Talking corruption

By Malou Mangahas
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

FAR too many striptease acts on allegedly corrupt deals have unfolded in the halls of the Senate and the House of Representatives, aired live on national television to boot.

There, far too many whistleblowers have been paraded, unfurling details of their and other people’s misdeeds. Variably, the accusers and the accused have been prodded, coaxed, and cajoled into stripping themselves naked, in a manner of speaking, by lawmakers pitching questions sometimes lacking in logic or substance but always laced with aplomb and attitude.

From our salas and offices, we’ve cursed in disbelief and disgust – and then so quickly accepted these confessions without question, falling head over heels in repeat love-at-first-listen episodes with the confessors.

And as the stories ran in the news media about the supposed truths – raw and tattered at the start – we then rush to post on Facebook and Twitter our thoughts – even more raw but also more shrill and more strident. Online, we wish death on those named and shamed, and install their accusers to the hall of saints even as they had also admitted their sins.

We seem to take to corruption like it is the most ordinary subject without need for proof or hard evidence. We seem to assume so easily that, on the claims of whistleblowers or the say-so of lawmakers, we have nailed corruption. In truth, we have only named a few accused, and put faces on what have been alleged to be corrupt deals.

We seem to talk about corruption like it is just another soap opera, unmindful of the damage that the drama exacts on the accused, as much as on the accusers and our institutions.

We seem content watching from the sidelines as Congress mounts its investigations “in aid of legislation,” but fail to demand that Congress finish what it has started – bring the cases to court, and the guilty, whether accused or accuser, to jail.

We love to converse about corruption but also loath any need to stay with the story and prove the guilt, beyond reasonable doubt, of the accused – and prove as well the truth, beyond doubtful agenda, of the accusers.

Thus, our tragedy lingers: yesterday’s heroes are suddenly today’s heels, and yesterday’s heels, today’s heroes. In the meantime, corruption stalks us interminably, and the “thick-faced” and the “disgraced,” as Angie Reyes put it, continue to strut around with impunity, sans any sliver of remorse or contrition.

This was apparently at the core of Angie’s anguish – the hero of EDSA II had turned poster boy of corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or so some senators seem to suggest. Yet still, so many allegations have been traded in the halls of Congress that remain allegations to this day – passed off as truth in the court of public opinion but not in the court of law.

Angie Reyes’s story is a sad commentary on how we as a people converse about corruption. We just talk about it much, too much. – PCIJ, February 2011

Source of photo: Flickr