On change at home: The need for the Filipino’s sight to be trained longer than the short term

The Filipina, in general, has not received the international accolade she deserves; especially not with the impressions that certain women Filipinos — Napoles and the multi-billion tax scam is the latest — provide the world.  So when Megan Young was crowned Ms. World 2013, her achievement meant a lot, politically, to local women back home.  Ms. Young’s victory, using economics terminology, brings positive spill-over effects for Filipino women.  So it’s good to see that many went out to welcome Ms. Young on her homecoming parade.

via channelnewsasia

On one hand, riding on Ms. Young’s victory is not quite the courageous act when seen against what Filipinos (and women Filipinos) at home are doing (and did) in the call for internal reforms within their government.  The March Against Corruption, most recently held on Ayala Avenue, where Ms. Young’s homecoming parade took off, did not have the same voluntary and enthusiastic response from Filipinos.

This response isn’t confined to the Ms. Young’s homecoming parade vs. The March Against Corruption.  This is the common Filipino response everywhere:  we’d rather that we show ourselves in one-time street dances and funeral parades than in events that would mean a better Philippines in the long term.  We’d rather discuss what to cook and dress for the festivities.  Only a handful, in any given barangay (village), will turn out to participate in collective discussions about what to do to make the barangay (eventually, the nation) a better place.

History tells us that great nations were (and are being) made  because their citizens willingly and voluntarily sacrifice short term indulgences if it meant wealth and all the best things in the long term.

Of a dangerous class

It has been seen that the dangers incident to a representative democracy are of two kinds: danger of a low grade of intelligence in the representative body, and in the popular opinion which controls it; and danger of class legislation on the part of the numerical majority, these being all composed of the same class.

Let’s focus on class legislation by the numerical majority in the context of this yet-to-be properly addressed pork barrel scam.

Apparently, members of the Philippine Senate and Congress are of the same class, cut from the same cloth. What’s even more dangerous is that otherwise good members decided to clam up hence effectively beefing up the strength of this class.

Today, face the music

The crises we’re faced now, today, are the remains of the past. This is not the first time corruption and plunder have cropped up but when these did years ago nothing was done about it. Or if there was, it was superficial, not really institutional change. So unless we do something substantial about these crises now – and do it right this time – these will crop up again another time and then it’d really obliterate us all. The longer we procrastinate the more work will build up the more it will cost us, but we know that already. We see and experience it, for instance, in the perennial flooding of our streets and highways. Surely we don’t want the mistakes in that sector replicated in, and drown, our political system?

Bobit Avila, columnist at Philippine Star writes

Last June 8 the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the national consecration of the Philippines to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in all the basilicas, churches and chapels all over the Philippines seeking our Blessed Mother’s maternal protection, and suddenly in less than three months, the nation is once again in turmoil! This is a divine cleansing to prepare our nation for the up and coming International Eucharistic Congress in the year 2016.

This nation is 80% Catholic and Catholic teaching says if you dedicate yourself to Mary (or her son, Jesus) you go through a sort of cleansing because Mary (and Jesus) are without sin.  In other words, the Mary (or Jesus) cannot be in league with the Devil. We can’t be praying for Mary’s protection without also expecting a response from her, can we? Well, this is the response. These crises we’re facing now are unresolved issues of our past – little imps then, full-fledged devils now – which we’ve continually denied and put off but we’re being forced to flush out .  And funny how Fate deems that another Aquino is in Malacanang. Since many in the country believes in karma, this turn of events would only be natural. Change was what Ninoy and Cory were after and not much change happened during their time. In fact, Ninoy died fighting the man, the President, who was deaf to his demands for change. Today is the best time to make that dream of change a reality for all Filipinos.

Injustice everywhere

There’s now again a murdered journalist.  Government vowed to bring him and his family justice.  The massacre of 30 journalists in 2009 in Maguindanao – condemned by the international press community – allegedly by the local elected official then is still on pre-trial.

Prior to the Pork Barrel Scam, there was the expose of the Bureau of Customs’ entrenched corruption and smuggling. What’s the reform process happening there is now left to the public’s imagination. There has been no more news on that since after the Scam.

Prior to the Bureau of Customs Expose, there was the MRT II Project USD30M extortion attempt involving the President’s sister and brother-in-law, reported to authorities by no less than the Ambassador of Czechoslovakia. There has been no updates since.

Prior to all the above, there was the accusation that COMELEC has rigged the 2013 Elections (and the elections before this). The cases remain unresolved. The Barangay and SK Elections are here soon and COMELEC says it will be done manually (in contrast to the computerized system in the recent May 2013 national elections). And that the agency hasn’t the funds for this local elections.

Back to the Pork Barrel Scam, the highest public officials in the land are scurrying to provide Napoles the most comfortable “prison cell” in the name of security and health for one individual, a “high profile” criminal suspect at that. Meantime, thousands of squatters on the Metro’s waterways who are being relocated on sites miles away from their places of work (thereby co-opting their economic security and consequently mental health) were to be arrested if they returned. Why do I feel their arrest won’t be as accommodating as the treatment given to Napoles?

There’s a lot I’ve in mind to say to all these but WTF is at the top. It is getting more and more difficult everyday to reconcile realities with the constitutional provision that this country is a democratic republic.

Integrity in public officials

…pathetic government compensation scheme…is the main reason honest bureaucrats are getting harder to find these days.

