By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The results of April 24-30 survey by Ibon Foundation confirms what most people are feeling during these times. This is a relief from other surveys where one’s immediate reaction after reading its results is “Really?”. The results of Ibon’s survey reflects a not too optimistic view, but one which is closer to reality.
According to the results of the April 2014 Ibon survey, 3 out of 5 or 64.9 percent of respondents do not agree that there is less corruption now; only 23.9 percent believe that there is less corruption.
This is a major blow to the Aquino administration, which has built itself up by projecting a strong anti-corruption stance. But this is not surprising since the information that has been leaking reveals that more than a hundred lawmakers and some Cabinet secretaries have been involved in the pork barrel scam; this includes President Benigno Aquino III’s most trusted Cabinet secretary Budget Sec. Florencio “Butch” Abad. And the President has not shown firm resolve to run after all those involved. Up to now, it has charged only three senators from the opposition. None of his allies have been charged. Worse, President Aquino immediately absolved his close allies. It does not help any that President Aquino also appears to be coddling Janet Lim-Napoles, who is being tagged as a key operator in the whole scam.
The Ibon survey also reveals that 8 out of 10 respondents or 77.4% did not agree that poverty decreased, and 67% of respondents, or 7 out of 10 said they see their family as poor. This is also reflective of the reality now. The Aquino has not made any significant gain in job generation, and the minimum wage remains below the government’s own computation of a living wage for a family of six, which, in the National Capital Region, is currently pegged at P1,200 a day. Worse, majority of workers do not even receive the minimum wage, especially contractual employees.
The reason why the Aquino administration is not able to address the problems of corruption and poverty is not only because it is pursuing the very same neoliberal economic policies of privatization, deregulation, and liberalization that has brought about crisis and poverty; it is also because the Aquino administration denies that these problems exist. How could one address a problem if one denies that it does exist and has reached serious levels?
The Aquino administration is a press release government. It seems to believe that if it repeatedly says that there is no corruption, there is ‘inclusive growth’ and the lives of ordinary Filipinos have been improving, the problems of corruption and poverty would simply go away. And it has come up with the weirdest responses when made to comment on pressing issues. To name a few:
1. If you could not afford the tuition in schools, transfer your children to public schools. (It’s as if public schools are not crowded enough and the shortages in classrooms, teachers, books and learning materials have already been resolved; and besides even parents of children in public schools could hardly afford the expenses of sending their children to school such as school projects, contributions to the maintenance of schools, transportation fare, snacks and lunch, computer rentals for assignments, among others.)
2. The prices of rice and garlic have been increasing because the government has been successful in its anti-smuggling campaign. (So the government should just back off in its anti-smuggling campaign so that the prices of rice and garlic would go back to more reasonable levels?)
3. The worsening traffic is an indication of economic growth. (Then the traffic in developed countries must already be at a standstill.)
4. If the MRT commuter train is crowded, take the bus. (It’s as if the buses are not crowded during rush hour and traffic along EDSA is light and flowing.)
Could anyone say that his or her income is keeping pace with increases in prices of basic goods and services, and spikes in rates of public utilities? Could anyone say that his or her life is so much better now than four years ago? Could anyone claim that government services are at its finest and there is complete trust on the government and its officials?
The Aquino government’s slogan of “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap” (If there is no corruption, there would be no poverty) is a too simplistic view of the problems of corruption and poverty. In fact, it could be the other way around: If poverty has been completely eradicated, then there should be no corruption.
According to Transparency International: “Corruption thrives where temptation co-exists with permissiveness; where institutional checks on power are missing; where decision making remains obscure; where civil society is thin on the ground; where great inequalities in the distribution of wealth condemn people to live in poverty, which is where corrupt practices flourish.”
For the Left, corruption thrives where power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few; where the government is being used to promote and protect the interests of big foreign and local corporations, as well the few landowning families, where government positions are being used to expand the wealth of the ruling clique and its government officials; where the people’s movement does not yet have the power and the machinery to mobilize majority of the population to immediately hold government officials to account; where great inequalities still exist; and where genuine freedom and democracy remain an aspiration and not yet a reality.
Thus, the problems of corruption and poverty are systemic and no mere change in the persons holding government positions or the political party in power – if traditional, patronage politics still hold sway – could eradicate these problems.