The seeming authority to steal that is corruption

[Intervention of the Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations at the Interactive multi-stakeholder panel discussion on “Achieving peaceful and inclusive societies through preventing and combating corruption” on May 23, 2018, at the Trusteeship Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York, delivered by Ms. Maria Roseny B. Fangco, Second Secretary.]

“No one in this room will disagree that corruption is a scourge that strikes at the life and soul of nations. It hinders, or worse, derails progress; increases its cost; impoverishes and keeps people poor; distorts values; and scoffs at morality. Thus the force of law and the power of government should be harnessed to fight it. Instead, law and power enable and perpetuate other crimes of equal or greater severity because of the force of seeming authority behind it. Corruption unravels societies by destroying the trust that holds them together.

“Preventing and addressing corruption has been a key priority of every Philippine government. But experience shows that the greater the protestation of honesty, and the more severe the condemnation of corruption, the greater the corruption it fails to stop and the bigger the corruption underlying these avowals.

“The Philippines has been fortunate in its presidents since Independence; they were all exceptionally honest—almost to a fault. Then came a US-backed dictatorship that treated the national treasury as its wallet. It left us with one of the biggest debts in global financial history; and shackled a newly liberated people to the bondsman’s fate of paying back every stolen dollar of it by the sweat of his brow. But paid it back fully we did, preferring honor to self-pity.

“After a six-year honeymoon of honesty following the toppling of the most corrupt dictatorship in history, corruption returned with a vengeance. The country’s liberator, Corazon Aquino, had scorned to use public funds for any but the most honest and conservative purpose—convinced that by her personal example the corrupt would be shamed into honesty. But the first feature of corruption is shamelessness.

“President Rodrigo Duterte has resolved instead to make an example of the corrupt if they will not follow his example of personal austerity and honesty. He has started with those within easiest reach: his circle of officials and friends, his ardent supporters in the election. Unlike his immediate predecessor, his campaign against corruption is not limited to political rivals.

“Since the start of this month, more than a dozen officials have been named by the President as involved in shenanigans. Pending investigation, they have been suspended from office. He passed a law extending the prescriptive period for prosecuting crooks and grafters because truth is the daughter of time. Nothing stays secret for long. The Philippines is wary about doing business with countries that do not have legislation against foreign corrupt practices.

“As part of its total commitment to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the Philippines has been hosting an annual conference since 2013, an event cited by the UNODC as best practice. This event serves as a venue to take stock of the progress, if any, against corruption, and to set the policy direction for the coming year.

“Because there are no bribed without bribers, and because corruption taints every aspect of society touched by government, solutions must partake of a whole of society approach. Which is to say, everyone is encouraged to disdain corruption and report it when they see or sense it. And when there is ground to suspect it, every obstacle thrown in the path of prosecution must be cast away. Government must be restructured not to encourage corruption and conceal it by arcane regulations—but to show all government transactions in the clear light of day. There can be no secrets from the public. The old reasons of state for secrecy must yield to total transparency. We have no secrets because we mean no harm. Government must not only work but be seen to work honestly.

“To that end, civil society’s nosiness is encouraged; there is a hotline to the Palace for suspicions; and a vivacious media only too eager to publicize every suspicion every hour on the hour. This is sometimes unfair but for the most part it is good.

“The Philippine Government Procurement and Reform Act requires the presence of civil society organizations (CSOs) as observers in local and national government bidding procedures. There is mechanism to engage CSOs in drawing up budgets and spending appropriations at the agency level. It is not only reactive: bottom-up budgeting enables CSOs to be involved in the national budget process through local governments to address community concerns. Annoyed by congressional stalling on a freedom of information act, the President issued an executive order of freedom of information self-subjecting the Executive Branch to total transparency.

“The Philippines values highly the work of the UNCAC because corruption is enabled by international complicity in hiding its gains and preventing its successful prosecution and prevention. Money stolen in one place must hide in another; stolen in one country and hidden in another. When the Philippines adopted its Anti-Money Laundering Law, it was congratulated, not least by the US Treasury, for having the strictest and most probing such law on statute books anywhere.

“We need international cooperation, and the active involvement of the United Nations to get anti-money laundering off the statute book, and running after dirty money as well as it is set down in the text of the law. Corruption is the one issue that no government, no state, will dare assert its sovereignty to stop investigation and avoid accountability. There may be excuse for harsh if necessary police operations to fight crime; but there is no excuse for stealing. The sun will not rise on the day when a state party stands here to say with refreshing candor, “We invoke the sovereign right to steal from our people.” Thank you.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article

No daily ‘120 quota’ at PCSO-Lung Center

Next Article

Farmers need government help to compete

Related Posts

Column box-John Mangun-Outside the Box
Read more

Root cause to root solution

Solutions are more complicated than the Problems. Take the Christian doctrine of the fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. A “momentary” act of disobedience leads to consequences that then take millennia to be resolved through a “Messiah.”

Joint patrols to protect PHL’s right to explore and utilize energy resources in West Philippine Sea

The 2016 Arbitral Award ruled that the sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea exclusively belong to the Philippines. Thus, the Philippines has the exclusive right under international law to explore the West Philippine Sea for possible energy resources and, eventually, to utilize such resources for the benefit of the Filipino people. No other country has the right to explore and exploit the resources of the West Philippine Sea.