Business Fighting Corruption
‘Business Fighting Corruption’
By Ramon del Rosario Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 10, 2010
WHILE IT WAS “WALANG WANG-WANG” THAT resonated best with most of us, I think the statement of President Noynoy Aquino in his inaugural address that did most to define his administration was his declaration that there can be no reconciliation without justice. This set the context for his administration’s central theme: Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. To those whose advice was that unity is paramount and we must now move forward instead of looking back, the President’s response was: By all means, let us all move forward, hand in hand, each doing his part, but let us do so while bringing to justice those who have wronged our country and our countrymen. For to fail to do so, he said, ensures that these transgressions will be repeated.
The President then moved swiftly to give teeth to this thrust, first by his inspired move to name lawyer Leila de Lima as justice secretary. De Lima’s universally acclaimed appointment brings hope that the Department of Justice will once again be a reliable instrument in the prosecution of crime and the pursuit of justice.
The second move was the announcement of the formation of a Truth Commission to be headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. The reaction to the Davide appointment was mixed. While I personally continue to hold Justice Davide in high regard, I would have preferred to see someone appointed in the mold of Jose W. Diokno in his prime, when he successfully brought Harry Stonehill to justice decades ago; but it is extremely difficult to find one like Diokno now.
As we await the definition and the formation of the Truth Commission, I hope its scope and functions will be clearly defined and well-focused so that it can satisfactorily complete its work within the term of President Aquino. I for one think its focus must be corruption and only corruption at the national level during the Arroyo administration. I believe there is nothing that will assure its failure more than a poorly defined or overly broad mandate where the scope is so vast and ill-defined that its work will drag on for decades like the PCGG’s. I hope too that to ensure the acceptability of the commission’s output, the commissioners appointed will be persons of unquestioned competence and probity.
As the government moves forward in its anti-corruption drive, I believe it is appropriate that we in the private sector seriously consider what we should do to participate meaningfully in this effort. After all, corruption is by no means limited to the government sector, and we have considerable cleaning up to do ourselves.
It was very timely therefore that last June 24, the Asian Institute of Management’s Center for Corporate Governance convened a round-table discussion on a proposed project aimed at “Promoting Integrity and Accountability in Business.” The proposed project would have two objectives:
To strengthen awareness and understanding of the social and economic costs of corruption among Philippine businesses and to generate their support for anti-corruption efforts, and
To strengthen the ability of Philippine enterprises, including small and medium-sized companies, to prevent corrupt and other unethical behavior among their employees.
With Transparency International co-founder Michael Hershman leading the discussion on collective action in the fight against corruption, the major business organizations were well represented by their current or past heads. While the group recognized that fighting corruption within our ranks would by no means be easy, we also readily agreed that the onset of the Aquino administration provides us an outstanding opportunity to finally do something about this paramount problem that is diverting scarce national resources from needed infrastructure and social projects, and causing our enterprises to be uncompetitive against the rest of the world.
We agreed that the President and our most senior government officials must lead the way, first by appointing persons of unquestioned competence and integrity to the key government agencies, and then by aggressively prosecuting and punishing prominent crooks like those involved in the ZTE deal and the fertilizer scam. For our part, we agreed to support AIM’s multi-faceted approach to combating corruption in the Philippine business community, whose core activity will be a series of anti-corruption workshops in cities across the country, specifically for small and medium-sized businesses which collectively constitute 99 percent of registered businesses and employ roughly 70 percent of the workforce in the Philippines, and which are deemed to be more likely to be vulnerable to corruption risks.
As the first step, we hope to secure formal support from the business community by obtaining signed pledges from prominent businesses to abide by ethical business practices and to support a national fight against corruption. Hopefully, the signatories will be the CEOs themselves. It is hoped that the effort will help raise awareness of this anti-corruption initiative and will help build momentum for the project. The first 50 signatories will be designated as charter members of the campaign, which AIM proposes to call Business Fighting Corruption.
Our intention is to publicly sign these initial pledges at a meeting of the business community, which we hope will be graced by President Aquino. Thus do we hope to formalize our commitment to be part of his campaign against corruption.
Ramon R. del Rosario Jr. is the chairman of the Makati Business Club. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org