The system of government is to blame for corruption in the country, which costs Filipinos P700 billion every year, most of the nine presidential candidates in the May 9 general elections present Sunday night said in the second debate sponsored by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
But only one of them—Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson—thinks the people running the government are solely to blame for the endemic corruption hounding the country in the event hosted by veteran journalist Ces Orena Drilon.
In answering the question “Sa palagay niyo, ang korupsyon ba ay dulot ng kahinaan ng tao o kahinaan ng system? (In your opinion, is corruption caused by the weakness of a person or a weakness in the system),” Lacson said corruption is due to weak people implementing the system in the government.
Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Dr. Jose Montemayor Jr. all said both person and system should be blamed for corruption, while the rest pointed to the system only as the cause.
Also present in the second Comelec-organized debate were Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody de Guzman, former Defense chief Norberto Gonzales, and Muslim businessman Faisal Mangondato.
Presidential survey frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was again absent, opting to campaign in Tarlac and northern Luzon.
Lacson said the current government system is not weak, as there are many laws like the Anti-Corrupt and Practices Act, the Government Procurement Act, Philippine Competition Act, and Anti-Red Tape Act that prohibit it.
Government institutions like the Sandiganbayan and Ombudsman are also present to avert massive graft and corruption, “but the people in the government are weak,” the former national police chief said.
Due to his, Lacson underscored the need to strengthen the system of management, saying if there are violators of laws, they should immediately be sent to jail.
He also cited the need for “leadership by example,” saying it was “one of the leadership principles I learned from the Philippine Military Academy.”
“Leadership by example is very important. If a leader cannot practice what he preaches, what he has been instructing his followers or subordinates, he will not succeed,” the three-term senator said.
Robredo reiterated that the government system should force public officials to be good, in the second installment of the “Pilipinas Debates 2022: The Turning Point.”
This was her answer to the question by Drilon as the amount lost to corruption annually was enough to build 1.4 million homes for Filipinos.
Robredo said while both the people and the system are to blame, there are three ways to strengthen the system versus corruption. She said the first is accountability, with punishment for corrupt officials.
Second was a citizen’s charter, and third was people empowerment.
Pacquiao said corruption was triggered by a weak system and weak people in the government. He vouched for the automation of all government operations to avoid “commissions.” He also cited the need for leadership and political will.
According to the PROMDI standard bearer, he wants to see in jail all thieves in the government and vowed to send them behind bars. He challenged Filipinos to try him for six years, as he promised that the mega prison to be built under his administration “will be filled with robbers.”
Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer Domagoso vowed to seek the United Nations General Assembly’s full recognition and enforcement of the ruling rendered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration declaring as illegal China’s massive claims over the South China Sea and upholding the validity of the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
Moreno stressed that if he is elected President on May 9 national elections, his administration will adopt the so-called “Filipino First Policy” as the country’s foreign policy where it gives priority to the welfare of the nation and the Filipino people.
“These countries in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) mostly will not join us due to their personal reasons—economic or other things. But there is a proper venue, the UN General Assembly,” Moreno said.
According to Moreno, it is now appropriate to bring the Hague ruling before the UNGA.
The Manila mayor also vowed to protect the livelihood of the Filipino fisherfolks in the West Philippine Sea.
He said he will not allow the repeat of the Bajo de Masinloc incident where a Chinese Coast Guard vessel engaged in “close distance maneuvering” that heightened a risk of collision in the West Philippine Sea.
Moreno also advocated for constitutional reforms, including the return of the two-party system, election of senators from 17 regions and the voting of both the president and the vice president from the same political party.
“I believe it’s high time to return to the two-party system. We have 17 regions, it should be represented by 2 senators per region. Because I want to see Igorot, Aetas or IPs as senators so that not only one family leads the Senate,” he proposed.
On political dynasties, Lacson objected to it, but conceded “we are facing an arduous battle to forgo this practice among traditional political families.”
He also admitted it is not important if Filipinos want or don’t like political dynasties, as the Constitution clearly states that political dynasties are prohibited, “but there is a need for an enabling law.”
According to Lacson, he had filed an enabling law on political dynasties. “Unfortunately, this will not pass in Congress regardless of the number of proposed measures we filed in the House of Representatives and Senate,” he added.
Pacquiao said political dynasties will deprive voters of their chosen candidates.
“We should consider the rights of voters,” he said, stressing there are sincere politicians who are ready and willing to genuinely serve the people.
“It is unfair for political families who are honest in their service to the people and who have brought huge reforms to their constituents.”
On extrajudicial killings due to the war on illegal drugs, Pacquiao said he will order investigations into it.
While there are reports of abuses, the former boxing champion said he will continue with the operations against all those involved in the illicit drug trade.
However, Pacquiao said he will not order the killing of drug pushers, but those who smuggled illegal drugs in the country.