The Myth of "Walang Mahirap Kung Walang Corrupt"
I’ve had it with listening to all this “walang mahirap kung walang corrupt” yarn. Allow me to explain in five steps with the aid of visuals why Noynoy Aquino, his team, and his supporters are wrong on corruption. I will cut to the chase and keep it simple. You be the judge as to who really, is making sense.
We begin in the proverbial ‘beginning” – when property was communal and owned by the tribe. Use of resources was through the tribal councils. There was no concept of private property.
I draw heavily from the history provided in the Dept of Agrarian Reform website and would like to thank the DAR for the material.
Before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, Filipinos lived in villages or barangays ruled by chiefs or datus. The datus comprised the nobility. Then came the maharlikas (freemen), followed by the aliping mamamahay (serfs)and aliping saguiguilid (slaves).
However, despite the existence of different classes in the social structure, practically everyone had access to the fruits of the soil. Money was unknown, and rice served as the medium of exchange.
When the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the concept of encomienda (Royal Land Grants) was introduced. This system grants that Encomienderos must defend his encomienda from external attack, maintain peace and order within, and support the missionaries. In turn, the encomiendero acquired the right to collect tribute from the indios(native).
The system, however, degenerated into abuse of power by the encomienderos The tribute soon became land rents to a few powerful landlords. And the natives who once cultivated the lands in freedom were transformed into mere share tenants.
1st Philippine Republic
When the First Philippine Republic was established in 1899, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared in the Malolos Constitution his intention to confiscate large estates, especially the so-called Friar lands. However, as the Republic was short-lived, Aguinaldo’s plan was never implemented.
Significant legislation enacted during the American Period:
- Philippine Bill of 1902 – Set the ceilings on the hectarage of private individuals and corporations may acquire: 16 has. for private individuals and 1,024 has. for corporations.
- Land Registration Act of 1902 (Act No. 496) – Provided for a comprehensive registration of land titles under the Torrens system.
- Public Land Act of 1903 – introduced the homestead system in the Philippines.
- Tenancy Act of 1933 (Act No. 4054 and 4113) – regulated relationships between landowners and tenants of rice (50-50 sharing) and sugar cane lands.
The Torrens system, which the Americans instituted for the registration of lands, did not solve the problem completely. Either they were not aware of the law or if they did, they could not pay the survey cost and other fees required in applying for a Torrens title.
“Government for the Filipinos”
President Manuel L. Quezon espoused the “Social Justice” program to arrest the increasing social unrest in Central Luzon.
Significant legislation enacted during Commonwealth Period:
- 1935 Constitution – “The promotion of social justice to ensure the well-being and economic security of all people should be the concern of the State”
- Commonwealth Act No. 178 (An Amendment to Rice Tenancy Act No. 4045), Nov. 13, 1936 – Provided for certain controls in the landlord-tenant relationships
- National Rice and Corn Corporation (NARIC), 1936 – Established the price of rice and corn thereby help the poor tenants as well as consumers.
- Commonwealth Act. No. 461, 1937 – Specified reasons for the dismissal of tenants and only with the approval of the Tenancy Division of the Department of Justice.
- Rural Program Administration, created March 2, 1939 – Provided the purchase and lease of haciendas and their sale and lease to the tenants.
- Commonwealth Act No. 441 enacted on June 3, 1939 – Created the National Settlement Administration with a capital stock of P20,000,000.
The Second World War II started in Europe in 1939 and in the Pacific in 1941.
Hukbalahap controlled whole areas of Central Luzon; landlords who supported the Japanese lost their lands to peasants while those who supported the Huks earned fixed rentals in favor of the tenants.
Unfortunately, the end of war also signaled the end of gains acquired by the peasants.
Upon the arrival of the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942, peasants and workers organizations grew strength. Many peasants took up arms and identified themselves with the anti-Japanese group, the HUKBALAHAP (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon).
The rest is modern Philippine history and you can read some more in the DAR website. After the war, the redistribution of friar lands and haciendas was not undertaken. Rather laws were built on the existing inequitable distribution of wealth brought about by the Spanish occupation.
The American colonial forces didn’t bother to revert the land to the original owners as well and instead strengthened the existing social structures, akin to building a house on a foundation riddled with termites. At the onset, corruption was limited to small favors – people were relatively straightforward and upright. There was petty corruption and in general, the corrupt were ostracized by society.
“Petty corruption”, sometimes described as “administrative corruption”, involves the exchange of very small amounts of money, and the granting of small favours. These, however, can carry considerable public losses, as with the customs officer who waves through a consignment of high-duty goods having been bribed a mere $50 or so. The essential difference between grand corruption (“state capture”) and petty corruption (day-to-day administrative corruption) is that the former involves the distortion of central functions of government by senior public officials; the latter develops within the context of functioning governance and social frameworks.
However the reality of smaller resources available to the larger number of non-oligarchs was being felt in the poorer sectors. It wasn’t felt in the middle class, yet.
