MANILA — All 9 presidential candidates present in the second Comelec-sponsored “PiliPinas Debates 2022” on Sunday agreed that there must be reforms to address the problem of corruption in the country.
The candidates—labor leader Leody De Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, Jose Montemayor Jr., Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Vice President Leni Robredo, former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella—presented different solutions to curb corruption in government.
During the first segment of Sunday’s debates, the candidates were asked: “Sa inyong palagay, ang korapsyon ba ay dulot ng kahinaan ng tao o kahinaan ng sistema? Alinman ang inyong sagot, ano ang solusyon na dapat ipatupad?”
(For you, is corruption caused by the weakness of people or the weakness of the system? Whatever your answer, what solution should be implemented to fight corruption?)
DE GUZMAN: PROHIBITING ‘TRAPOS’ FROM ELECTIONS
Leody De Guzman proposed to reform the election process, prohibiting “trapos” (traditional politicians) and those belonging to political families involved in corruption from seeking elective posts.
“’Yong trapo at mga dinastiya, huwag na nating payagang sumali sa eleksyon. Magnanakaw lang 'yan. Walang intensyon 'yan na paunlarin ang bayan,” the standard bearer of Partido Lakas ng Masa said.
(Trapos and those in political dynasties must not be allowed to join elections. They will only steal. They have no intentions of developing our country.)
MORENO: DIGITIZING GOVERNMENT TRANSACTIONS
Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, on the other hand, presented a solution that his administration has been doing in Manila: using technology to lessen human discretion in government transactions.
Through digitized transactions, fixers can also be eliminated, Moreno said.
“Binigyan namin ng pagkakataon na makapagbayad ng buwis ang tao na wala siyang kinakausap na sinuman, at siya'y makapagbabayad nang matiwasay at hindi na siya nagiging biktima na fixer na pagala-gala sa mga ahensya o departamento ng gobyerno,” he said.
(We gave our people the chance to pay taxes without having to talk to anyone, and they were able to pay them properly without having to be victimized by fixers roaming around government agencies and departments.)
The Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer noted that because of his efforts as mayor, the local government of Manila bagged its first Seal of Good Housekeeping recognition from the Department of Interior and Local Government in 2020.
GONZALES: CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
Norberto Gonzales pushed for constitutional reform, saying that corruption has become normalized in the current government system. The former defense secretary also suggested to change the form of government from presidential to parliamentary, as the latter encourages more competent leaders to serve.
“Kapag parliamentary system, lumalabas ang kagalingan ng bawat mamumuno, baka po sakali na kagalingan na ang magiging batayan ng pamumuno dito sa atin, hindi na po iyong pera, kasi natututo pong mag-corrupt ang mga pulitiko natin kasi gusto po nilang makabawi sa kanilang ginagastos pagtakbo sa pulitika,” Gonzales said.
(A parliamentary system brings out the best leaders. Under such system, merit will become the basis for leadership and not money, as money only encourages politicians to be corrupt to make up for their campaign expenses.)
LACSON: LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE
Citing his experiences in the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Military Academy, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that a “leadership by example” is key to address corruption.
He pointed out that there is nothing wrong with the current government system, and the problem lies with public officials involved in corrupt practices.
The senator said that there are enough laws and institutions in government to ensure transparency, but there is a problem with enforcing the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“Ang kahinaan, hindi po sa sistema. Sa tao po na nagpapatupad ng Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 'Yan po ang dapat nating supilin, ang dapat nating palakasin, 'yong sistema ng pamamalakad,” Lacson said.
(The weakness is not with the system. It is with the people enforcing the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. We need to stop that, and instead intensify the system of implementation.)
MANGONDATO: A NEW SYSTEM
Faisal Mangondato, meanwhile, said that a new, corruption-free system will be implemented if he is elected president.
However, he did not specify how that new system will be implemented, or what the transition process from the old to the new would be.
“Itong lumang sistema natin ay iwanan natin at tumungo at tumawid na tayo sa bagong sistema,” Mangondato said.
(Let us leave this old system behind and lead ourselves to the new one.)
MONTEMAYOR: CORRUPTION CAN’T BE STOPPED
Jose Montemayor Jr. said that while the system and anti-corruption policies are “watertight,” corruption cannot be stopped as people are inherently corrupt.
“Kahit gaano kaganda ang sistema, kung ang attitude napaka-corrupt, eh gagawa't gagawa ng paraan 'yan para palusutin niya o lusutin niya ang batas, lalong lalo na… there is a wide degree of discretion among public officers,” he said.
(No matter how good the system is, if corruption is in one’s attitude, then he or she will find ways to bend or work around the law, especially that there is a wide degree of discretion among public officers.)
PACQUIAO: ‘MEGA-PRISON’ FOR CORRUPT OFFICIALS
Sen. Manny Pacquiao vowed that under his administration, a “mega-prison” will be filled with corrupt officials.
“Subukan lang nila ako ng anim na taon. Makikita nila na 'yong megaprison, mapupuno 'yon. 'Yong megaprison mapupuno para sa kanilang lahat,” Pacquiao said.
(Try me for six years. You will see a mega-prison filled with all of those corrupt officials.)
He said that a president must have a strong political will to demand accountability from public servants, adding that the lack of political will only emboldens them to be corrupt.
“Kaya dumadami ang mga magnanakaw dahil walang nakakulong. Imposible na mabawasan 'yong magnanakaw kung wala namang nakukulong,” the boxer-turned-politician added.
(That’s why thieves multiply because no one gets imprisoned for theft. If no one is imprisoned for theft, the thieves in government will never be reduced.)
ROBREDO: ACCONTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY, PEOPLE EMPOWERMENT
Vice President Leni Robredo agreed with Pacquiao that corrupt officials must be held accountable. But apart from accountability, she said, transparency and people empowerment must also be normalized in government.
Robredo added that a system must be set up to compel “public officials to be good.”
If elected president, she said, her first executive order will impose a full disclosure policy, requiring all government offices and agencies “to make public all their transactions, all the contracts, all the procurements, even without need of request from anyone.”
She also scored the importance of citizens’ charters and people’s councils. Like Moreno, she also pushes for the digitization of all government processes to minimize human contact.
ABELLA: CIVIC PARTICIPATION IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Ernesto Abella advocated for civic participation and activation of ordinary citizens, so that the public is also involved in government processes and undertakings.
He noted that under the Local Government Code, 25 percent of local governance should come from civil society.
“Huwag po nating ilagay lahat sa balikat ng presidente ang responsibilidad sa pagpapatakbo ng isang malinis na gobyerno. Kailangan pong sumali tayo,” the former presidential spokesperson said.
(Let’s not place all the responsibility of running a clean government to the president. We have to participate.)
Civic participation, Abella added, can work as a deterrent against corruption, which he said is “one of the reasons why there is such a big gap between the rich and the poor.”
Former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was unable to present his anti-corruption platforms as he snubbed the debates for the second time.
Sunday’s debate was the second of three presidential debates organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the non-partisan group Vote Pilipinas, and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP).
It was held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City.