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.

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