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Corruption linked to ‘culture of expectations’

The worldly standard of success no longer considers how you maintain your integrity and keep your humility

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio MoralesRemember the time when, decades ago, no one really bothered to think how come people smoked inside jeepneys, buses and even airplanes?  When a passenger lit a smoke, no one cared – as if nothing happened. No one took notice… until someone dared to question the situation and confront the person.  

Others got wind and started to realize that, all along, a number of people were similarly bothered by the habit. The number grew and reached that critical mass. Legislations were eventually passed. At present, persons grimace at the sight of a cigarette smoke inside a jeepney or bus. Nowadays, people call that person’s attention to the latter’s humiliation, at the very least, or to the penalties he needs to face, at the very most.  

Do you know who that “someone” was? That “someone” who first questioned the situation and confronted the annoying smoker? That “someone” must have been bothered by the deeply-embedded practice of smoking with so much latitude as if with unbridled license… or with impunity, if you will.

No one knew who that “someone” was.  

He or she must have attended a similar “march to righteousness” during a tobacco awareness day, for all we know.

The point is that you could be that someone who could do the same in terms of changing the social attitude towards corruption. You could be that someone who is bothered by all these shenanigans.

Shared dissatisfaction

Indeed, the call to reform can only take off, if there is a shared dissatisfaction with the status quo. Discontentment with the past allows us to improve on the present. This notion also prevents us from sitting on our laurels. The campaign against corruption is bound to win, in the sense that it disturbs us and moves us to action.

I heard one person talking about his friend’s dissatisfaction with the prevailing system: “tama na, nakakasawa nang lumaro sa ganitong kalakaran.” And with a more efficient system running in an agency, more and more employees will boldly tell their friends and relatives, “kumpletuhin mo lang ang requirements at pumila nang saglit, ganun din yun, mabilis rin lang.”  We hope to lessen “sports-minded” people or “yung mahusay sa palakasan.”

The people are hoping to see the day where “diyes porsyento” reverts back to its antecedent term that instills fear of God in “Diyos por Santo.” They hope to see the day when solutions and orders are decided by considerations of what the senior officials know and not by who they know.   

Indeed, more and more people are sending across the message that shady deals involving public funds need to stop. Corrupt practices will no longer be countenanced, definitely, not this time.

This gargantuan task, of course, cannot be done overnight. It cannot be accomplished with a single indignation rally. It is a continuous and concerted struggle. Indeed, there is a long way to go. And it is not a walk in the park.  

The good thing, however, is that leadership by example counts and that everybody is expected to toe the line. The nation is starting to nourish a greener landscape. With everyone pitching in an effort or two, we can say that there is hope after all.   

Just recently, Transparency International reported in its latest Corruption Perceptions Index that the Philippine has improved in the rankings, from 134 in 2010, to 129 in 2011, and to 105 in 2012.  

Further, the Survey of Enterprises on Corruption recently conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) shows that a number of government agencies improved on their sincerity ratings. For one, the Office of the Ombudsman climbed 46 notches in the sincerity ratings from -8 in 2009 to + 38 in 2012.  

Culture of expectations

This marked improvement goes to show that we must be doing something right. This occasional “pat-on-the back” helps in inspiring us to carry on the battle against corruption. As we do not rest on these laurels, expect us to continue rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done.  

The incidence of corruption may also be partly attributed to a culture of societal expectations that condition or pressure the minds of professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers as well as government officials to exhibit a high level of status just to prove or satisfy the societal expectation or depiction of a successful professional or leader.  “Kapag ang isang professional o pulitiko ay nagrerenta lang ng bahay at walang mansion o kaya ay namamasahe lang at walang magagarang sasakyan, sa halip na makita ang kanyang kababaang-loob, ang agad na naiisip ng tao ay ‘mahina siguro siya’ o ‘hindi siya magaling.’” 

The desire to get rich quick, no matter which way, has unfortunately become the top goal of today’s youth. Do not get me wrong. There is nothing in dreaming or achieving a comfortable way of life. Biblically, it is not money per se which is the root of evil.  It is “[t]he love of money which is the root of all evil.”  When you embezzle people’s money which should have been devoted to road infrastructure, medicine distribution or classroom construction, then you are taking away something from the poorest of the poor and depriving them of their rightful chance at life.  

Parenthetically, the worldly standard of success no longer considers how you maintain your integrity and keep your humility.

Stamping out the forces of corruption is as imperative as granting the Filipino people the full measure of the blessings of a robust economy.  Good governance leads us closer to achieving inclusive growth, generating employment, and reducing poverty… and eventually and ultimately creating greater prosperity for the greatest number of people in the country.

And we want that message to be heard — to remain echoing as a continuing reminder for all and to resonate in the coming elections where we will be placing persons of integrity to positions in government.
 
I am positive that the entire nation can chart a unified and comprehensive reform agenda that can hit the mark in ridding this country of the corrosive element of corruption and rebuilding the foundation of good governance.

I thus implore all to join hands and extend that needed push in sustaining the momentum in the nationwide campaign to uphold integrity in all aspects of governance. – Rappler.com

(Ombudsman Morales delivered this speech on December 9 during the celebration of the International Anti-Corruption Day at the Quezon City Memorial Circle, Quezon City)