It can’t be just business as usual
OPINION, Philippine Daily Inquirer
By: Peter Angelo V. Perfecto
November 24, 2011
Many have asked why the Aquino administration seems fixated on pinning down the Arroyos on corruption charges. They go as far as to opine that this takes away the government’s focus from the real problems of the country, diverting precious time and resources from more important affairs of the state. Fortunately, many of the captains of industry do not share this view. If anything, they are seriously concerned that the massive corruption of the previous administration and the alleged electoral fraud might remain unresolved, unpunished and not rectified.
When Makati Business Club (MBC) first helped set up the Coalition Against Corruption in 2004, its shared objective with its many coalition partners was to empower citizens and prevent corruption. The prevention efforts included instituting better systems as well as building up cases to prosecute the corrupt. The coalition strongly believed that it could never be just about putting observers in bids and awards committees of government agencies—a measure that has proven to be very effective—but also about putting corrupt officials behind bars.
In December 2010, MBC partnered with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), Asian Institute of Management Hills Program, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) to launch a private sector contribution to the new administration’s anti-corruption effort—the Integrity Initiative. The private sector-led campaign aims to promote common ethical standards among various sectors of society, operating on the principles of inclusion and collective action. It began with corporations signing to an Integrity Pledge and the subsequent adoption of a Unified Code of Conduct. The movement is moving into the implementation of control measures, institutionalization of a certification process, and setting up of a system to report anomalies. Once again, shining the light on violations and the culprits—and making them accountable—is an integral component of the effort.
MBC’s calls for the impeachment of the previous ombudsman focused consistently on the importance of accountability. On March 7, 2011, MBC joined the Coalition Against Corruption statement in calling for the impeachment of the former ombudsman, urging our legislators to “send a clear message to the public that they will not tolerate erring public officials.” Then on March 22, 2011, MBC followed through with a statement applauding the approval of the House of Representatives’ impeachment report, saying that “finally, the Filipino people will be able to exact accountability from a public official who has long frustrated the people’s desire for justice and unapologetically held on to her position despite her office’s indefensibly poor track record in prosecuting corrupt public officials.”
The replacement of the former ombudsman was just one of many steps needed to effectively address corruption. As part of the Integrity Initiative, the business groups trained their sights on getting the judicial system on board in the fight against corruption. The National Competitiveness Council saw the necessity of this as well when it not only formed an anti-corruption working group, but convened a working group on the judicial system as well. On Aug. 4, 2011, Chief Justice Renato Corona signed the Integrity Pledge after he addressed a joint membership meeting of MBC and the ECCP.
In October, another business organization, Finex (Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines), launched the Citizens’ Covenant for Judicial Reforms, a project aligned to the Integrity Initiative, which focuses on “restoring full faith in the judicial and prosecutorial arms of government” and “seeks the commitment of various organizations and institutions, including the Supreme Court and government agencies, to band together to address what many believe is the courts’ battle with corruption.” Finex is now expected to lead the efforts of this key pillar of building a culture of integrity. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the signature of the Chief Justice and Finex’s covenant will result in sustained advances in the fight against corruption.
What Filipinos have to realize is that the most inefficient way forward in any endeavor is to sweep the errors of the past under the rug. Sooner or later, that rug will begin to stink and cause all sorts of allergies. When we do not learn from the errors, failings and misdeeds of the past, the way forward remains unclear, at the least. It sends a message across the organization that it is okay to make those same mistakes again and, worse, that one can get away with misdeeds as the risks are minimal compared to the personal gain. As more and more in the organization take this attitude to heart, the organization begins to flounder and ultimately fail altogether. That is why successful corporations have regular evaluation and planning exercises, monitoring systems and multi-level mechanisms to address grievances. They do terminate employees for cause and hold even CEOs and directors to account when targets are missed and profits dive, as well as when the organization is proven to have engaged in anomalous practices.
“Pilipinas Incorporated” is no different. It was run aground by massive corruption in the previous administration. It can never move full steam ahead without holding to account those responsible for the misdeeds, learning the lessons, making the necessary rectifications and sending a clear message to every Filipino that, “no, corruption is not something we sweep under the rug. If you steal from government coffers, you will get your mug shots and a cozy space in the national penitentiary.”
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is the executive director of the Makati Business Club.