In My Own Words - Ron Centeno

a collection of thoughts and sentiments...in my own words

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2/10/2009

Faces of Graft and Corruption

Written by Ron Centeno

If I had to view the many faces of graft and corruption, I should not look farther. In all my adulthood, I have come in close contact with people whose daily subsistence is earned through illegal means - from police officers to district attorneys, from clergymen to school principals, from municipal clerks to lawmakers. I am referring, of course, to those public officials or otherwise who thrive in the Philippines.

Beginning from the Marcos administration (1965 – 1987) to today’s sitting president, graft and corruption is perpetrated on a daily basis. Found in the book, International Business, Hill, (2007), “The government of the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines was famous for demanding bribes from foreign businesses wishing to set up operations in that country”. Part of the former dictator’s unscrupulous entourage was his equally infamous wife, Imelda. Known as the Philippine Iron Butterfly, Imelda had to salivate with her 3,000 pairs of shoes while 70% of the country’s population had to worry about what they would put on their table. The loot that the Marcoses had taken from the treasury’s coffer is figured on a grand scale.

Moreover, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the current president, had to call an election official during the counting of the ballots to ensure her lead in the last presidential election in 2004. Arroyo was then running for re-election.

Further, prior to Arroyo’s catapult to power in 2000, a duly elected president named Joseph Estrada, was thrown out from office for corruption. Estrada was accused of pocketing four billion pesos or roughly equivalent to $500 million in just over three years of office!

I am not here, however, to dwell with all of that. What I want to talk about are the kinds of graft and corruption and bribery that the many Filipinos and I have come face to face on a regular basis, either on the streets or government offices.

When I walk-in to apply for a driver’s license, I should not worry whether I know how to drive or not. For as long as I know someone from the “inside” or have the grease money for a bribe, I should get my license without undergoing a test drive.

The same is true when I apply for a building permit if I were a contractor. Government offices are notorious in delaying tactics. But there is always a way to expedite the processing of the application. One has to know someone in that office or has some money to bankroll the processing.

If I needed a school diploma from a reputable school, I don’t have to burn my eyebrows to earn a high score, I can perhaps slip some money under my professor’s table and my report card would look good at the end of the semester. In fact, in the last Nursing Licensure Examination, the examinees were asked to take the test again when a reported “leak” was found, resulting in a dismissal of a government examiner who provided advanced questions to a review school.

When I drive and incur a traffic infraction, I should not worry about the penalty. I can always negotiate with the traffic enforcer. If I had to serve a time in jail and I were a public official, it is possible that I could live in comfort through my power and connections.

All these are but a few of the many instances of bribe and corruption that have formed part of Philippine culture.

History would tell us that the Philippines was under the administration of the United States from 1898 to 1946, (1946 - Philippine independence from the United States). Back then, the country was an economic powerhouse in the Southeast Asian region. Apparently, the Western ethics was well in place. In the hindsight, I would like to believe that when the power was transferred from Washington to Manila, the Filipinos were not ready to run their own affairs.

Indeed, in less than a couple of decades, a dictatorial regime had interrupted the constitutional process that was handed and left to us by the Americans. In the next 21 years, the country had never experienced a decent national election. Part of those years, the country was under military rule or martial law. When Marcos finally deposed in 1987, graft and corruption has rooted into practice. And like any virus that would not go away, this social plague would surely linger for such a long time.

5 Your Thoughts/Comments Here::

Dina said...

Yes Ron, it is a plague that does not have any cure yet. Can anyone concoct an antidote for this terrible plague?

ck_leick said...

sir Ron,if you are going to allow me, i want to copy this article. we have a project about graft and corruption. i want to submit this article as my project. i do promise that i will include your name and site in the paper. i will wait for your rply..

Ron Centeno said...

Hey CK,

Yes I'm giving you permission. I'm glad i could be of help to you.

amy eusebio said...

I am going to give impression to our 2-day seminar on graft and corruption, can i quote some of your lines i really like your views.

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