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Shekel power

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CEBU CITY– “Corruption has never been compulsory, “ parliamentarian Anthony Eden wrote.. So, what will President Benigno Aquino do with the sleaze legacy his predecessor dumped?

The Philippines ranked 141, out of 179 countries, gauged by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index . “

The Supreme Court forfeited Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth, Columnist Rene Saguisag recalls.. Imelda ran for Congress. “The ‘ill-gottener’ was not prosecuted “Theft of billions established…without a thief. Wotta country” .

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez found no one liable for the P1.4 billion Mega Pacfici computer election scam. Crime without criminals. Onli in da Pilipins?

Aquino stumbles across graft everywhere. Yet, gross trust in (him) was 88 percent, Social Weather Stations notes. “Current trust in Aquino could be called not only very broad but also very deep.”

Citizens are essential to beat back grafters. Among these are “whistleblowers” who risk jobs, ostracism, sometimes life, to expose crime. Like the person who slipped Aquino a 10-page excerpt of the “Mayuga Report”.

Written by Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga, the report probed into roles of generals in 2004’s tainted elections Gens. Hermogenes Esperon, Roy Kyamko, Gabriel Habacon and Francisco Gudani have retired.

The Arroyo regime stamped the report “top secret”. But Aquino pledged full disclosure and action. History is on his side.

Daniel Ellsberg leaked to New York Times and Washington Post the “Pentagon Papers”. That compelled a review of the Vietnam war, President Richard Nixon invoked the Espionage Act of 1917 and got injunctions to gag Ellbserg and newspapers.

“The injunctions were unconstitutional prior restraint,” By a 6-3 vote, the US Supreme Court held by a 6-3 vote. ”Government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required for prior restraint.”

What if the Mayuga Report leaks or is blocked from release? Would the Arroyo Supreme Court back transparency, as the American high court did?
Journalist Marites Danguilan Vitug provides leads in her new book “Project 2010: Confronting the Legacy of the GMA Regime”. Vitug wrote the earlier award-winning book:: “Shadow of Doubt — Probing the Supreme Court.”

Aquino inherits “a Court led by her former aide and packed with her appointees, most of whom have shown allegiance to her,” Vitug says. Media were barred when Corona took his oath as Chief Justice.

“The hiding of an oath-taking, a very public act, says much”, \Vitug says.. “ Corona’s mindset actually shows a weak bent toward transparency and disclosure of information.”.

Arroyo’s former chief of staff voted in favor of government secrecy in keystone cases: the overpriced ZTE $329-million national broadband network; executive privilege for NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri; Corona thumbed down disclosure of detailed information, by the Commission on Elections, on technical preparations for automated polls.. In 2008, he backed those who’d stop airing the “Hello, Garci” tapes.

“Governments must create an environment that encourages, instead of penalizing, citizens who denounce venality,” declared 135 countries at the 9th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Durham, South Africa. The Philippines dutifully signed that document.

A decade after Durham, “the kind and extent of support that a legitimate whistleblower should be able to expect (remains) unclear”, says the Asian Institute of Management study: “Whistle Blowing in the Philippines: Awareness, Attitudes and Structures”.

Whistleblowers here are threatened, harassed or murdered. Take three high-profile cases.

Acsa Ramirez exposed Land Bank tax scandals. NBI agents shoved her instead into a police lineup while cameras panned on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s smile. That photo op squelched a thousand potential whistleblowers. Until the day she left Malacanang, Ms Arroyo never apologized.

Ensign Philip Pestaño refused to allow loading of illegal lumber and shabu on RPS Bacolod in 1995.. “Suicide”, the Navy ruled within 24 hours after his body was found.. “Murder”, concluded a probe, led by the late Senate president Marcelo Fernan.

Ombudsman Gutierrez refused to meet the parents of Pestano. But new Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confers with them today. Secretary de Lima earlier released the March ruling of the UN Commission on Human Rights: Pestano’s murder “was attributable to the State in Party” (i.e. the Phiippines).

No one has been prosecuted for a crime committed with impunity. The Commission asks (the Philippines) to “undertake enforceable remedies” and inform the UN “within 180 days of steps taken”.

Whistleblowers, like Antonio Calipjo-Go, slam against shekel power. For over a decade, he skewered error-studded textbooks. Education Department issued a 28-page booklet, to more than half a million public school teachers correcting more than 450 errors found in 10 English textbooks,: Go also pinpointed errors in science textbooks.

Publishers and corrupt officials choreographed a smear campaign against Go. Accord Go “the right of reply”, the Philippine Press Council asked. Go’s rejoinders were ignored. This is failure at self-regulation by individual newspapers fracture ethical codes..

Shekel power will seek to undercut P-Noy’s pledge to end the “ ultimate perversion” : a system that beatifies crooks and crucifies those who seek fair play. Our grandchildren are at stake here.

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