Let’s make every day an anticorruption day

Corruption is a social evil that destroys the institutional fabric of our country. People, especially the poor, get hurt when public funds are wasted. It is estimated that grafters steal about 20 percent of all government project funds, amounting to trillions of pesos that could be used for education, health services, or infrastructure projects. Tired of seeing how corruption has been holding the country’s economic growth, more than 16 million voters supported in May 2016 the presidential candidate who promised them a corrupt-free government under his watch, apart from his pledge to wipe out illegal drugs and criminality.

That’s how the presidential bet who said he hates corruption got elected. On his first day in office, President Duterte aired a clear warning to all his appointees in the government who would be tempted to engage in corruption. His words: “One whiff of corruption and you’re out.” True to his word, Duterte has fired two of his longtime allies and closest aides from the Cabinet. Peter Laviña, his spokesman during the 2016 presidential elections, was sacked in February following corruption allegations at the National Irrigation Administration. Two months later, the President fired Ismael D. Sueno as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government over corruption allegations in connection with the purchase of Rosenbauer firetrucks from Austria.

Speaking at the 10th listing anniversary of Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc. at the Philippine Stock Exchange in Makati on Tuesday, the Chief Executive reiterated his commitment to fulfill his campaign pledge of eliminating corruption in public office. The government, he said, is trying its best to create an environment conducive to investment and establish a harmonious working relationship with investors. Duterte added that his administration will continue to institute reforms and implement policies for economic growth to become more sustainable.

In the same forum, the President admitted he cannot do the job of eliminating corruption in the government alone. The President said it is the Filipinos themselves who can truly halt corruption. That’s why he gave the people an easy way to report shenanigans in the government through the President’s Hotline, or 8888, which is dedicated to receive complaints against fixers, scalawags and even poor government services. Callers are asked to identify the government employee and agency involved in their complaint, the date and details of the incident, their proposed solution (if any) and their contact details. The complaints will be forwarded to both the concerned agency and the Office of the President within five days.

Since the launching of the President’s Hotline, more people are reporting bribe solicitation incidents. Observers, however, said thousands of victims of corruption—like jeepney, bus and taxi drivers—are still hesitant to report these incidents. One reason cited for nonreporting is the amount being asked is too small to bother about. Other reasons, like those cited by victims of red tape, were fear of reprisal and lack of time to report.

In a world where giving/receiving of bribes is the norm, we can’t expect to see government agencies that citizens can trust. But in the 21st century, we can now use the power of technology to build dynamic and continuous exchanges between government institutions and key stakeholders—citizens, businesses, the media and civic groups. We must help the President in his drive against corruption in the government. We can do this by making every day an anticorruption day. All of us must do our part to expose and help prosecute corrupt public officials. Punishing grafters, we believe, is a vital component of an effective anticorruption drive.