Tyranny of Corruption in a Soft State

Speech Before the Rotary Club of Chinatown Manila, Century Park Sheraton

I want to thank all of you for your very kind invitation. I am here to listen more and talk less. What you ask is more action and less speeches, better executives and wiser lawgivers.

There are two kinds of crisis in government – then and now. One is the quiet crisis among civil servants whose diminished quality of life persistently produces low morale. The other is the noisy crisis that arises from a lack of responsiveness in the bureaucracy to the citizenry. If we are to address both, is there a need to reinvent and reengineer government?

When we talk of reinvention or reengineering, we want to see a government that works better and costs less. The goal is admirable and beyond argument. There are, however, many questions about the means to achieve it. 

In the experience of the American bureaucracy in recent times, it was found that bad people in government manage very poorly. There was another finding: even good people do manage badly.

No doubt, there are more good people than bad in government. Yet, they are found to manage badly simply because they are trapped in bad systems as to budget, personnel, procurement, financial management, information. When we blame people, we only make the systems worse.

The key question has been asked. Are government agencies filled with incompetent people? No. What then is the problem?

My friends, government is like a dinosaur that moves very slowly because of a very big belly. Worse, it has a very small head. Solution – reduce the belly and do not elect figure heads.

If we are to reinvent or reengineer government, we must be willing to reduce the belly. We must be committed to do all at once the following: one, cut red tape; two, put citizens first; three, empower public servants to perform; and four, cut back to basics. That is better said than done. But it can be done.

If we are afraid to do all of these – all at once -, then we must be ready to suffer the fate of soft states. In our suffering, we must be prepared to bear the burden of corruption and its tyranny. I do not think you are prepared for both.

I think you understand what I am saying. Today, criminality is up, specially kidnap-for-ransom. This is no longer denied by this government.

There is something more than meets the eye: slowly but surely the rings of corruption in this government are showing. Watch the sequence of exposes this last quarter of the year.

I am sorry for some friends in media whose friendship I suddenly lost in my latest expose on the First Gentleman. Joe Taruc and Deo Macalma do not like me anymore. Their names were mentioned as recipients of the PCSO largesse.

I said it most clearly in my privilege speech that these media professionals – whom I told in the highest respect – were only doing their thing. That PCSO advertised in their radio programs, is not the issue here. The fact is, they benefited from the misuse of government money regardless of their claims to the contrary.

Some detractors of mine say that I should refrain from using the privilege speech to expose the shenanigans of government. They even advise me that I should be bringing the goods before the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice.

These noisy quarters easily forget what my accusers did. They demonized me in media and sent me to hell without notice. Now they want the very venue of redress they denied and deprived me of it, for their own comfort. Good grief!

Her Helplessness, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, today cries foul.

Where was she when her ISAFP Chief Victor Corpus went to Philippine Daily Inquirer with all his concocted lies, insults, and innuendos?

Why did she not advise him to bring the cases before the Ombudsman or the Prosecution Service?

Was she thinking of immediate lethal strikes which must first cripple me before I could rise from my knees?

On hindsight, I think she was. Her Helplessness was lethally mistaken. And she does not care less.

I have one unsolicited advice: Allow the investigations to reach their final conclusion. If her husband is as lily-white as she portrays him to be, then there is nothing to fear. Certainly not the Senate. Not even the Opposition Senators.

The Arroyo administration preaches that is founded on three principles: sound moral foundation, transparency and accountability, and effective work implementation. I have praised the President for those principles. Now is her opportunity to show the proof of the pudding. She must be transparent.

Not too long ago, I delivered a challenge to Her Excellency and to all government functionaries, elected or appointed. Let us bare all our assets and bank deposits, here and abroad. And let us explain the same to the public. Her Helplessness chose to be deaf to that challenge. Who is kidding who?

Today, Corpus has nothing more to show. Why does he pretend not to know of the money-laundering activities of Secretary Nani Perez? I thought he was the chief intelligence officer of the AFP and of Her Helplessness.

The tyranny of grease, graft and corruption thrives in our country because ours is a soft state. We do not need to have a dictatorial regime in order to be strong. We only need strong leadership.

Is strong leadership possible?

My experience as Chief, PNP from November 1999 to January 2001 convinces me that a strong leadership is possible. It is also the best antidote to the tyranny of grease, graft, and corruption.

At the PNP, I imposed the no-take policy for all, including the wives of officers and mine. It worked. Some scalawags hated me for it. But when they realized I was not taking anything from anyone, they changed their mind.

Leadership by example is correct. President Arroyo speaks about it all the time. The example should not be only hers. It should also be his husband’s. He must be like Caesar’s wife – beyond suspicion and above ground.