One of the shortcomings of President Aquino's anti-corruption campaign is his administration's failure to recognize that corruption is not simply a function of a few good guys gone bad. It is more pervasive than that. Corruption is unlikely to be eliminated by loud pursuit of popular cases. When the entire nation believes that under-the-table payments represent a legitimate form of trade, waving Ms. or Mr. Arroyo's alleged misdeeds about will not do much to change things.
The Ombudsman can continue to pursue her thousands of cases slowly and with modest success, and the courts can continue to sit on a backlogged morass of 300,000 cases and fail to attach immediate punishment to misdeeds, and everything will stay the same. Simply urging people not to cheat is likely to ring hollow in the ears of people who are paid a pittance and have no way to improve their stead.
Face it, the risks to a worker are so small that it is worth trading favors. It is worth supplementing a miserable government wage with P100 here and there. No one goes to jail. No one is fined. No one loses a job. P100 is a nice tip for a favor granted.
Well, not "no one", exactly. But most.
To end corruption the societal mechanisms that allow it to thrive need to be reconfigured. This is done by removing "favor" as a legitimate currency. It is also donebroadly by having normal people correct misdeeds, not the police or courts or Ombudsman.
The leadership minds in the legislature cannot seem to grasp the construct that the arena they play in, one of favors and appointments of friends, family and favorites to powerful jobs, is the bedrock of corruption. It sets the scene, a warped scene where honesty and what one can accomplish is less important than one's stock of favors granted and received. The clear delineation of right and wrong gets muddled up in the trade of favors.
I can imagine the blustering legislators, so many Chicken Littles running for cover, when confronted by the idea that they have to change in order to get their nation to change. It's just too much for them to grasp. "Others have to change; not me! I'll appoint my cousin to a good job if I want to."
The legislature could, for example, pass a law that bans hirings and promotions for any reason but capability and achievement. Call it an "Equal Employment Opportunity Act" perhaps.
What does that have to do with corruption, you ask?
Hiring for capability allows workers to set their sights on promotions and salary increases as a way to grow richer. It allows workers to build "career capital" with each promotion and each increase in responsibility. It supplants quick and easy gain with the greater value of long term gain. It allows workers to train up and to pursue larger responsibilities and new opportunities. It gives workers the right to dream, and to plan and work for a better life.
Give a worker an upward path based on opportunity and achievement and three things happen: (1) he works more productively, (2) his performance is evaluated by his boss, not the Ombudsman, and (3)he refuses bribes. The longer he works within the system, the greater is his "investment" and the less likely he is to trade his career away for a P100 "favor". It is this investment in the future that I refer to as "career capital". It is a form of wealth much more substantial than an under the table payment.
Indeed, President Aquino could mandate that his executive departments hire and promote only on the basis of capability today. Right now, with an executive order. Formal reviews. Career paths. Appointments from within. The corporate model. He needs no legislative authorization to do this. He just needs to set aside the culture of favors within which he has lived for so many years.
He should stop appointing his own friends and family to important positions and let competent people aspire to these positions based on what they have done on their own jobs. Staffers in the same departments should be promoted up if they have demonstrated their professionalism.
What is this peculiar blindness in the Philippines that prevents its leaders from seeing the underpinnings of corruption in the way that they, themselves, behave? That can't see the problem is an entire system that functions on favors, not a bunch of independent cases, not a bunch of individuals gone bad.
No, the entire system has gone bad.
The infrastructure that supports corruption needs to be done away with. The trade of favors needs to be replaced with a trade of honest and honorable values. Where "career capital" makes corruption unattractive. Where opportunity for advancement is deemed more important than P100 under the table. Where bosses police ethical behavior rather than the Ombudsman. Where productivity is king and capability is God.