of staff pontificating about corruption like that. For one, there is the argument that they did nothing or were not successful in curbing corruption among the “usual suspects” that are mentioned.

Second, all the allegations about corruption at the infrastructure related departments, the DPWH and DOTC, as well as the procurement arms of service delivery oriented ones like DepEd and the Armed Forces are supposed to be endemic. The fact that no major headway has been achieved yet in these fronts does not necessarily mean that no concrete efforts are taking place.

Thirdly, moral suasion appears to be having some effect as per Tiglao’s own admission albeit a temporary one in his estimation. Moral suasion if unaccompanied by a proper executive compensation scheme (executive salaries and bonuses at publicly owned and controlled corporations are still under review) and an enforcement mechanism to catch and prosecute erring officials will have a limited effect, but moral ascendancy was a threshold issue the previous administration failed to traverse.

There are disturbing signs in the enforcement system that Tiglao refers to such as the slashing of the budget of the Ombudsman, the fixation with the Truth Commission, and the neutering of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission. He states that

Prosecuting the alleged misdeeds of the past administration is not the be-all and end-all of the Office of the Ombudsman. It is investigating 2,000 cases of corruption all over the country. But obviously so mad at the agency’s head, the President has cut down its budget by P400 million this year.

Its performance was not stellar, but the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission was a means for whistle-blowers to report graft cases they knew about. But it has been effectively closed down, with its functions turned over to the executive secretary’s legal office, which is hardly staffed by stellar legal minds.

Ok, here he may have a point although my agreement will have to be qualified with a caveat. While providing closure to some of the prominent cases involving corruption on a grand scale would send an important signal globally and at home, the day-to-day corruption at the “street level” is what most ordinary people care about.

However, the reason why this administration has had to resort to bypassing the Ombudsman in the first place was the way in which the previous administration sought to protect itself by appointing a “friendly” individual in that constitutional office with a fixed term. That is the caveat.

Be that as it may, the slashing of budgets and use of the purse strings to coax members of the judiciary to fall in line with the current administration is setting up a situation in which the mice get away as the cats quarrel among themselves. Institutional conflict results in institutional failure.

The administration is hobbling on one leg in its anti-corruption campaign having to rely on moral suasion and appeals to altruistic motives without the necessary second leg consisting of rewards and punishment. Without it, its moral appeals may indeed fade with time. But it cannot be faulted (at least not at this point) given the fact that the previous administration engaged in institutional investments within the judicial branch.

The government of PNoy has tried to substitute constitutional offices with administrative ones, but these have proven to be crutches that break (as in the Truth Commission) rather than prosthesis that work. I can see the game plan in this for the opposition. On the one hand the rigged system allows grand corruption allegedly committed by them in the past to go unpunished. On the other, the opposition can use this failure to prosecute and jail as fodder against an “ineffective” government unable to fulfill its promises.

Devious indeed, but then again the stakes could not be any higher.

Image is of the office of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission courtesy of the Chan Robles Virtual Law Library.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Doy,

    Good that you see through Tiglao. He started his attacks only after his Grecian vacation was terminated by Aquino.

    Of course the performance of the PAGC was not stellar. The PAGC did not have the power to investigate cabinet level officials. Imagine a presidential anti-graft commission that could investigate everybody but the president’s official family. Tiglao is a devious sob.

    “Prosecuting the alleged misdeeds of the past administration is not the be-all and end-all of the Office of the Ombudsman.” Neither is it the be-all and end-all of the Office of the Ombudsman to prevent the prosecution of alleged misdeeds of the past administration.

    Just look at the case of former Justice secretary Hernani Perez. It was a slam dunk, the Swiss banks provided the government with the paper trail. The case was dismissed because the Ombudsgirl sat on it so long that the Sandigan said further prosecution would be unfair to Perez. And then there’s the raging controversy over the Garcia plea bargain. And the abduction of Jun Lozada that was also dismissed?

    Tiglao used to be an idealist but he became sensualized and feeding that beast requires money.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Doy,

    Good that you see through Tiglao. He started his attacks only after his Grecian vacation was terminated by Aquino.

    Of course the performance of the PAGC was not stellar. The PAGC did not have the power to investigate cabinet level officials. Imagine a presidential anti-graft commission that could investigate everybody but the president’s official family. Tiglao is a devious sob.

    “Prosecuting the alleged misdeeds of the past administration is not the be-all and end-all of the Office of the Ombudsman.” Neither is it the be-all and end-all of the Office of the Ombudsman to prevent the prosecution of alleged misdeeds of the past administration.

    Just look at the case of former Justice secretary Hernani Perez. It was a slam dunk, the Swiss banks provided the government with the paper trail. The case was dismissed because the Ombudsgirl sat on it so long that the Sandigan said further prosecution would be unfair to Perez. And then there’s the raging controversy over the Garcia plea bargain. And the abduction of Jun Lozada that was also dismissed?

