Philippine Bureaucracy: Bloated and Corrupted


A change in the presidency leads to a revamp in the top echelon of the bureaucracy directly under the chief executive. This is an opportunity for the new president to pay political debts incurred during an increasingly fraudulent election by appointing supporters and cronies to key managerial positions in the bureaucracy starting with department secretaries. Some of the appointees come from political dynasties or from vote-rich provinces that delivered “votes” to the president. Still others are corporate bigwigs and big landlords who use their positions in furtherance of narrow family interests and ram through devastating economic policies.

In recent years, they have been the main beneficiaries of multi-million privatization contracts, import liberalization, modernization, modern infrastructure, and other schemes. Most bureaucrats see their positions as both a power and a privilege shielded by immunities instead of as a public service that involves accountability. They act like potentates privileged with the right to spit expletives at subordinate career personnel and threaten them with suspension or demotion even if, record against record, the latter are more qualified than the appointees.

Officially, the appointees are supposed to put into action whatever the president’s political and economic visions are – even if what exist are myopic and short-term. But the system of political patronage dictates that their main role is to help preserve and consolidate presidential power from the national down to the local bureaucracy. In turn, the top executives pick their own protégés and minions for other key positions in the bureaus and regional offices. The same thing is true in the LGUs.

Political patronage brings no efficiency to a bureaucracy long saddled with inefficiency and exacerbates the epidemic of corruption that continues to rob the government of billions of pesos and other resources every year. Low morale and motivation prevails when professionalism and merit remain unrewarded and career personnel are relegated to middle- and even lower-level positions. Many career officers are forced to leave the bureaucracy that repays political allegiance with what David calls “irrational and unreasonable” salaries, and, to add, junkets, as well as other perks. In the May 2004 elections, many key executives were accused of diverting millions of state resources for the presidential bid of their chief superior. Secretaries use the Cabinet as a stepping stone for other purposes like running for the Senate or other elective posts, or use their credentials for higher corporate goals later.


The casualties in this politicized and elite-run bureaucracy are not only the career personnel who do not get promoted but also the teachers who remain unhired when the education budget is devoured by the fat salaries of the education department’s executives and also for graft-ridden contracts. They are the millions of tenant farmers denied of lands that are converted into corporate farms or real estate and the urban poor whose communities are demolished to give way to private commercial complexes, expressways, or “modern” harbors with investors who are relatives or associates of a Cabinet official. They are the overseas workers who, under government’s labor-export policy, are forced to seek jobs abroad and become victims of illegal recruitment, violence, and other social costs.

The issue of a politicized and militarized bureaucracy does not revolve around the abuse of presidential prerogative alone, however. At its core is a political system that breeds a bureaucracy long dominated by corrupt oligarchs and their lackeys instead of being used as a progressive machinery led by able representatives of the people who are driven by the single-minded purpose of serving the sectoral and collective interests of the public. CENPEG/posted by (

End Notes
[1] In late 2006, a CenPEG issue analysis found that about 35 former generals and other retired senior military and police officials were appointed to Cabinet positions.
[2] “2004 inventory of government personnel,” Civil Service Commission (CSC), Office for Planning and Management Information System.
[3] CSC report, ibid.

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  1. lol maliit na babaeng corrupt nakakagago lang!

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