Mr. Aquino has been sending the wrong signals that show inconsistency with his election pledge – marketed as it was to win votes. First, appointments to the Cabinet and other top administration posts have been based on friendship, family loyalty, and regional ties. He increased the graft-ridden pork barrel for Congress, apportioned a colossal PhP68-bn – unprogrammed and audit-free – for the office of the president, and similar amounts to favored departments and allied political groups in the guise of development projects. The controversial PhP22-bn conditional cash transfer (CCT) which is claimed to be for the poorest of the poor is vulnerable to graft and corruption as it was under Arroyo.
Backtracking from another campaign commitment, Aquino III will not give priority to the freedom of information act which is vital to making governance transparent and accountable and, hence, in curbing corruption. He earmarked only PhP14.3 billion for the judiciary (which had asked for PhP27.1 billion) but gave an amount almost double that to one single department.
Clearly, the fight against corruption which robs the national treasury of billions of pesos every year and aggravates poverty cannot be managed this way. The culture of friendship and political support over and above competence that govern presidential appointments and the misappropriation of funds will only aggravate corruption. It will also further weaken the institutional mechanisms of public service, transparency, and accountability thus making the whole bureaucracy and other state institutions more vulnerable to graft and corruption.
Corruption in the Philippines has become systemic and deeply embedded in traditional politics and dynasty-controlled government. No act of a sitting president, no matter how determined it projects for public perception, can stop corruption.”Not in our lifetime,” one Aquino cabinet official already admitted. The earlier the whole nation will realize this the better it will be for other options to be explored.
Interestingly, the only time when sitting presidents accused of large-scale corruption and plunder were removed from office was when the people staged a peaceful uprising – in 1986 against Ferdinand E. Marcos, and again in 2001 against Joseph E. Estrada.
The new justice secretary, Leila de Lima, crossed the line with a solution. Referring to corruption, de Lima said in 2009 as chair of the Commission on Human Rights: “What we need now is not just another revolution. We need a revolution that upstages all previous revolutions, one that not only changes the configuration of political power, but one that changes the Filipino psyche.”