In the column “MYSTERY” I challenged you to fight graft and corruption. What I failed to do was explain HOW !
A friend of mine came to me with his tale of corruption. He and his wife went to a local government agency to process some paperwork. Later when he returned to check on the project he was told the paperwork was “lost”. After he paid an additional 900P his paperwork was suddenly “found”. He asked me what he should or could do. To be honest, I had no answer for him. I began to research the local corruption problem.
The closest Oddbudsman Office is in Cebu. Having lived there, I know they have their hands full with their own corruption. In Dumaguete City, elected officials can not act against corruption without committing political suicide. Everyone here is related to someone. If politicians put one corrupt official in jail that officials relatives will vote the politician out of office. Elected officials are in effect powerless to stop corruption. The local police are hard pressed to fight rape, robbery, drugs and murder. The police work long dangerous hours for low pay and the temptation to look the other way on what they see as a relatively minor crime like corruption is very strong.
Everybody hates corruption; but I could find nobody locally who is doing much to stop it. Several community leaders realize it needs to be stopped. If the community is to grow economically corruption must be stopped. None of the leaders, I spoke to, knew exactly how to halt this insidious “cancer”.
Corruption has plagued many nations. In the 1930’s corruption in America was as bad, if not worse, than it is here today. Almost every judge or policeman in America was on the “pad”. Justice was for sale to the highest bidder. We created the “Untouchables”. They were a group of special police who sought out and prosecuted corruption. The “Untouchables” could not be bribed or politically influenced. America solved much of their corruption problem and the Philippines can solve its corruption problem also.
Dumaguete City could be the “first” corruption free city in the Philippines. Local leaders just need to follow the example of the Philippine national government. Form a special “Anti-Corruption” police unit. Shield the unit from outside political or economic influences. Authorize them to conduct “sting” operations. Establish an anti-corruption phone line, so honest Filipinos can safely report corruption crimes. Enact local “Whistleblower” protection laws that will keep people trying to fight corruption from being unjustly punish for their honesty. Publicize the special police unit’s successes and make the “Anti-Corruption” Squad local crime fighting heroes. A similar program is working nationally; national corruption statistics have improved. The PERC has even withdrawn it’s unjust “Most Corrupt Far East Nation “ label and apologized for the injustice, not that that repairs the damage they did.
Nothing bad ever gets better by being ignored. If we want to lift Dumaguete City economically and eliminate poverty, we must first remove corruption. In a corruption free zone we can enjoy not just domestic investments but foreign investments. Economists say, “The rising tide lifts all boats.” That means the financial success of one business sector of Dumaguete City will eventually benefit everyone. We can fight corruption and improve the quality of life in our city but we must all work together.