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The corruption conundrum

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THERE’S A paradox in an old Tagalog adage that says ‘lumalaon bumubuti, sumasama kaysa dati’. Roughly translated, ‘it gets better in time, it gets worse than it was before’.

From the astute perspective of Sen. Ping Lacson, who’s been there, seen this and done that, that’s where we are in the Philippines as far as corruption is concerned, or the interminable, perennial fight — “war – if you will, using the pet word of this administration, against rottenness in government.

The humungous loot is now in the billions of pesos, he said, compare to only hundreds of millions in the past. His sad view came on the heels of the conviction of Janet Napoles and company over the pork barrel scam that had implicated big fish like former senators Johnny Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and many others. Fish maybe a mild metaphor.

If this sordid trend continues, a vision of the proverbial ‘kankungan’ for the republic, is within the realm of possibilities, however, remote. Are we on a slippery slope? Charles Colton has a sobering warning:  corruption is like a snow ball, once it’s set a rolling, it must increase. The spike from millions to billions is the logic of Lacson’s  running view of our balance sheet.

Two viruses, not one, are at aggressively at work to ruin a poor, at times closing in on a better status, democratic nation struggling to carve out its own niche under the sun. The new ‘enemy’, the pandemic virus has stung the nation badly, bringing it down to its knees but remains unbowed. The invisible bugrelentlessly carries out its destructive ability by replicating as fast as possible and, mutating, whenever possible.

The vaccination efforts all over the world are meant to stop the virus on both tracks.  Science makes sense.  As Dr. Anthony Fauci, top anti-COVID expert in the United States, has said, the vaccine will prevent the virus from multiplying itself in a vaccinated person, and will, therefore, be not able to mutate or change.  

Tough luck. While the Americans have Faucis, we in the Philippines suffer from the paucity of science-backed virus-fighting leaders.  

Thus, as far as Filipinos are concerned, only about 30 percent are willing to be jabbed – and not just with any brand of vaccine. No Chinese or Russian brand, please.

The virus of corruption, the ancient enemy, seems to operate the same way. It infects someone, then replicates or reproduces and, when something is used to stop its reproduction, it changes into something more resistant and aggressive. Compare Lacson’s revelation of corruption getting worse with the pandemic virus variant being more highly transmissible – pegged at 70 per cent faster. The comparison is educative.

The urgent challenge to a virus embattled planet is a race not only against the germ but against time. It is, as if modern technology, with its emphasis on speed and acceleration, has given rise to the bug’s virulence. If the bug were a despot, it would be characterized by its violent tendency. Reality in the political and biological realms resonates.

Unfortunately, a vaccine against corruption hasn’t been invented yet. Until such time, either we just have to grin and bear the impact of corruption in government on our daily lives, or find ways to stop rearing its ugly head.

Fortunately, we can borrow from the health protocol recommended worldwide to minimize virus spread and infection: use face mask and face shield, observe social distancing, and personal hygiene.

Keen observers of social and political changes note that when agencies of government whose main criterion and character are professionalism get politicized, corruption in various shape, size and form emerge and grow.

Does that observation reflect what’s happening today in our midst as democratic institutions made up of professionals are emasculated one after the other by insidious politics?

Apply the protocol. Keep oneself safe from the ‘virus’ of proven corrupt and potentially corrupt people in your office.  Maintain a safe distance from them. The devil is usually a whisper away, although it’s unmistakable in that it’s like a roaring lion ready to devour.   Keep oneself clean at all times. Never get involved in gray areas of transactions where AlbertEinstein’s theory of relativity is considered best practice in ethics and morality.        

The virus protocol is more inward. The corruption protocol should be outward, too.  And for good, reason, as Einstein saw it.  The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but those who watch them without doing anything, he said.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent, considered the craftiestof all creatures, tried Einstein’s first part of the paragraph, but Someone more powerful had the last say and put a period.

In an imperfect world, the monkey mantra – see, hear and smell no evil — can be the most convenient – not the safest, certainly not the rightest – response to corruption.

The difference lies in whether you’re an evolutionist or creationist. The distance–   a straight line between opposing points –   is inhabited by relativists. That’s where a thousand flowers (of corruption} bloom, with an apology to the Great Helmsman.

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