Against Corruption: A Clean Political Leadership – The Only Way

Speech before the Federation of Accredited Customs Brokers and Forwarders of the Philippines, Traders Hotel, Pasay City

I am very happy to be with you tonight. I have a message to give. But more importantly, I’d listen to yours.

To President Marivic Briones goes my gratitude for her very kind words; and earlier, to her very kind invitation. She is one lady whose word does not fall into a lapse of judgment.

I know where her heart is. It beats everyday for the amendment of Sec. 29 of RA 9280. 

Tonight, I want to tell you that Congress has already made up its mind – its mind to amend Section 29. Not just amend it but amend it in the spirit of fairness.

I think I need not ask if that is all right with you.

Now let me begin my message.

Sec. 6 of the 2004 Customs Brokers Act defines the scope of the brokers’ profession. It is one profession that brings the good tidings of prosperity. It gives you a sense of pride, too.

But over and beyond the filing, lodging and processing of entries is your signature. Is it a signature of integrity? By all means, it must be.

The opposite of integrity – as we now know it – is corruption. It is some evil you frown at. But is it an evil you are committed to lick?

Somebody said it this way: To ignore corruption is to ignore evil. To ignore evil, is to be evil himself.

In short, to ignore corruption is to be a reason for it.

For it must be true: if there is anything where the devil reaps his highest harvest, it is among people who believe he does not exist.

The devil is in the details, we all say. With many technical names, too.

Call it underdeclaration of customs and duties. Call it undervaluation and wrong classification of imports. Call it smuggling. And the devil is all in there – very efficient, very productive.

We just passed the biggest budget so far. P1.126139 trillion. It was originally P1.126339 trillion. I had P200 million of my pork deducted from it.

How much do you think will go to corruption? The answer depends on how unafraid we have become to fight it. Let not our answer degenerate into a blowing in the winds.

Education has been given the biggest share. It should be. And it is P128.6 billion.

How much of it has been appropriated for corruption? The recent past should be instructive.

In 1997, up to 65% of the P100 million countryside development fund on supplementary materials was lost to bribes. The World Bank says that for every peso in government expenditure, 40 centavos is lost to corruption. What gives? I hope you now understand my revulsion as to our pork barrel system.

You review the cases against suppliers at the DECS. What do you see? Underdeliveries. They range from 30 to 60%.

Review the pricing at the DECS. What do you see? Overpricing as high as 1000%.
Review the burden of teacher applicants. What do they say? They are made to spend between P3,000 to P5000 to get hired.

Those who wish to be promoted have to give more – from P30,000 to P50,000. And here is one for Ripley: one regional director reportedly coughed up one million to become one. Now you know why there’s corruption.

Should we wonder then if our students at one time ranked third lowest among students in 37 countries? With textbooks, armchairs, and teachers of inferior quality, why should we?

We can go on and on with our corruption tour. And the incidence remains the same.

I say nothing to imply that corruption in our country began to exist only yesterday. It was in other cultures since time immemorial. Even more prevalent according to all historians.

My only point is this: we can seem to develop a stronger will to fight the devil that is corruption. If you have any knowledge where such will reigns, please show me. I want to be counted.

On the contrary, what I have been seeing is the weakening of that will. To make matters worse, some people even entertain the idea that corruption is functional to development.

If that is not madness, what else is not?

The administration is blowing all its trumpets to herald what it calls social payback. Yet it is bent on ignoring the latest reality. That we have finally become the most corrupt country in the whole of Asia.

What sense of pride have we not lost? Yet, we can not seem to realize we are fast losing our very own sense of shame.

Sa ating sariling wika – ang kapal na talaga.

Now that we know what we may yet lose, are we willing to prevent it? I have asked the question many, many times.

I was once the Chief of the Philippine National Police. It was a beleaguered organization when I came it. It had lost its sense of pride. It sense of shame was non-existent.

How did I achieve its turnaround? I led it by example. And soon enough, the community began to see the goodness of the police not only in Camp Crame but in the streets. I was not accepting bribes from illegal activities. I was not demanding anything from contractors and suppliers doing business with the PNP.

Kotong was gone. So were the jueteng takers and other scalawags in uniform.

I am willing to give the present administration the benefit of the doubt that it is doing its best to minimize corruption. But until the public sees leadership by example, it is all blowing in the winds.

For reforms to take place, we must not settle for anything less than a clean political leadership. Nothing more can be overemphasized.

I think I have said enough. Thank you very much.

Incidentally, I deliberately omitted campaigning for a very good reason. I think you do not need to be persuaded on H.O.P.E.