March 18, 2007 : Sunday
Poverty and Corruption Ties that Bind
Poverty is very obvious here in the Philippines. It is conceptualized broadly, taking into account not only income but its impact in terms of human deprivation, development and quality of life. The existential reality that underdevelopment and poverty are more that concepts in a book- they are directly related to starvation, illness and human degradation.
Poverty here in the country is mainly brought by:
· Macroeconomics instability and inequitable growth.
· Failed to give the citizens especially those who are really in need, such as basic education health, shelter, water, electricity; safety nets for most vulnerable sectors; and lack of encouragement to the poor to participate in governance.
· Failed to implement modernization in agricultural sector with social equity; agrarian reform, improvement of rural infrastructure and the failure of implementing land reform.
· Ineffective governance through transparency, failure to reduce graft and corruption, strengthening partnerships with civil society and private sector.
Let’s focus mainly on the reason of failure of the government to fight graft and corruption, because for me, this reason alone can explain all the other factors why poverty is rampant here in our country. I’m open to the idea that there is no politician or a government official that didn’t commit corruption. Even the lowest position in Baranggays, the SK before they can have their budget for their projects a sort of corruption must be committed. How can the government fight this problem?
The Corruption Battle
Every individual who seated in the Malacañang palace as the country’s president would never be missed in their agenda, the fight against graft and corruption in the government. So many presidents have passed; corruption is still in the system. Let me cite you a well known example of the pursuance of the presidents in order to eliminate corruption in the government but failed to do it so.
In the , poverty and corruption go hand-in-hand. What had been a relatively prosperous nation in the region following World War II, has been politically and economically deciminated. Since Marcos took reigns of power, the wealth of nation has been progressively siphoned off by corrupt leaders and their aristocratic cronies. This has been made possible by cosmetic economic and political state, started up by an American copycat institutional structure, and impregnated by a landed aristocracy.
Early in 1999, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s administration requested the World Bank to make recommendation to help the government strengthen its fight against corruption in the . The World Bank agreed, noting that the links between corruption and the country’s development were becoming increasingly clear. In his July 27, 1998, State of the Nation Address, President Estrada had single out the struggle against graft and corruption as his fundamental priority. “To begin with,” he stated, “we have to reduce the cost of governance, cost that go higher and higher with each corrupt act, with each wasteful project” (World Bank 2000: 1 and 3).
A good start isn’t it? But does it work? After almost three years in the position, President Joseph Estrada throws himself out of Malacañang during the EDSA 2, asking him to step down because the plunder case filed against him. It is questionable that Estrada accumulated significant wealth throughout his term, beginning in June 1998, from “bribes and kickbacks”. He continues to have that wealth as his disposal either to provide for his defense or for counter-insurgency activities with his mates. A search in the Securities and Exchange Commission identified 66 corporations in which he, his wives and various children were listed as incorporators, board members or substantial shareholders. He and his family also owns 17 pieces of real state in Metro Manila, Tagaytay and Bagiuio totaling to USD45 million (Coronel 2001). During his 31 months in office, ousted President Estrada, according to private prosecutors, was able to stash away the equivalent of USD5oo million, in multiple secret bank accounts via the use of six aliases (Marfil 2001).
How was that? Unbelievable that the person you have trusted to take care of the country will be the one to take for granted the trust of the people and take advantage of his position for him to acquire wealth and power without easily being notice. How will corruption explain poverty in the country? Simply that instead these government officials serve and protect the citizens; they are busy accomplishing their self-interest. Instead of giving the people assistance in their needs these officials are working hard feeding up their accounts. The exact budgets for the projects and programs of the officials when already approve, part of it will go to the pocket of these ironically “very good” officials and there will be fewer budgets to accomplish their said projects.
“Nakakaawang mamamayang Pilipino, napaglala-langan ng mga nagmamagaling na mga pulitiko na nagpapasikat lamang sa panahon ng Eleksyon, matapos iyon ay wala ng mangayayari”.
It must be emphasized that “a change in personalities is not a change in the government and the state”. Most of the government has not changed at all. “The formal structure of centralized, elitist and corrupt government built up over a decade’s remains in place. The distribution of wealth remained as skewed as ever, with so much wealth scandalously concentrated in a few families and corporations while the vast majority of the people wallow in abject poverty. At this the problem is not only with the people of the officials but also with the system of government.