When President Benigno S. Aquino III took office, it was a welcome breeze. Like the winds were different. In many ways, President Aquino did accomplish the main premise of his campaign. And so the tone of the government was different. You can see this in our news headlines. There are fewer corruption scandals. Some scandals though haven’t sprung up to see the light of day, or maybe like the Senate Christmas bonus scandal taught us, the will of the people shifted the winds.
When the present Ombudsman took office, I had hope that it signaled a more focused approach to solving corruption. We have a president that doesn’t take these things lightly. Under his watch, the Office of the President has been relatively-troubled free. It has among other ways of ensuring transparency, initiated Open Government. In fact, we’ve never had the budget so open, and the Department of Finance so clear that I wonder if any journalist has had a chance to check, just how transparent this is. That said, it doesn’t mean that corruption has simply vanished in our society. It does exist. It exists everywhere, just not so flashy. This troubles me.
It troubles me because the War on Corruption seem…cosmetic. What happens when the President leaves office? Have we then institutionalized a system that goes after any sort of corruption? So I had hoped that the Ombudsman could take a measure of cracking down on these things. Have we institutionalized Open Government to such an extent that the next President doesn’t unravel it all?
Two things seem to be the primary problem. First is Bureaucratic Inertia: change is hard to effect in a bureaucracy that has known to do things in a certain way. New ways of doing things? Not that easy to inject in government. The second thing that remains prevalent is the lack of Institutional Memory: which means some of the good ideas from the previous regime is purposely or absentmindedly forgotten by the new one. How strong are the changes that the Aquino administration made going to last in say, a Binay administration? A Bong Revilia administration? Maybe a Cayaetano Administration?
And how long shall we wait until we get real cases filed, and resolutions made in public of fishes suffering because they stole money. Am not talking about Renato Corona or former President Gloria Arroyo. Am talking about corruption in the local governments; in the small institutions of the executive. According to the Ombudsman’s annual report (2011), 3,854 cases were filed against local governments.
The Ombudsman’s annual report goes to say, “In 2011, a total of 5,079 complaints and reports were referred for fact-finding investigation. The total workload of cases for fact-finding is 12,157. More than a quarter of these involve high-ranking officials. Some 3,727 fact-finding investigations were completed in 2011, which is 31% of the total workload. About 12% of these investigations resulted in the filing of criminal and/or administrative cases against the subjects of investigation.”
The document does say that 940 new complaints were referred to mediation and parties “settled their dispute amicably in 62.6% of the cases submitted for mediation”. The Ombudsman says they have a conviction rate of 62.6%. No mention how it took to get to that conviction. They also said that 69% of cases in 2011 were dismissed.
Why am I not happy with this?