No Longer Business as Usual

by Marisa Lerias

Posted at Jun 23 2012 01:07 AM | Updated as of Jun 23 2012 09:07 AM

A daily newspaper ran an interesting story on their front page early this week. There were speculations on why the illegal numbers games like “jueteng”, “swertres” and “masiao” are back and thriving. It is twisted reasoning but unfortunately very true. Good governance has led to a proliferation of illegal activities. The article was a subtle admission that crooks exist among the recipients of the so called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF or pork barrel). We’ve all known this but an admission from a peer in the House of Representatives is tantamount to a stamp of confirmation. Allow me to simplify the conclusion. Anything illegal is a crime and anyone who commits a crime is called a criminal. We have criminals in Congress.

Congressman Albee Benitez proceeds to explain that the reforms implemented by the DPWH have taken away the “allure” of road projects under the Aquino Administration. Bravo Secretary Singson! Not too long ago, we all felt that it would be impossible to remove this ingrained source of corruption. Somehow, the control measures put in place are bearing fruit. But, is this an excuse to allow other illegal activities to flourish? Congressman Jun Abaya firmly believes that jueteng can be stopped because his father, former Congressman Del Abaya, did it when was a Police Constabulary in service. I can say the same for my Province of Southern Leyte when the previous administration did not condone such illegal activities.

It is, therefore, safe to assume that the efficiency in controlling government funds have highlighted the inefficiency of local officials to curb illegal gambling in their areas. The Kaya Natin campaign to stop illegal gambling led me to speak to several officials of the Philippine National Police. I heard lamentations at how fingers are pointed in their direction each time an area is cited as a hotspot for jueteng. Their explanation is very simple. If the local officials want to eradicate illegal gambling, then it can be done. However, if they (PNP) are ordered to turn a blind eye then there is not much that they can do. This would mean catching the ire of the Local Chief Executive and being removed from one’s current position to be deported elsewhere in the country. This is such a convenient excuse to reap part of the benefits in the guise of compliance.

Despite all these, there are policemen who embrace reform and genuinely want the change to take place. How do we protect them? We should think out of the box here and see how we can lend support to these professionals. In this era of waivers, transparency and full disclosure, perhaps it would be appropriate for each Chief of Police in a municipality or city and all Provincial Directors to sign a document that they do not condone jueteng, swertres or masiao in their area. If such is not the case then they should state the reasons why the police are not in a position to stop it. This will put the burden of responsibility where it belongs.

In closing, allow me to quote Palawan Congressman Antonio Alvarez. He said, “If [Aquino’s] efforts to curb corruption are affecting the lifestyle of some influential people, then the option for them is to cease and desist or change careers.” I find this remark very amusing. I am not sure if my comprehension of his statement is correct but if I am to simplify it, I think he is saying that politics is lucrative business but public service is hard work.

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Marisa Lerias is originally from Southern Leyte and currently works with the Philippine office of British Airways. She is also part of the core group of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.

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