Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 15 August 2015

 

It seems the strongest argument used by supporters of Vice President Jejomar Binay when asked why they still want to vote for him in spite of his alleged corruption is: “Most politicians are corrupt anyway, and Binay at least shares with us.”

This, by the way, is mouthed not only by the economically marginalized but also by people in the upper echelons (I heard it from at least three people who can only be described as Very Wealthy) of society. Note that all of them, rich and poor alike, seem to take it as given that he is corrupt.

In any case, some anti-Binays are helpless to reply to the argument. After all, that most politicians are corrupt seems to be an accepted, unchanging fact. And the second part of the argument is “proven” by the birthday cakes, the cash gifts, the packages he gives to disaster-stricken Filipinos, even the trips abroad to “save” overseas Filipino workers, and the free uniforms, books and tuition of the schoolchildren in Makati.

OK, most politicians are corrupt. But isn’t that why we voted for P-Noy in the first place—because we were sick of corruption? Isn’t that why Manny Villar did not win—because the voters saw through his attempts to make himself sound poor (he was not; his dad was a government technocrat, and his mom had her fish stall, which was very profitable), and then saw how he appeared to have used his government position to build roads that ended up making his subdivisions more accessible and profitable?

No other administration has waged such a war against corruption. With such spectacular results. Let us count the ways: Three sitting senators and a couple of congressmen are in detention on corruption and plunder charges (nonbailable). Another set of legislators or former legislators are soon to be in the same position. A former director general of the Philippine National Police is also behind bars. A chief justice was impeached, convicted and removed from office. One ex-president is pining away, incarcerated in a hospital. And, of course, there is the case of the Vice President. We used to complain that no big fish have been caught in the fight against corruption. You can’t get any bigger than these fish.

Moreover, the pork barrel practice which had been one of the major sources of public corruption has been banned by the Supreme Court. And the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman are now doing what the Constitution mandates them to do, and which somehow they failed to do before. Plus, Congress has finally passed the bill giving the Sandiganbayan more justices.

Aren’t these results spectacular? And if you doubt it, just look at the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International, an international civil society organization that measures corruption in the public sector of countries. At the time of the launch of this CPI in 1995, the Philippines measured 2.8 on a scale of 0 to 10, where zero was given to the most corrupt, and 10 was the cleanest. By 2005, that measure had gone DOWN to 2.5, and by 2010 it had slid further to 2.4. We were getting more corrupt. So in the 15-year period from 1995 to 2010, the Philippines was losing the corruption war. It was ranked 134th out of 178 countries in 2010; we were in the bottom 25 percent.

Well, in the latest (2014) CPI, we are now in the top half—85th out of 174 countries. Our CPI went from 24 (on a scale of 0 to 100) in 2010 to 36 in 2014. So nobody can deny that the Philippines has gained tremendously in its fight against corruption, measured against its own experience, and relative to other countries.

Have we stopped corruption? Of course not. But the message is loud and clear now:

Corrupt politicians beware: You are no longer above the law.

So we are in a good place, and we must consolidate our gains and go on. And voting into the highest office of the land a person who most everybody accepts as corrupt will bring us back to square one. That’s why, for the sake of the country, we cannot vote for sucha person.

As for the second part of the argument, that at least Binay “shares” with the poor, that does not necessarily follow. After all, Makati is a very rich city. What has been spent for cakes and cash gifts and free education are from the funds collected by Makati—and even some of this money is alleged to have been diverted. However, those luxurious houses and farm estates and the campaigns of a senator, a mayor and a congresswoman—his children—had to be funded. From the fruits of corruption?

By the way, the wealth of Makati has nothing to do with Binay. He used the wealth; he did not create it, as he claims. Look at the map of Makati. Take away the barangays San Lorenzo (which includes Legazpi Village), Bel-Air (including Salcedo Village), Urdaneta, Forbes, Dasmariñas and Magallanes: These were all conceptualized and implemented by the Ayalas.

These areas, six out of the 33 barangays of Makati, easily account for at least 60 percent of its revenues. I am told that not one single centavo of the revenues go toward maintaining these villages and business areas. They are reportedly the responsibility of the Ayalas and the residents. The money given to the barangays are from the national government’s Internal Revenue Allotment.

Binay’s claim to the authorship of Makati’s success counts among his biggest lies. Should we vote for a man whose claims to success appear to be based on lies and on corruption? God help our country if we do.