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In the Paper

Who do you believe?

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 10, 2021 8:43 am

“Look,” my husband said, as he rummaged through a drawer of papers he was trying to set straight during the lull between holidays. “It’s a paper I wrote sometime after the 1986 People Power. I reread it and I think it is either as useful or even more useful now. Would you like to read it?”

Of course, I would,” I said. The title of the document is Latin, “Corpus Veritas,” or “Body of Truth.” It is a concept paper on citizens’ action in support of the government’s drive against corruption based on several background premises. First, that corruption in the Philippines is so publicly and widely well-known, accepted and practiced. It is widespread and endemic. 

I agree wholeheartedly. This is the truth until now.

Second, that corruption in government agencies is generally planned, done and executed by a small cabal of masterminds, who eventually share the booty with non-participating officials. This is still true. I stop to think of the parade of officials who have taken over the government since 1986. All the anti-corruption talk each one preached. And yet what happened? We cannot deny it. More and more corruption happened with efforts to quell reported in the news, but then, what finally happened? Still nothing.

Third, my husband writes, “involvement of the citizenry as corruptors may be classified as: 1) knowing, deliberate and willing; 2) unwilling but persuaded for practical business reasons; or 3) unwilling but forced to prevent an injustice or a wrong.” 

Wait. “Involvement of the citizenry” means us, all Filipinos, all citizens. I have to beg guilt on the second point. In one of the many places where I worked, we “negotiated” our taxes with a person who came to visit us each year, quoting a sky-high amount of taxes that we allegedly owed though we did not, to force our finance man to negotiate a sum that was acceptable to both of us. We were unwilling but were persuaded for practical business reasons to do it.

“Evil or wrongdoing thrives when it is concealed and succeeds in darkness. Therefore, exposing and shedding a light on the darkness and exposing the truth of the perpetrated acts of corruption will instill fear in the hearts of the perpetrators that if they continue, they might be prosecuted the next time.”

My husband’s paper continues: “Current government efforts to fight corruption are principally directed at the corrupt, that is, the government officials and personnel and not especially at the corruptor, the citizenry.” I know this isn’t walking the fine line of honesty, which I advocate, but I thank God they directed their attention, as picayune and fleeting as it was, to the corrupt and not to the citizenry. Otherwise, we may overpopulate Muntinlupa — the prison, not the district.

So what did my husband suggest we do late in the 1980s? He wanted a citizen’s regional group or body to be formed and organized. It would be made up of members with integrity and with the pertinent and relevant knowledge, expertise and experience in data recording and documentation. Their tasks and functions principally would be to accept reports and/or complaints of corrupt acts actually perpetrated; to record and document the same solely for the purpose of keeping a record of the truth and not to judge or prosecute.

And then... what?

He gets philosophical. He writes that “evil or wrongdoing thrives when it is concealed and succeeds in darkness. Therefore, exposing and shedding a light on the darkness and exposing the truth of the perpetrated acts of corruption will instill fear in the hearts of the perpetrators that if they continue, they might be prosecuted the next time.” 

Oh, the “next time”? Would it not be scarier to penalize them the first time they are caught being corrupt? If all we are going to do is shed some light on the corruption of a group of people in government — like the PhilHealth, for example — would we not risk being accused of gossipy chatter if we just show the documents to the public? The perpetrators could deny it and accuse those who put it together of propagating fake documents, therefore, “fake news.” Would that not get the corrupt ones off the hook? 

So far, that’s what I see, though I admit I am not an advocate of local news. I gave up on their being truthful and accurate a long time ago.

And that’s why I write about my life and not about news. My life is truth for me and it can be shared with whoever is interested. But local or even foreign news? How do you really know whom to believe?

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Banner anti-corruption graphic by the Department of Finance.