Corruption not invincible after all

By Jose Ma. Montelibano



Napoles begins to crack, and the crack can be major. It goes beyond the smaller details that most commentaries are focused on. Rather, Napoles spilling some or all that she knows about what she did and whom she did it with breaks the myth that crime pays.

Certainly, I have no illusions that some will get away. I have no doubts either that many will not, especially when they thought they had already covered their tracks. There is a wall that seemed invincible except by People Power. After all, two versions of People Power did trigger plunder raps against two presidents.

Today, though, another former president faces plunder cases. It did not take for people to rush to the streets, it just asked people to support PNoy when he took on a disgraced and impeached Chief Justice. That now removed Chief Justice appeared to many as one who would provide legal cover to a plunder that may yet prove to be worse than the Marcos experience.

Decades of corruption not only stole hundreds of billions of people’s money but, in fact, skewed the very standards of accepted morality. Corruption from the very top produced two presidents who found their way to being named among the top ten of the world’s most corrupt leaders. A third, Gloria Arroyo, can find herself in that dirty global list when more whistleblowers come into play.

The corruption of presidents effectively extended the era of colonial masters when the Filipino people and their natural wealth were looted legally. Colonial rule was done by Spain and the United States for primarily one reason – to take what belonged to the natives, whether these be their slave labor, the fruit of that, or the hordes of gold and silver of our land. Japan would have done the same had it been given more time.

Independence, then, was what corrupt presidents stalled from growing in the hearts and minds of Filipinos after 1946. Because societal leaders became as rapacious as the colonial masters they replaced, the majority of Filipinos have felt no difference in their impoverished state. The wealth of the land was denied them, especially as the land that was first grabbed by Spain from our ancestors has not been returned to the rightful owners.

The attitude of submission that emerged from centuries of foreign rule aided by local warlords or collaborators, the Filipino people lived with resignation and acceptance of wrong being right if it is so mandated, or modeled, by those in society who rule them. This attitude of submission has persisted beyond colonial rule. Native leaders who took over after 1946 did little to empower the people but did much to extend the two-tiered, contrasting reality of status and opportunity. How else could two presidents become part of the world’s most corrupt elite and another one on her way if the people had not accepted their deprivation even in the face of scandalous wealth of public officials?

Over the same centuries, and especially over the last 45 years since Ferdinand Marcos, corruption defined governance. Even Corazon Aquino, unwilling to use her revolutionary powers to cut deep incisions into a cancerous bureaucracy ably complimented by private sector greed, could not fire a single dirty employee of government without having to go through court. A wall of invincibility fortified the corrupt as long as they had money or position – and they had both.

It cannot be but by destiny that President Noynoy Aquino took on corruption as his primary cause when he ran for the presidency, and mean it beyond the usual campaign politics. It cannot be but destiny that PNoy gave his fundamental reason why he did so. That was the heart of his inaugural speech, “No Wang-Wang”, a declaration that Filipinos are equal in worth and dignity – and the law. That statement of equality between the ordinary and the high-ranking established that government resources are not the private domain of public officials, that they are mere stewards and must accept accountability for their theft.

The protective wall that shields the powerful from prosecution and conviction combined well with the submissive attitude of the population, especially the majority poor, for corrupt not only to thrive but become a sub-culture of public service. The aggressive arrest of Gloria Arroyo followed by the impeachment case and conviction of Rene Corona showed the resolve of one man to take on the invincibility of corruption. I believe that with his radical initiatives, PNoy opened the doors of possibility in the hearts and minds of Filipinos who pursued the bold trajectory by going after the PDAF with hammer and tongs – and succeeded!

The moment of equality is upon us if the resolve of a president is matched by a resolve of the people. PNoy and the people may not agree over which issues represent their priority, but they have not disagreed about corruption itself – that they both must persevere in dismantling it. At the same time, PNoy and the people must be clear about the nature and status of corruption in the Philippines, that they do not deal with what is on the surface but also what rots in the inside, what is now a part of our assimilated history.

What is important is that the trajectory continues, and the beginning of the unraveling of Janet Napoles is a powerful symbol that what was invincible is now beginning to crack. Thieves and liars, faced with the combined resolve of the destiny of a leader and the people, will have to weaken and wilt in their arrogance, recognize that their doom approaches, and begin to do what they do best – betray one another. After all, their thieving and plundering ways had been continuing acts of betrayal against the people they swore to serve.

