Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Condoning corruption

THAT Filipinos are discriminating in their regard for corruption in and outside the government is true indeed. Bishop Francisco Claver, SJ, pointed this out in his address at the BEC rural congress in Prelature of Libmanan late last month. And, come to think of it, he is right. “We are apathetic,” says the bishop.

Culturally maybe, but Pinoys are easy to condone corruption especially when the “operator” is a relative, a friend, or, worse, when they somehow are benefited, or “naaambunan” by it. A “standard operating procedure” or SOP is the common parlance which carries an implication that such has become part of the “kalakaran” and therefore bereft of qualms—or morality, if you may. The logic is simple: when everybody does it, everybody does it; which is to say, “What’s your problem? It’s the norm”.

This might explain why the irony of Filipinos being too sensitive when tagged derogatory names abroad. When Hollywood actress Claire Danes described Manila as a “dirty place full of rats and cockroaches”, everybody was clamoring to high heavens to declare the actress “persona non grata”—for telling the truth. When Transparency International rated the Philippines as one of the most corrupt countries in Southeast Asia, nobody heard a whimper of complaint—because that is an old truth.

The issue of massive corruption and wholesale thievery during the Martial Law did not come as big as the conjugal dictatorship which smacks of political decadence rather than moral. But corruption then was equally worse, if not more—as the continuing Marcos Swiss accounts and hidden wealth easily substantiate. Which is why the thesis may be correct that Filipinos condone thieves, cheats and liars, but not dictators who are quickly sent to Hawaii. If a president is convicted of thief, he becomes forgiven in a week or two with an honorable act of executive clemency.

The pre-colonial tagline of “islas de ladrones” imputed to this country has, of course, nothing to do with the Philippines being one of the most corrupt nations in this part of the world. But it gives a historical perspective—and a good wink.

Being very discriminating, this maybe the line of thought of those who find it futile not to wait until 2010 national elections. Because, after all, it will be just as hackneyed as changing one corrupt collar from one stupid dog to another.

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