By Marcos time, the Philippines population had increased, there were now more people having the same amount of VERY SCARCE resources to quibble about. The economy was dire, the import-substitution protectionist policies were not working and we have not changed it still.
By now it was no longer the marginalized peasants and laborers who felt the brunt of the pressure brought by scarce resources. In the process this increased pressure among the non-oligarchs to secure the crumbs. This jockeying leads to corruption at all levels. Thereby introducing “systemic corruption”.
Systemic corruption is not a special category of corrupt practice, but rather a situation in which the major institutions and processes of the state are routinely dominated and used by corrupt individuals and groups, and in which many people have few practical alternatives to dealing with corrupt officials. Corruption is said to be “systemic” where it has become ingrained in an administrative system. It is no longer characterised by actions of isolated rogue elements within a public service. Where minor acts of petty corruption occur it is often thought best to leave these to be dealt with by way of administrative sanction (demotion, dismissal etc.), rather than invoke the whole weight of the criminal process.
By the 21st century, we now have”Grand Corruption” the type that sent Estrada to jail. And depending how the processes work out, possibly Arroyo.
“Grand corruption” is an expression used to describe corruption that pervades the highest levels of government, engendering major abuses of power. A broad erosion of the rule of law, economic stability and confidence in good governance quickly follow. Sometimes it is referred to as “state capture”, which is where external interests illegally distort the highest levels of a political system to private ends.
Arroyo’s “grand corruption”, however is NOTHING, compared to the “grand corruption” and charades that allowed the oligarchy to hold the Philippines hostage to a retrogressive economic agenda.
High level or “grand” corruption takes place at the policy formulation end of politics. It refers not so much to the amount of money involved as to the level in which it takes place: grand corruption is at the top levels of the public sphere, where policies and rules are formulated in the first place. Usually (but not always) synonymous to political corruption.
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not directly involved with the government. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties.
Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, it is not restricted to these activities.
The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. For instance, certain political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some cases, government officials have broad or poorly defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions. Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion US dollars annually. A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a kleptocracy, literally meaning “rule by thieves”.
“Corruption does exacerbate and promote poverty, but this pattern is complex and moderated by economic and governance factors. Based on these findings, anti-corruption programs that are crafted to address issues of economic growth, income distribution, governance capacity, government services in health and education, and public trust in government are likely to not only reduce corruption, but reduce poverty as well.”- Corruption and Poverty: A Review of Recent Literature
Major Propositions Linking Corruption and Poverty
- Economic growth is associated with poverty reduction
- The burden of rapid retrenchment falls most heavily on the poor.
- Corruption is associated with low economic growth
- Corruption reduces domestic investment and foreign direct investment
- Corruption increases government expenditures
- Corruption reduces public sector productivity
- Corruption distorts the composition of government expenditure, away from services directly beneficial to the poor and the growth process, e.g., education, health, and operation and maintenance
- Better health and education indicators are positively associated with lower corruption
- Corruption reduces government revenues
- Corruption lowers the quality of public infrastructure
- Corruption lowers spending on social sectors
- Corruption increases income inequality
- Corruption increases inequality of factor ownership
- Inequality slows growth
- Corruption decreases progressivity of the tax system
- Corruption acts as a regressive tax
- Low income households pay more in bribes as percent of income
- Better governance, including lower graft level, effects economic growth dramatically
- Better governance is associated with lower corruption and lower poverty levels.
- High state capture makes it difficult to reduce inequality, even with growth
- Extensive, organized, well institutionalized and decisive political competition is associated withlower corruption
- Trust is a component of social capital. Higher social capital is associated with lower poverty.
- Corruption undermines trust (in government and other institutions) and thereby undermines social capital.
If carefully crafted, anti-corruption programs might yield important poverty reduction results. The literature suggests that programs that succeed in reducing corruption will contribute to poverty
alleviation especially if they also achieve the following:
- Increase economic growth
- Create more equitable income distribution
- Strengthen governance institutions and capacity
- Improve government services, especially in health and education
Our economic policies and our constitution ensures oligarchs keep their lands, non-oligarchs remain poor – therefore keeping the pressure to be corrupt – CONSTANT. It’s the ECONOMY, Stupid!
Aquino’s line that “Walang mahirap kung walang corrupt” is seriously flawed. It becomes dangerous as Filipinos pin their hopes on a flawed strategy.
Sure Aquino’s Cabinet can have results. But are these the right results?
Aquino’s strategy is not a strategy of change – it is a strategy of stagnation that ensures the destiny of corruption is secure in the Philippines.
Aquino’s team has been harping too much on the better governance side of the equation. While better governance (in terms of administrative reforms) yields results, it is still not effective in addressing poverty system-wide – the source of pressure to commit corruption.
“Walang mahirap, kung walang corrupt” is incorrect.
Rather, it should be the other way around “merong corrupt, dahil maraming naghihirap”.
1 – http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnacw645.pdf, accessed 7/2/2010
2-http://www.dar.gov.ph/ar_history.html, accessed 7/2/2010