What lifts my optimism is not only that something great has begun, but that the new generations are here to sustain this trajectory towards nobility over corruption. By a miracle, many of our own children and grandchildren, including those of the corrupt, have not been stained enough to lose their idealism. They will save us yet.

12 Responses. Have your say.

  1. zeny says:

    There is a ray of hope coming through your article that corruption can still be fought if all the people support PNoy, and if the justice system is strong enough to withstand pressure from politicians and other government corrupt officials.
    I would like to add that we should all pray hard and wish for the day when all the corrupt senators and congressmen are convicted along with Napoles.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      That would be nice wouldn’t it, finally putting some of these sh*t for brains politicians where they belong, but knowing the inefficiencies of our justice system we may be in for some more disappointment. I’m saving my “hallelujah” when everyone of these rotten politicians are sitting in prison, hopefully for a long time. These whole thing is still kind of “iffy” if you know what I mean?

  2. ben oteyza says:

    Corruption is corruption, just as right is right and wrong is wrong. Corruption must be stopped now, purified down to its deepest roots, if the Philippines is to continue its economic progress that has long been forestalled and denied.
    Napoles, need not crack now; maybe her conscience needs cleansing and she desires to make a clean breast. Justice must assume its rightful place in true dignity, and the courts start dispensing its duty as arbiter of reason and justice. P-Noy may finally realize his dream of “daang matuwid !”
    THE people may and must have its high hopes rise and materialize.

  3. Sotero F Fabella says:

    For so long, I hope what the article says is a ray of hope that would not fade.The people has endured so much with the web of corruption being perpetuated in most government agencies.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      I agree, our country had endured so much with corrupt politicians continuously taking advantage of our poor kababayans, but who’s really responsible for putting these worthless individuals in those position? Who else but our kababayans themselves, they created these monsters out of their own stupidity and total lack of common sense and the worst part, they will do it again and again. Let’s all hope that Napoles testimonies would be powerful enough to convict these rotten politicians because if they can’t, corruption is here to stay.

  4. pat talens says:

    After reading the article, I wish to salute the writer for his optimism, but I can not; I want to believe him that corruption finally is not invincible after all, but I can not believe him—that even more.

    His optimism it seems is too far-fethced and presumptuous, as he based his unfounded premise on Arroyo’s medical detention, yet to-date still unpunished and powerful politically; on Corona’s impeachment, yet still enjoying his ill-gotten wealth; on the ongoing PDAF scandal, yet none of the alleged implicated Senators, et al is yet to be charged, put on trial, etc. Not to be forgotten here also are all these myriad other unsolved corruption scandals such as the Mampalataya, PCSO, ZTE, thievering generals, Ampatuan massacres, etc… and this is why I cringe when folks say things not the way they are.

    Anyway, optimism is when extraordinarily hopeful and positive events seems to be in the offing. And here I welcome the change of heart of Napoles to become a witness on behalf of the state—her vying for quid pro quo for immunity to name names all those involved in corruptions, hopefully way back to the Arroyo government. Here again I continue to spotlight my disagreement with those who oppose to the mastermind to be a state witness. To ignore her importance as a state witnes, to kill her or to imprison her stands not as voice of reasons nor wisdom but as mere call for instant gratification for vengeance, while subverting the unprecedented opportunity of enormous benefits to the country—that Napoles is one missing important catalyst in cleansing the country of steeped and unabated corruptions, by telling all and identifying those involved.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Pat, one of our worst flaw as a people, jumping through the hoops or counting the number of chicks before the eggs even hatch. I don’t know if you remember my saying that the only ones to see the reality of what’s going on in country are those that are now on the outside looking in. Her testimonies, if they can make it stick would be like a bunch of thorns taken out from the side of the prosecution. Let her have limited immunity and take away all the riches that they’ve stolen from the Filipino people, in other words, let them be broke once again. I think nature will somehow take its course once those rotten politicians are in prison, Napoles et al I’m sure will be on the edgy side for the rest of their lives.

