POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 21 July 2011, Thursday
The Unkillable Culture of Impunity
What do former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office officials Manuel Morato and Rosario Uriarte, former Maguindanao elections supervisor Lintang Bedol, Kalinga governor Jocel Baac, and Davao City mayor Sara Duterte have in common?
Aside from the fact that all were or are in government, another linking factor between them is the sense we get that they felt – no, they believed – they were not accountable to the public for any of the actions they committed while in power – and what they did was right, no matter how wrong.
The ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings on the misuse of public funds by previous PCSO Boards are shining light into dark corners. The public, aghast, watches the testimonies of Morato (former chairman under the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos and director under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ) and Uriarte (former general manager for seven years under Arroyo), and wonders, how did they get away with it for so long?
Uriarte had a huge coffer in the hundreds of millions for “intelligence funds” to subdue illegal jueteng operators but could not give senators any results of these efforts. She gave funds to her chief-of-staff for an organization that senator Ping Lacson found was election-campaigning for Arroyo.
Morato used PCSO funds for his “Dial M” TV show that, according to ratings cited by senator Jinggoy Estrada, hardly anyone watched. There’s the matter, too, of a hotel he’d owned that was later bought by gaming operator contracted by PCSO, raising issues of conflict of interest.
Lintang Bedol swaggers into the Comelec offices four years late to a summons, conspicuously wearing a bulletproof vest. (Like they can’t shoot his head? As broadcaster Pinky Webb said on radio the other day, his face is still “an open target”.) The assembled populace holds their breath for his first words. “Hello,” he says in soft voice, his tones demure. “Kamusta kayong lahat?” What, like nothing happened?
Lintang Bedol at the Comelec on July 19. Image here.
Jocel Baac storms into radio host Jerome Tabanganay’s booth in Tabuk City while the latter is on-air and hits him in the mouth with the microphone for asking uncomfortable questions about the governor’s alleged involvement in jueteng and illegal logging operations in the province.
Her father, vice-mayor Rodrigo Duterte, appears on television and gives the finger to her critics and telling her, no need to apologize, inday, you were “doing it for the people”. With a father like that, no wonder, etcetera.
What makes people in positions of power think that they are immune to public censure and prosecution? Whenever Uriarte soaks a hanky with tears, are we supposed to feel sorry for her, knowing that she signed checks for P20 million and encashed them without liquidation? When Sara Duterte punches an officer of the court in the face for doing his duty, is she to be commended because her motive was to prevent a shanty community demolition?
They have forgotten that being in power also entails duty and responsibility, and nothing justifies the perpetration of violence, deception, and dishonesty.
There are so many more untold tales. Who’s the government official who’d come to work early in the morning with shower-wet hair – and drunk? Who kept hundreds of billing statements mouldering unpaid in boxes, paying only selected accounts, sending several suppliers into bankruptcy and plunging her agency in debt? Who sent her staff on a junket to Hongkong and Macau several months before the elections? And that’s just one person.
I could tell more horror stories that would curl your hair, but since it might neutralize the expensive rebonding you just had, let’s just agree that instances of government graft and corruption are myriad, like ants in a jungle or grains of sand on a beach
The important thing is, can this social cancer be reversed? Can this deeply embedded culture of impunity be ripped out by its roots and replaced with one of responsibility, fairness, transparency, and accountability?
The present administration under President Benigno S. Aquino III is trying, under his matuwid na daan policy, to set things right. It’s a slow process, and more revelations are likely to emerge and astonish, but until a new and improved culture is put in place, we have to endure under the old one.
Delicadeza is dead. Wait, this is old news. We knew that a long time ago. ***