Corruption is the scourge of the nation

Corruption is the scourge of the nation

Militant groups call for government reform during a rally at Mendiola Bridge near the presidential palace, July 17, 2017. ROY LAGARDE

THE apparent triumph of evil is what troubles so many in the world today. Reports of crime, bribery, wrongdoing, exploitation and frame-ups appear on almost every news bulletin. Evil reigns supreme when people in power abuse their position for their personal or family gain. In business, in politics, in the judiciary they defraud and steal, smuggle, peddle drugs and hide behind a mask of innocence. This is what we call corruption. Sadly, the Philippines in 2016 ranked low, 101 out of 176 countries, on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Scandinavian countries ranked in the top five.

It is a brutal and painful reality that we live in a corrupt society. That may be pessimistic perhaps but also very true. Politicians are considered the most corrupt of all. Even senators are on trial in the Philippines for looting the public coffers. They allegedly set up false charities and foundations to hide the public money given to them for development and community projects and then channeled the billions into their private accounts. One was able to get a Supreme Court decision to post bail for a crime for which there is no bail allowed. The decision was a miracle of compassion, some said. The accused have every opportunity to present evidence and a strong defense and benefit by the rule of law, due process and plead innocent until proven guilty. Not so the suspected drug users that are killed daily on the spot with no evidence needed.

The judiciary is open to corrupt practices. A recent case in the Philippines is that of a female US national who kept five Filipino children in her house illegally and severely neglected them and when rescued and they were medically examined and it was found that they had been sexually abused and used in making pornography. Despite strong evidence of guilt, the judge dismissed the case on the slim and questionable grounds the rescue of the children by government social workers and police was illegal. Massive bribery was suspected to have been involved.

Now the suspect is hiding in the USA and attacking online the child defenders who exposed her crimes against the children. She will likely be charged under the US Federal law that provides “extraterritorial jurisdiction” over certain sex offenses against children. According to the US Justice Department, “extraterritorial jurisdiction is the legal authority of the United States to prosecute criminal conduct that took place outside its borders. Section 2423(c) of Title 18, United States Code, prohibits United States citizens or legal permanent residents from traveling from the United States to a foreign country, and while there, raping or sexually molesting a child or paying a child for sex.”

The good people who would never pay a bribe or act in a corrupt manner are disadvantaged as they are inhibited and prevented by their good conscience from doing wrong, taking advantage of others, committing an injustice, stealing, lying or cheating. They are the silent majority of good Filipinos but they must not remain silent. They are Filipinos of integrity and honesty. They are the moral people with a conscience built on knowledge of right and wrong. When temptation presents itself, they resist. But when threatened, they fear for themselves and their families.

The corrupt person has no conscience and is continually looking out for a way to exploit others, advance his ambitious goals of greed and dominance. In any situation where the official has power to give or withhold anything to which the member of the public has a right to receive- a driving license, a business permit or a police clearance- the official will be thinking, “Aha, what’s in this for me?”

We are challenged and called upon to speak out and expose corruption wherever we suspect it is happening. Pope Francis is calling on us to say “No” to corrupt practices and to take a stand for integrity, honesty, human dignity, justice, good governance and human rights. Exposing corruption is dangerous as the powerful will silence the whistle-blowers and the human rights advocates who take a stand against corruption. In the Philippines, the president has said he will order the police to shoot human rights advocates.

However, corruption in developing countries is on a different level. It permeates all levels and all branches of government. Child abuse is widespread as government officials look the other way and issue permits to the sex bars where teenagers are trafficked and exploited by the local and foreign sex tourists. Everyone makes money and the children and young women, victims of human trafficking, are sexually exploited and held in slavery by debts, which they can never pay off. Corruption is so widespread that even police and officials frequent the sex bars and protect them from investigation for crimes against women and children.

Saying “No” to corruption can cost you your life. Over a hundred journalists and human right workers have been killed for exposing the corruption and injustice in the Philippines. Yet the people of conscience and integrity need to take the risk and stand up and say “No More Corruption” and act to expose and oppose all such evil practices