[Newspoint] A blackmailed existence
This is an adaptation by the writer from a talk he gave at a symposium titled, “Integrity and Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Changing Times,” held on July 28, 2017, under the auspices of the Office of the Ombudsman.
There are two ways of looking at corruption: one, as a mere symptom or complication of some condition, the other, as a condition in itself.
The distinction has its clinical use, but is of little practical help. Itself a long-lingering, full-fledged epidemic, corruption just has to be dealt with wherever strikes, as it strikes.
It is comparable to a greedy and un-killable minotaur. We feed it on demand so that we may go on with our blackmailed existence. We have allowed it to define our way of life; not only have we come to terms with it and become accustomed to it, we’ve actually gone along with it in qualm-free complicity.
That's precisely the abominable situation in which we find ourselves today.
To be sure, some effort is mounted against it now and then, here and there, but, being jurisdictionally constrained, it works in a limited way: it doesn’t slay the monster; it only slows it, only superficially hurts it, allowing it to return – it always does, and with a vengeance – at the first sign of any slackening of vigilance against it. Even so, it cannot be discounted or depreciated; though limited or isolated, it works, guerrilla-wise, as a vital tactical action in the larger war against corruption.
But there’s no depreciating the hardy nature of the beast either. It does not operate on its own; it is well taught, well protected, and well run by a keeper – a patron. In every case it is an overindulged enforcer or lieutenant or a relative or crony of a ringleader or an office boss or a dynastic patriarch or a political kingpin or a feudal lord.
Corruption is the monster child of a Frankenstein mother culture, although, in order to keep us fooled, it is portrayed narrowly and benignly as classic bribery. In truth, it is far more serious than the grease money that buys a small favor – a job, say, or a way out of a fix. It may have begun that way, but we doubtless have come a long way; we’ve had generations and generations of practice, after all.
Anyway, I don’t want to go further into that now; I won’t be forced by the limits of the occasion into compressing a dissertation on corruption history and risking giving anyone an excuse to pass the blame to some Spanish or American colonial governor-general. I mean simply to try to demonstrate how dreadfully far along we’ve gone.
Where before corruption was routinely presumed official – agents of the government bestowing undue favors in its name in exchange for a bribe – it now afflicts private corporations and institutions and the professions. Anyone prepared to pay under the table for a better deal than the next customer or client has only to find a suitably corruptible insider.
But still, given its place in the scheme of things and in particular its regulatory, prosecutorial, and judicial powers, the government naturally dominates the market for corruption.
Where it is a player, the stakes are presumably high, and the deal conspiratorial, undertaken in the pursuit of some broad, common, corrupt interest, producing consequences as far-reaching as they are chilling, the wrong person perpetuated in power and authority, say, or sent to jail or kept out of it or even pardoned.
How much is the deal worth? Surely attractive enough to inspire a sense of impunity never seen before: bribe money changing hands and murders being perpetrated in the glare of closed-circuit television; assassinations being carried out in an only slightly discreet fashion, with the targets as secure as sitting ducks in their jail cells and all mechanical and human witnesses put out of commission for the moment.
If these cases seem misclassified as corruption, it’s only because they don’t fit the generally acceptable definition. The public has become stuck in the old, soft notion of corruption as wealth making in office, illegal but bloodless – no murders in its wake. But one only has to look hard enough to see corruption at work in most official wrongdoing.
To the news media in particular, the inescapable question is raised: What part, if any, did they play in the shaping of the less than aggressive public stance against corruption? They could not but have played some part.
Like all other professions and institutions, the news media have not been spared by the epidemic of corruption; in fact, for their case, a phrase has been especially coined: "envelopmental journalism." But that’s not the reason they are a scarce help in its mitigation. For all the power ascribed to them, they are themselves constrained by their own nature and mandate.
The media are an army of generalists spread thin and racing the clock to produce ephemeral products – news and instant opinion. They have neither the means – certainly not the time – nor the special training for the edification and advocacy called for in rallying the public around a cause.
Concededly, as matter of moral duty, they are expected to do what they can for the effort. But aren't we all? – Rappler.com