There are at least two varieties of corruption in the Philippines. First, the petty corruption that happens on the street. Like a traffic violation by a public utility vehicle and they bribe the enforcer, or an enforcer would simply flag a car and charge the driver for some trump up charge. The same petty violation exist too in say, a government agency. The second is the high-level corruption that exists in the highest echelons of society, where generals and politicians and businessmen play.
Petty corruption isn’t as bad as it used to be. Oh, it is still there largely because of economic reasons, and largely because the system is inherently inefficient.
Let’s set Petty corruption aside. Let’s focus on High Level corruption.
It still shocks me to no end when people find themselves surprised at say these things that happened in the AFP. The story isn’t new though the characters and settings are. Essentially, this is the same beast.
I’m still shocked to no end when people think that corruption is at an end, you know, just because Aquino took to power. And sometimes people magically believe that our problems will go away in a day, or in less than a year that Aquino is President.
Will the Senate investigations lead to actual people being charged and thrown in Jail? Or will we see the whole thing as just one live reality tv for political junkies?
There are obvious blocks in the system.
People for example don’t trust the Justice system. The Ombudsman clearly isn’t impartial, and the Supreme Court isn’t as trustworthy as an institution as well. People still see cops and investigators as incompetent. And of course, we really can’t expect to change to happen overnight, not even in six years. It is really an imperfect system.
So where does true justice lie?
To prosecute people and let them face the law in a fair trial?
Can we create a trial that is fair that can’t be railroaded?
For the short term, the unravelling of the problem is going to take awhile. It is going to be messy. It isn’t going to be instantaneous.
So let’s think long term.
For petty corruption, the obvious solutions include making the system easy. Make it so people can pay government dues, taxes, and fines with less hassle. Use traffic cams to spot cars beating the red light, and such. Really just invest to make a citizen’s life so much easier and make it less bureaucratic.
For high level corruption, what can we do?
A few days ago, a group of friends and I were actually talking about this. To think, to say, to imagine that this is simply a Philippine phenomena or that we somehow invented it is to ignore the whole of history.
Corruption exists everywhere. The difference between America and the Philippines, for example, the risks are greater in America. So that’s really the answer: Create a system that makes corruption so high risk in the Philippines that it’ll deter most people.
This is how we begin to understand corruption in the Philippines. This is how we turn it around.
It is going to take awhile for our nation to get there. You know, build a nation that makes corruption high risk. Build a nation that makes things easy for its citizens. That should be the dream. Building capacity, giving jobs to people, raising the economic standard will help. Nation building doesn’t happen overnight. Democracy isn’t something we do every three years to elect officials, or every six years to elect a new president.
Both nation building and democracy happen everyday. And both? They’re very difficult; it is heartbreaking. It is never easy. We reinvent our nation, and our democracy every single day.