– Butch del Castillo, Columnist, Business Mirror

I find this connection faulty (although I’m also for a review of the current government pay scheme) because there are many brilliant young people who are graduates of top schools working in national and local government units and national government agencies whose compensations are “pathethic” yet are honest and diligent workers.

Civil service is not the job for those who want to be millionaires or billionaires. Neither is development or I/NGO work. My colleagues and I, when I was still employed, we liked to ask each other, as a joke, how come heaven hasn’t turned us into millionaires considering the sacrifices we put in in the name of poverty eradication etc. But we know the answer, of course.  Our work is funded by donors’ money and it is pathetic to even expect to be paid in the millions out of that. Our donors are varied but many are ordinary folks, school children even, who on their own donate part of their lunch money to causes supported through our organization. And because it is their money they want and expect to know where their money went to and did it bring about the results we told them it would? Similarly, government is run on people’s money and not every tax-paying Juan is a CEO or a corporation (and even if they are every taxpayer wants to know where and how their money was spent). If bureaucrats despite this fact expects and go on to make private millions from people’s money, one thing can only be said: their thought processes are fucked up.


What we’re seeing now is too much focus on Napoles.  Let us remember that the primary duty bearers over public funds in this case the PDAF or pork barrel are public officials (they were the ones audited by COA). These funds wouldn’t have been channeled to conduits without their imprimatur. Investigation for plunder should therefore refocus on the named elected officials in the COA report. The law is clear that for them to say they don’t know what happened to the funds or didn’t know that the NGOs were fake is tantamount to negligence and exposes their gullibility both of which do not wash them off the guilt.

The people cannot anymore sit quietly by until these public officials are subjected to proper investigation by the competent court. The amount of funds stolen were too much and it had been going on far too long and all those time they did it while shaking our hands and smiling their best smiles — a far far worse crime than Marcos’ because by now they ought to have known better.  Until now the named public officials have not substantially presented evidence to counter the audit reports other than verbal denials.

Review of REPUBLIC ACT No. 1379: An Act Declaring Forfeiture in Favor of the State any Property Found to have been Unlawfully Acquired

Section 1. Definitions. (a) For the purposes of this Act, a “public officer or employee” means any person holding any public office or employment by virtue of an appointment, election or contract, and any person holding any office or employment, by appointment or contract, in any State owned or controlled corporation or enterprise.

(b) “Other legitimately acquired property” means any real or personal property, money or securities which the respondent has at any time acquired by inheritance and the income thereof, or by gift inter vivos before his becoming a public officer or employee, or any property (or income thereof) already pertaining to him when he qualified for public office or employment, or the fruits and income of the exclusive property of the respondent’s spouse. It shall not include:

1. Property unlawfully acquired by the respondent, but its ownership is concealed by its being recorded in the name of, or held by, the respondent’s spouse, ascendants, descendants, relatives, or any other person.

2. Property unlawfully acquired by the respondent, but transferred by him to another person or persons on or after the effectivity of this Act.

3. Property donated to the respondent during his incumbency, unless he can prove to the satisfaction of the court that the donation is lawful.

Section 2. Filing of petition. Whenever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired. The Solicitor General, upon complaint by any taxpayer to the city or provincial fiscal who shall conduct a previous inquiry similar to preliminary investigations in criminal cases and shall certify to the Solicitor General that there is reasonable ground to believe that there has been committed a violation of this Act and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, shall file, in the name and on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, in the Court of First Instance of the city or province where said public officer or employee resides or holds office, a petition for a writ commanding said officer or employee to show cause why the property aforesaid, or any part thereof, should not be declared property of the State: Provided, That no such petition shall be filed within one year before any general election or within three months before any special election.

The resignation, dismissal or separation of the officer or employee from his office or employment in the Government or in the Government-owned or controlled corporation shall not be a bar to the filing of the petition: Provided, however, That the right to file such petition shall prescribe after four years from the date of the resignation, dismissal or separation or expiration of the term of the office or employee concerned, except as to those who have ceased to hold office within ten years prior to the approval of this Act, in which case the proceedings shall prescribe after four years from the approval hereof.

Section 4. Period for the answer. The respondent shall have a period of fifteen days within which to present his answer.

Section 5. Hearing. The Court shall set a date for a hearing, which may be open to the public, and during which the respondent shall be given ample opportunity to explain, to the satisfaction of the court, how he has acquired the property in question.

Section 6. Judgment. If the respondent is unable to show to the satisfaction of the court that he has lawfully acquired the property in question, then the court shall declare such property, forfeited in favor of the State, and by virtue of such judgment the property aforesaid shall become property of the State: Provided, That no judgment shall be rendered within six months before any general election or within three months before any special election. The Court may, in addition, refer this case to the corresponding Executive Department for administrative or criminal action, or both.

Section 11. Laws on prescription. The laws concerning acquisitive prescription and limitation of actions cannot be invoked by, nor shall they benefit the respondent, in respect of any property unlawfully acquired by him.

Section 12. Penalties. Any public officer or employee who shall, after the effective date of this Act, transfer or convey any unlawfully acquired property shall be repressed with imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine not exceeding ten thousand pesos, or both such imprisonment and fine. The same repression shall be imposed upon any person who shall knowingly accept such transfer or conveyance.

Read the complete text at lawphil.net