Concealed and unconstrained corruption in both public and private sector can be the reason for severe damage including; declining public trust in government, wasting public resources and money, causing inequality through taking advantage some at the expense of others, inefficiencies in operations, reputational damage which makes it challenging to recruit and maintain quality staff or attain best value in tender processes. Thus, the effects of corruption unreasonably affect the most vulnerable people in society. Widespread corruption prevents investment, deteriorates economic growth and demoralizes the rule of law.
The Philippines Government has since passed numerous laws to fight corruption like; Administrative Code of 1987, Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, Ombudsman Act of 1989, Election Modernization Act, Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, Anti-Red Tape Act Of 2007 and among others. Yet despite the laws and reform initiatives, the Philippines is still perceived as one of the most corrupt nations in the Asia Pacific region.
Given that the Philippines has a history of corruption, it may be the reason why officials are still corrupt to this day. But history should not be an excuse and Filipino citizens should find ways in order to end this act of fraud. Learning from the initiatives of Hong Kong, there are numerous ways of trying to minimize corruption. I think the Philippines should imitate the role of Community Relations Department of Hong Kong, where it will also be responsible in explaining its position, its policies, its ideas, and ideals to the Filipino people. They will also be responsible in educating every sector of the society on the right attitude towards corruption and costs of corruption. So that the people can better understand on what the government has been planning and doing. In addition, the Philippine Government could also use the mass and social media to advocate anti-corruption and also achieve both deterrent and educational effects. This could be done through TV Commercials, social media platforms, and provision of educational materials to different schools in the country. Our government must increase efforts to reach, educate the people even in the rural areas. Since the lack of knowledge can narrow people’s decisions, making them vulnerable to participate in corruption. Lastly, as Hong Kong strengthened their operations in investigating acts of fraud in every sector in the society and making sure that those guilty are convicted, our country should also do the same. According to the database of the Sandigan Bayan anti-graft court on cases filed from 1979 to 2012 shows that at least 504 candidates who ran in 2013 elections are respondents in 1,883 cases for graft and other crimes. Of the 504 candidates with cases, 256 were elected or re-elected in the latest balloting. And at least 87 candidates had their cases dismissed without undergoing trial; eight others had their cases dismissed by the court, while 59 had been acquitted. (The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, June 2013). These census only shows that there’s a problem on people implementing our laws and the long delay of judicial process in the country. Adding to these problems are those Filipino citizens who allow corruption as part of their daily lives.
I think that the Philippine Government already has good laws and reform programs in eradicating corruption, so aside from learning and imitating the methods of Hong Kong, our Government should ensure the strict implementation of the FOI bill, if enacted. The FOI Bill is a good solution to fight corruption in the country. The bill will require government officials to fulfill with the request for information within 15 working days. Thus, granting people the right to access records or information under the control of the government, with some exceptions. Countries successful in minimizing corruption have an extensive practice of openness, freedom of the press, transparency and access to information. Access to information increases the responsiveness of government agencies, while at the same time having a positive effect on the levels of public participation in a country. In addition, our Government should also strictly punish those people that are involve in vote buying. We may have present law against vote buying but I think it lacks a strong political will from most of the voters to report what they have seen. Instead, they use it as a form of income generating scheme especially for those poor families. Corrupt voters give birth to corrupt politicians. In order to stop corruption, we have to start eliminating it at its birth, that is, during elections.
However, let us also be reminded that restoring or improving our system and enactment of laws will not cure all the issues of corruption if the Filipino people do not do their part. Our Government must empower every Filipino people to actively participate and cooperate in fighting against corruption, empowering them to hold government accountable in all wrong actions as well as the private institutions. For example, community monitoring initiatives have in some cases contributed to the detection of corruption, reduced leakages of funds, and improved the quantity and quality of public services. The Filipinos have a right to feel distrust towards every sector in the country.
As President Duterte said in his SONA, “Genuine change is what the country truly needs”. And I totally agree, genuine moral change towards national development should be a concern for both the government, private institutions and the Filipino people. To become more successful in our endeavor towards development and achieve the “Real Change”, we must first change something within ourselves. So that in the future we can have a country with no corrupt officials, a government and a society that can be truly trusted. It takes a great bravery to be free from corruption and to be an example to one’s community or society. And I know that it may still take a long time for the Filipino people to change from being corrupt when an opportunity to easily become rich presents itself. But, every Filipino people should be unified in minimizing corruption because unity is strength and strength comes in number.