COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
The past Arroyo administration indeed was marked by the excesses and dire consequences of bad governance that we expect much changes to happen in the Aquino administration. We chose Senator Benigno Aquino III to be our new president mainly because of the kind of change he symbolized to carry out and that of moral recovery. This kind of social transformation is quite similar to the task that Cory earlier did which was redeeming a broken nation from moral collapse.
Such change is necessary before the country can effectively and efficiently implement its socio-economic development programs. Moral decay as exemplified by the lack of transparency and accountability in the discharge of public duties has been a bane to progress, relegating the Philippines as the “sick man of Asia.” So a transformation of the ethical kind is more likely to take place and a lot of reorganizing and restructuring in the different public and private institutions. This process would entail a disturbing social climate.
If there is something that we should take note as we expect changes to take place in this new administration, it is that most things that need to be changed are cultural in nature, as in the “culture of corruption” or the “culture of impunity,” and that these cannot be changed by one Presidential Proclamation or Executive Order.
Things that are cultural in nature have to be altered by repeated actions as in changing a habit, or changing a lifestyle. It takes time and a certain degree of conditioning. Yet before behavioral change can take effect even with one’s noble intentions, structural change has to be set as to put boundaries to social behavior. Mistakes are likely to recur without the proper controls established in a system.
Corruption, for instance, is so prevalent in public and private institutions plainly because most of our existing structures lack internal control and allow corrupt practices to proliferate. Otherwise, bribery won’t be tolerated, or influence peddling, or stealing and abuse of power to go unchecked. The reward system must also be proportionately spread in order for people to refrain from scrambling to get a few privileged positions and inevitably resort to corruption.
A strong justice system is at the same time needed to curb the culture of corruption. Laws are easily violated here because those who break them remain unpunished. Anyone will circumvent the rules if he can get away with it. But why is it that Filipinos who work abroad can follow rules and more stringent laws? Because not doing so would make them land in jail, or lose their jobs, their homes, or worse, their lives.
On the other hand, the culture of impunity has been largely connected with the issue of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and human rights violations. These crimes against persons which were attributed mostly to state forces were committed in the fight against insurgency, and rose rapidly in the Arroyo administration when a deadline was set to end the insurgency problem.
Decadence, indeed, is eating our social fabric where corruption and impunity have become a way of life. With corruption, the result is economic stagnation as a lot of money has gone to waste. Corruption brought inefficiency and has resulted in low quality products and substandard public works. As a consequence, the government has to resort to more borrowings and more debt payments thereby sacrificing the delivery of social services. With impunity, we are simply maintaining a police state and building an inhuman society.
President Aquino, somehow, has set the tone, though uncomfortable for some people, of the impending changes that will happen in his administration. Banning the use of sirens on the streets and using his name and image in government programs and projects paved the way for propriety. And when the revised DPWH Standard Project Billboard format totally bans the use of name or image of any personages (read: politicians), that guideline finally reduced the obscenities we see along our roads and highways.
The exposure of the excessive compensations in Government-owned and Controlled Corporations and Government Financial Institutions opened the lid on other irregularities and inequalities in government service. While the August 23 hostage crisis revealed the negligence, incompetence, and lack of resources among the agencies concerned.
The succeeding years ahead will be a trying time as changes will occur within the inner workings of our institutions and social systems, altering the usual way of doing things. And that would call for collective effort. Treading the “matuwid na daan” would eventually require the people concerned to follow the demands of transparency, accountability, and good sense in governance and public service.
October 4, 2010