If there’s someone who knows the law inside out, having been part of both the enforcement aspect for many years and even the criminal aspect of it—he was kept behind bars for a time for alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam in 2014—it’s none other than Juan Ponce Enrile, who, at 98, now sits as the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The longtime Defense Secretary and later, senator and Senate President, hit the headlines once again when he declared that corruption is more rampant now than before.
Enrile aired this observation as a resource person during a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes that’s deliberating on Charter change proposals.
“I’m not saying there was no corruption before, but it’s not like now,” Enrile said. “I’m sorry to say that during our time, corruption is rampant. All lump sum money being budgeted by Congress is subject to corruption.”
He cited as an example reports of corruption in the implementation of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
TUPAD is a cash-for-work program that provides emergency employment for displaced, seasonal, and underemployed workers for 10 to 30 days during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not everyone is doing it but many are pocketing the cash and using it for election to buy the votes of our poor countrymen,” he said.
We have yet to read news that Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma has indicated any intention to look into this.
Enrile wants to go back to the old system where all presidential appointees, including the justices of the Supreme Court, were subject to confirmation by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
What does he suggest to rectify the current situation?
“Having been a part of the government under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions up to now, I’d rather that we go back to the system under the 1935 Constitution,” he said.
He may have a point there, but we disagree.
Isn’t it that the Commission on Appointments consisting of members from the House of Representatives and the Senate can hardly be called non-partisan and truly independent from the executive branch?
With Philippine politics dominated by old and new family dynasties intent on staying in power for as long as they can, we cannot imagine the Commission on Appointments leading the way in putting an end to corruption in this country.
We believe, on the contrary, that the CA may be part and parcel of the entire political system of horse-trading, backroom deals, favoritism and nepotism that have institutionalized graft and corruption in this country for as long as we can remember.
Enrile is correct in pointing out that corruption runs rampant to this day and has become even worse now.
The fact is that corruption permeates all branches and levels of the Philippine government.
The executive department leads the long list of offices charged with improper handling of taxpayers’ money, with even former presidents charged with plunder during their terms of office.
It’s common knowledge that much of the monkey business takes place in the two main tax collection agencies of the national government, namely the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue, through undervaluation of imports and technical smuggling in the case of the former, and through under-the-table deals in the settlement of tax liabilities by high-worth individuals and corporations in the case of the latter.
It’s no secret either that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are also steeped in corruption, including the overpricing and ghost deliveries of supplies and equipment.
And let’s not forget how many local government units have landed in the papers for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act 3019, enacted in 1960 and subsequently amended over the years to impose stiffer penalties on public officials.
The legislature has not been exempt from corruption allegations as well.
Some lawmakers have been charged with diversion of their pork barrel allocations to their own pockets through the use of non-existent non-government organizations.
Other lawmakers have also been named as beneficiaries of the scam, but no cases have prospered in court.
How about the judiciary? Not a few members of the bench have likewise been accused of issuing dubious temporary restraining orders (TROs) to favor certain clients, for monetary considerations.
Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranks the country in the 117th place out of 180 countries. A high ranking corresponds to a perception of high corruption in the country’s public sector.
Recall that the World Bank has estimated that roughly one-fourth of our annual national budget is lost to corruption.
If the proposed budget for 2023 of more than P5 trillion is passed by Congress and signed by the President, that means more than P1 trillion is likely to be stolen by the greedy and unscrupulous in government in 2023.
Think about that for a moment, and with the national budget getting bigger year after year, that means there’s more taxpayers’ money going down the drain and into the pockets of the corrupt in the coming years.