Since December 2017, Sipalay City Mayor Oscar Montilla, Jr., Iloilo Lone District Rep. Jerry Treñas, and several former and current members of the Bacolod City Council were suspended from office. In addition, both former Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo were served double dismissals from the Office of the Ombudsman; and Moises Padilla Vice Mayor Ella Garcia-Yulo was jailed on weapons possession charges. To think, these cases are only regarding politicians within the immediate area and in a span of just over one month, there aren’t enough days in the year to review how many politicians nationwide faced the same circumstances.
What does that say about the local political system, taking into account both the alleged actions of elected officials and their accusers, when people who are given the public’s trust regularly face such punishments?
If an individual in public office defies the rules then, by all means, throw the book at them. Clearly, corrupt politicians are not exclusive to the Philippines, but it is the number of cases that have accumulated over the years that is astonishing – even more appalling is how much of it is accepted as “status quo.”
One of the primary ways in which corruption is publicly flaunted is how government money isrepeatedly shuffled between allocations. Why are there so many supposedly necessary steps to the process of disbursing money? Once an official submits a bill and it is passed, somehow, there are a multitude of budgetary hoops to jump through.
Whenever a specific project is mentioned by some government official, have learned it is essential to check earlier records to see if it has been previously mentioned in a budgetary aspect. Taking a look at statements by various officials, one often finds the same projects are repeatedly earmarked for the same amount in separate regular budgets, supplementary budgets, and special budgets. When adding it all up, the presumed appropriationnow becomes much higher than the initially-quoted cost.
Yet, this is such a common practice, most “civilians” overlook the matter and assume it is just standard operating procedure.
In other countries, when it comes to corruption, many politicians are immediately scrutinized upon discovery of a mere $1,000 (P50,000) or $2,000 (P100,000) that had been used inappropriately. In the Philippines, nobody bats an eyewhen it appears a politician’s personal net worth grows astronomically after taking office. Many politicians campaign on themes of modesty, claiming to live humble lifestyles or coming from a poor background, yet it is hard to find any politician living the life of the average citizen.
However, the times in which one’s personal wealth becomes an issue is often based on political rivalry.
In most democratic countries, if one loses an election, they concede and vow to give it a go the next time around. In the Philippines, if one loses an election, many times, the loser and their allies use the entirety of the term seeking to eject the winning candidate from office. It is a common practice across the country and there are clear distinctions between legitimate cases and mere partisan bickering.
The matter also delves back into the question of corruption, because, once the case is before the court, how they rule can be indicative of how much is decided by the law and how much is decided by party (or even personal) loyalty.
Loyalty is a virtue, but not if it supersedes the law.
Whether or not an individual is guilty of the allegations is one thing, but the number of cases of mere speculation is atrocious and only proves more and more how weak the democracy is in the Philippines.
The immediate answer by many would look to recall the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law era, yet, if former President Corazon Aquino truly “restored” democracy in the country, given how frail the current state is, it was just for show (and probably personal ambition).
When elected officials are removed from office, it causes instability, which explains why courts sometimesaward temporary restraining orders,to avoid such situations, and why these incidents are not as common in developed countries. Yet, given how often these cases are brought forward only providesconfirmation to the idea that politicians have no integrity – the person who lost did not gain enough support to be elected, yet the person who won also appears to be of questionable character.
The situation also calls into question the value of voting all together.
Average citizens are all-too-often left with a “lesser of two evils” decision at the ballot box – or worse, deciding between rival family members, an even more sordid aspect of the Philippine democratic system. The actions taken by many in the political arena leaves nobody unscathed and the integrity of every person in office is not just called into question but already tainted from the moment they declare their candidacy.
It begs the question, is this really the best the Philippines can do?/WDJ