Editorial: Two-way street

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

TO say that one is surprised by the result of a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showing that 52 percent of firms in Metro Cebu were asked for bribes in exchange for permits and other government transactions is to either lie or to be genuinely naïve.

In the survey result presented by SWS president Mahar Mangahas during the National Competitive Council road show last Tuesday, Cebu had the most number of respondent firms that said they were bribed (52 percent).

That does not make the Cebu situation worse, however, because many firms in other regions reported the same (as low as 31 percent in the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas area and as high as 48 percent in the National Capital Region).


Whether a survey is done or not, Filipinos already know how pervasive the culture of corruption is in the government bureaucracy. The stress is on “culture” because it has seemingly become a way of life of sorts.

This makes the other aspect of the survey results, which noted that 63 percent of the respondents didn’t report the bribe solicitations, as par for the course. If bribery is an accepted practice, then why bother to report it?

But the survey results are not only an indictment on the government but also on the firms that paid the bribe and the people who didn’t make a fuss about it. As Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Philip Tan correctly noted, “Corruption is a two-way street.”

Indeed, one of the most underplayed points in every discussion about government corruption is the role of those outside of the government in it. In fact, the questions hurled by the SWS survey team to the respondents reflect that one-sidedness.

The survey team, for example, should have also looked into the percentage of respondents who initiated the bribe-giving themselves. Although one can’t be sure owners of firms would be forthright in answering that question, it still would be interesting to find out how corrupt the private sector is, too.

The reason why corruption is difficult to eradicate is because the situation has become like the chicken-and-egg dilemma of old.

How can one cleanse the government of the corrupt when those who transact with them continuously dangle bribes on them to either bypass government regulations or to gain undue advantage over the competition?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 14, 2014.


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