  5. Rex Q. Garcia ME/ CPE / PE says:

    I agree 120 percent to Pat Talens comments. Why is our justice or court system takes that long time to see any court action to the Ampatuan mass murder massacres of 60 Journalist in Mindanao, several generals getting rich overnight, Gloria Arroyo still enjoying hospital arrest and not in a regular jail cell and so on as mentioned by Pat. If this corruption or mass killing happened in the US it would not take that long for convicted plunderer or murderer to be put in jail. When the Watergate scandal broke out in a short period of time all the convicted felon were sentence to serve jail time from the lowest government official who was found guilty all the way up to the Attorney General. If President treaty Dick Nixon was not pardon by Ford for sure he could have serve jail time too like his top aides and his Attoney General. Does any body knows why President Ford pardoned President Nixon? What happened is they were both conversing about Watergate scandal and Nixon did not understand what Ford was saying so he uttered to Ford ” Pardoned Me ? : and immediately Ford said okay I will. I believe that was the same case when Gloria pardoned Erap when they were meeting privately Erap did not understand the the english word Gloria was using how they could split the under the table money in their conversation so Erap said ” Pardone Me ? ” so Gloria did pardoned Erap . Hey Perry how’d you like my balitang kutchero without my ‘DISCLAIMER excuse ” ? Smile Perry ! ! … Another recent case by Congressman Jackson who was convicted and not even a year now serving jail time after a short period of investigation and also the possibility of his wife being convicted be next to be serving jail time because of humanitarian reason her jail time was postponed. Why can’t the Philippines court system apply the same process for a speedy trial processing to put convicted felon in jail with in a short period of time rather than waiting 8 or 10 years without any court action? Rich personality or top corrupt government official seems to be above the law as being demonstrated by Gloria and Mike Arroyo , Ex -Thief Justice Corona still out there enjoying his real estate investment here in Roseville and in Florida and his dollars in the bank. DOJ , Sandigan Bayan please speed up our justice system to prosecute all this murderer and plunderer stealing billions from our countrymen.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Mac, not too long ago our country’s system of government would’ve been identical to that of Uncle Sam’s, but we chose not to be a part of one the greatest country in the world. Uncle Sam is not perfect by any means, he had problems of his own but because common sense was more powerful than ignorance, so he endured. Our country however is another story, and changing the mentality of our kababayans would be a tremendous task.

  6. Sluggo Rigor says:

    Proud of you as always, Brod Pepe.
    My Dad when he was still around would say that the peace and tranquility of the nation rests on when leaders and the people will respect the Constitution. An idealistic soldier and scholar, he fought in Bessang Pass. After the war, many Ilocanos had wanted him to seek public office. He instead turned to helping set up what is now known as the PMA. He insisted always that the central role of the soldier is to defend the Constitution. For as long as the military is afflicted, there will always be the leaders who are tempted to go astray. I hope that Noynoy will be insightful enough to straighten out the AFP first and foremost as a strong ally in the battle against endemic corruption in our beloved land. Mabuhay ka, Brod! Keep writing about this. It is a vital issue affecting Filipinos everywhere.

  7. Becker says:

    Ampatuans are the direct murderers of a ot of people who are still crying for Justice, Why can’t the President of the Philippines interene in that case of more than 60 people who wre killed that day. Could we not rally in front of the Justice and Courts as the law could free them if they are not prosecuted on time. I believe there must be a bloody revolution to make people realize that this is a big scam in front of them.

  8. pat talens says:

    In the Ampatuans massacre, more than 60 people were murdered (and some may have been burried while still alive) by the murderers; in the Vhong Navarro case, Vhong was mugged, kicked, and sure enough been bruised and got black-eyed. But why is it the entire NBI, airports police, police insfrastructure, the DOJ are using almost all their energy and resources into this Vhong case????—which is a drop in the bucket in priority and national significance as compared to many long ago high profile cases, such as the Ampatuans killings, that to-date murderers have not even seen the light of day in courts and punished.

    This is glaring example of dysfunctions and failings in the Philippine justice system—that only requires the radical involvement of the Filipino people themselves, and to put their leaders to account. This stands just another consequential societal anomaly rooted from steeped corruptions that pervade in the institutions of govt and various sectors of Philippine society.

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