Former COA chief: Corruption a moral issue
Corruption is more of a moral issue than a legal one and may be deeply embedded in the value system of officials involved in it, former audit chief Grace Pulido-Tan said.
Speaking at a forum on corruption organized recently by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Tan said corruption has been prevalent even under previous administrations but merely swept under the rug by erring officials and ignored by an apathetic public.
“Corruption is a moral more than a legal issue. It has to do with the value system. My mantra to that is – which is what the mantra should be of all public servants – public office is a public trust. That value overrides any other law,” she said.
She recalled her parents had instilled in her the importance of integrity, citing her father’s habit of paying for the gifts he received from ordinary people when he was a municipal judge.
“My father would always tell my mother, ‘Bayaran mo yan (pay for them).’ I was pleased with that because that is something I grew up with. That was what was impressed upon me when I went to public service,” Tan said.
She said corruption is “fomented and encouraged by weak structures and institutions, non-adherence to and non-enforcement of laws, impunity and public indifference.”
She lamented public apathy toward corruption, with ordinary Filipinos seemingly “in denial” of the reality that taxpayers’ money is getting misused.
“By being here, it means we are not indifferent. But we are just a drop in the bucket of the public. We are talking about the larger public that is indifferent. There is apathy. Why? I don’t know,” she said.
She declined to comment on former senator Ramon Revilla Jr.’s acquittal by the Sandiganbayan of plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. Unlike Revilla, Napoles and his chief of staff Richard Cambe were convicted and given long prison terms.
It was the Commission on Audit (COA) under her watch that prepared an audit report implicating several lawmakers and bogus foundations in the misuse of billions of pesos pork barrel funds, then officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund.
She said voting for the right people during elections would do much to ease or eliminate corruption.
Tan also cited her work in the international budget partnership initiative, which found that governments “typically do not face enough pressure” from within or from oversight bodies with regard to addressing corruption. Even civil society groups are generally silent on corruption in government, she pointed out.
Under the current administration, PCIJ said top corruption issues that remain unaddressed include Davao City contracts bagged by the family of former presidential special assistant Bong Go, Chinese groups’ cornering Marawi rehabilitation projects and tourism advertising contracts awarded to the Tulfo brothers by the tourism department formerly led by their sister Wanda Tulfo-Teo.
“Corruption is a dance. And you have to sway with the music. If you’re anti-corruption, you have to break the dance,” said Jesse Robredo Institute of Governance director Francisco Magno.