Posted on 04 February 2009.
PINOYWORLD Moderator’s Note: This article was written by Prime Sarmiento (Manila) released last Tuesday, February 03, 2009 by Inter Press Service
Apo Aguila, a computer programmer, moved to Singapore in 2005, frustrated with the news that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had allegedly cheated in the 2004 presidential election.
Aguila saw this as a betrayal as he was one of the millions of Filipinos who formed the ‘People Power’ revolt in 2001 that brought Arroyo to power.
The revolt toppled then the president Joseph Estrada who had been weakened by a flood of corruption allegations and a failed impeachment trial. Aguila, like the other participants in that revolt, expected Arroyo to bring reforms to a graft-ridden government.
But Arroyo failed to meet the high expectations and her presidency has been rocked by numerous scandals involving fund diversion, election rigging and massive bribery.
In a survey done by Pulse Asia in 2007, Arroyo was perceived as the most corrupt president in Philippine history. Under her watch, the country was also ranked as among the world’s most corrupt by the World Bank and the Berlin-based Transparency International.
Aguila, currently back in Manila for a short break, is planning to migrate to either New Zealand or the United States as he has lost hope that things will change in this country. ‘Life is difficult here and I don’t see reforms happening in the next ten years or so,’ he said.
Aguila believes that as long as corruption persists, ordinary citizens like him cannot hope for a better life in the country of their birth.
As a skilled professional, Aguila is fortunate because he can still opt to leave. The majority of poor Filipinos are compelled to stay on and remain frustrated watching corruption leach away the funds needed to deliver them basic social services.
Participants in the Jan. 27-28 ‘First Integrity and Human Rights Conference’ held here were agreed that corruption amounts to human rights violation. Corrupt practices violate every citizen’s right to good governance, freedom and decent life, they said.
‘Absent from anti-corruption analysis are humans rights concerns, in particular how we define our corruption and how it adversely impacts on the enjoyment of rights, especially of the poor and vulnerable,’ Leila M. de Lima, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), told participants.
‘Every person’s large or small contribution to a widespread culture of corruption adds to an ever expanding gap between those who can secure rent and those who cannot,’ De Lima said.
Widespread corruption in the Philippines, she said, ‘led us into our quagmire now the poor are less educated, have less access to health and economic opportunity, and are less able to uplift themselves from their own poverty’’.
De Lima pointed out that graft ‘’is a perpetuation of the decline of budgetary allocations for education and health while public works and military spendings increase with the growing ease of securing kickbacks’’.
What Filipinos now need is not just another revolution, she said. ‘’We need a revolution that upstages all previous revolutions, one that not only changes the configuration of political power, but one that changes the Filipino psyche.’
‘Corruption is a matter of life and death,’ said Omar Siddique, policy and programme analyst at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) regional office in Colombo. According to him it is the poor – not only in the Philippines but around the world – who suffer most from corruption as they are hurt by acts which are beyond their control.
The UNDP Asia Pacific Human Development Report, issued June 2008, revealed that countries in the region with higher levels of human development have lower perceived levels of corruption. This is because some of the most corrupt agencies in the government are also the ones directly involved in the delivery of social services.
The UNDP report also revealed that some of the most common forms of corruption in education systems in Asia and the Pacific are bribes for admission and grades, ‘ghost schools’ and ‘ghost teachers’ as well as kickbacks from the construction of school buildings.
‘Higher levels of corruption are correlated with fewer children attending schools and higher dropout and illiteracy rates, blocking key routes out of poverty,’ it said. Corruption is also deeply entrenched in public healthcare systems, compelling the poor to pay more for medicines, hospitals and health services.
A survey of public hospitals in the region revealed that some of the drugs and medical supplies are either expired or counterfeit, as the funds earmarked to buy them were diverted by unscrupulous government officials.
The poor often have to…