    Tiglao used to be an idealist but he became sensualized and feeding that beast requires money.

  • GabbyD

    monsod has a column on robredo’s accomplishments.

    i still cannot post a link here.

    • Anonymous

      Gabby: I have distorted the URL-addressing and the posting was accepted instantaneously, like this:
      htt p:// newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/view/20110108-313249/Noisy-minority-is-a-factAquino-spokeswoman

  • GabbyD

    monsod has a column on robredo’s accomplishments.

    i still cannot post a link here.

    • Anonymous

      Gabby: I have distorted the URL-addressing and the posting was accepted instantaneously, like this:
      htt p: //www-dot- csmonitor.com/Environment/2011/0106/Gulf-oil-spill-study-s-surprising-find-Bacteria-ate-methane-in-three-months

  • GabbyD

    monsod has a column detailing robredo’s accomplisments:
    http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20110108-313194/Doing-the-country-proud

    there should be more press on this.

  • Anonymous

    2010, 2009, 2008, 2007… even 2001 and 2002 graft corruption. Finding the perpetrators of previous-years graft/corruption, charging them, jailing them. “YES” to the effort, more power!!!

    BUT…. Pilipinas will be served better if PresiNoynoy cuts 25% or 35% out of currently on-going corruption. Think again of PLUNDER and why Noynoy has to pay attention to employees of Dept Finance, DepED, DPWH, the military. PLUNDER is committed while the perpetrator was in government service, PLUNDER is committed by those in positions of power. Corruption/leakage is “best” done by insiders. PresiNoyNoy has to put time and effort into stopping plunder inside his administration before they happen.

    Chasing GMA and FVR- admin corruption cases is exemplary. — at minimum, the ongoing huffing-and-puffing gets media time. But truly, (in my personal opinion), PresiNoynoy serves Pilipinas better if he puts time/effort into reducing the plunder ongoing inshide the current administration.

  • Anonymous

    What about corruption that is on-going right now? What about year-2011-corruption? Then next year — year 2012 corruption???

    2010, 2009, 2008, 2007… even 2001 and 2002 graft corruption. Finding the perpetrators of previous-years graft/corruption, charging them, jailing them. “YES” to the effort, more power!!!

    What about currently on-going corruption?

    Has anybody started to hear grumblings of “…uy, tingnan ninyo ang huweteng. Patuloy pa rin. Tingnan ninyo sa Customs. Patuloy pa rin. Ayy!!! Pareho lang pala!”

  • Anonymous

    Malacanang has 3 malabon rice traders in custody and are getting more information from them about the NFA graft-and-corruption so that more charges will be filed before the end of the month. And have you see the blogposts about that Lamborghini thing from the tax-evader? Malacanang has impounded and will auction the Lambo on Feb 14? Galing taga ni Noynoy, no?

    Hasn’t gotten to it yet, but above Malacanang can do — just make up stories for pogi-points and then let the news die down. Just make stories up!!!!

    OR, since elections over ( so it not appropriate anymore to say “… trust me, I know what I am doing and I promise daang matuwid!”) Pilipinas citizenry should hear “This is what we have accomplished already.” Noynoy admin less than a year, so listing accomplishments may come up short. What Noynoy admin can list — changes recently put in place as well as planned for next 3 months. Pilipinas can use knowing what changes Noynoy has started to make happen at DPWH, DepED, Military, Justice Department — the branches of the Executive Department, You’d wish it was Mar Roxas who asked wrote the Inquirer editorial, not Tiglao. Too bad because the question what changes has Noynoy put in place is legitimate.

    PresiNoynoy has been busy pointing to Corona/Supreme court, the Ombudsman, even Australia and UK state departments about travel advisories and he has said less about his own turf. DPWH and Education department are inside Noynoy turf, right? Exactly what has malacanang done to curb graft-and-corruption in the EXECUTIVE LEVEL? President Noynoy has direct-line responsibility for hundreds of thousands of government employees — what has he done to improve the graft-and-corruption picture?

    I am aware of information-systems projects that are pushed for and funded by USA’s Millenium Challenge Corporation. That is a source of hope. But more Malacanang-action is needed (in my opinion).

  • Anonymous

    Malacanang has 3 malabon rice traders in custody and are getting more information from them about the NFA graft-and-corruption so that more charges will be filed before the end of the month.

    Above is what Malacanang can do — just make up stories for pogi-points and then let the news die down. Like that Lamborghini-thing, Malacanang can spread the rumor that the Lamborghini has been impounded and will be put for sale on February 14, 2011. Just make stories up!!!!

    What really is needed? What, exactly, has malacanang done to curb graft-and-corruption in the EXECUTIVE LEVEL? President Noynoy has direct-line responsibility for hundreds of thousands of government employees — what has he done to improve the graft-and-corruption picture?

    The only thing I know of would be information-systems projects continually funded by USA’s Millenium Challenge Corporation. There is hope, after all.