Is the Philippines Corruption-Resilient?

Can we say that we are resilient to corruption? 

Because we manage to bounce back after episodes of corruption across the different levels and units of government? Or because we can go back to the way things were (as if nothing happened) after each intentional man-made disruption or obstruction of public projects and programs? 

If you interpret resilience as simply recovering, perhaps you can say that we are indeed corruption resilient. But suppose you subscribe to the definition of resilience as being able to bounce back better. In that case, our repeated experiences with corruption should tell us that we are not moving the needle towards true resilience against corruption.

Perhaps because we have not heard about any significant consequence of corruption, we are easily satisfied when acts of corruption are brought to the open. Those responsible are brought to justice. We stop paying attention, and we do not bother putting in measures to ensure that such acts cannot happen again. What is even worse, we develop mass memory gaps specific to corrupt acts and practices, and those that were proven to have perpetrated these acts and practices get elected back to public office. This is amazing, frustrating, and dangerous all at the same time. 

We hear about grossly overpriced public works projects or a group getting preferential treatment because of their “magical” connections to the powers that be, or available funds disappearing into thin air, and the list goes on. There are so many innovative ways of siphoning off public resources to benefit private interests that, at times, it may be difficult to keep track, especially if we have not been paying that much attention from the start.

But it is precisely the keeping track and paying close attention that we should do to ensure that what happened in the past will not happen again. We should not wait for corruption’s devastating consequences to come our way before we act more aggressively against corruption. 

Think about this in the context of disaster resilience. We hope it does not get to the point where enterprising public officials “creatively” pocket resources for disaster prevention and response that, when the time comes to utilize them to thwart or respond to a disaster, we are left with substandard equipment, poorly trained personnel, or worse — empty coffers. 

Somebody said, regret always comes at the end (translation – “laging nasa hull ang pagsisisi.”

If we only paid closer attention; if we only tracked our resources and activities better, we would not have experienced this and that, then, we would have been better at this.  

But take note, we can do more than just hope. We can do something. We can start by being vigilant — by paying close attention to existing checks and balances, reporting transgressions and abuses, holding public officials to account, and educating the ill-informed so they know better than to absorb spin and alternative facts as gospel truths. 

Being corruption-resilient, just like becoming disaster-resilient, requires all of us to work together. We all have a stake in the game. And we need to do our share.