Removing money from politics

>> Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ike Señeres

As the saying goes, a newspaper columnist is entitled to his own opinion, and a writer can take poetic license to write what he wants to write about. Since I am now going to write about something seemingly preposterous in this article, I am now going to invoke both “privileges”, and then I would like to see what happens after that, meaning to say how my readers would react.
As “things” are supposed to turn out however, newspaper columnists would write their personal opinion and people could either agree or disagree. If people would agree however and if there are more than enough of them who would do so, the personal opinion becomes public opinion and it could change public policy.
Technically speaking, corruption and graft (the proper sequence) is actually a cause and effect relationship, because the corrupter (usually a private citizen) is the one that offers a bribe to the grafter (usually a public official).
The cause and effect relationship is not applicable whenever the public official is the one who would ask for a bribe, in which case it would be considered solicitation and not bribery. In such a case, the solicitor would be the one who would commit a wrongdoing, and not the solicited.
On one hand, the solicited in this case could be considered as an accomplice to a crime. On the other hand however, the solicited could just be considered as a practical businessman who needs to pursue his business interests.
It is often said that discretion is the cause of graft (not corruption), but that is true only if the discretion would enable the grafter to benefit from the transaction, either by way of monetary or non-monetary rewards. If no rewards could be gained, there is no reason for a corruptor to offer a bribe, and conversely, there is no reason for the grafter to solicit a bribe. In other words, if there are no rewards, there would be no corruption and graft. Although that is really common sense, I just have to say that to stress my point. Having said that, I will now mention my seemingly preposterous suggestion: to remove monetary rewards from politics, so that there would no longer be cases of graft.
Naive as that may sound, I will defend myself by saying that graft is happening in public office because politics has become a business. Although that is very easy to understand as an obvious reality, I will state what is also obvious: that many traditional politicians would enter politics not so much to serve their constituencies, but to make money for themselves.
I say that politics has become a business in the Philippines, because traditional politicians actually “invest” money in order to win, and when they win, they would commit graft in order to get back their “investments” in the form of “profits” that would of course be greater than what they have “invested”.
Although there are many forms of graft, it could be said that the biggest source of money that could be stolen are the public funds that would come from the Internal Revenue Allocations (IRAs) of the Local Government Units (LGUs) or from their own local revenues. In theory, no major appropriations could be made without the authority of the Municipal Councils or the Provincial Boards, but that is another story because connivance or collusion could also happen in these Councils and Boards.
Again at the risk of sounding naive, I would say that everything is not hopeless, because the civil society not only has the power to become the watchdogs of these Councils and Boards; the people actually have the numbers to replace the bad eggs among them.
Although it would still sound more like a theory than a reality, it is actually possible that local politics could turn from bad to good, if only more righteous candidates would run against the traditional politicians. Notice that I did not say “righteous politicians” because these righteous candidates actually need not be traditional politicians in the first place. For all intents and purposes, they could just be professional managers who reside in the locality. After all, there are many of these professional managers in the localities who are either actively working still, or are retired. As it has already happened in some localities, the politics of patronage could actually be replaced by the politics of development.
Although it might sound rather funny, I would still say that the politics of development that would result in good governance is too important to leave to the traditional politicians to mess around with. As it is now, many of them are making a mockery of good governance by acting like comedians, and it is not really funny at all.
Sad as it may sound; many of them would rather not do anything to reduce the poverty rate in their localities, because to some extent, it is the poverty of the people that makes the politics of patronage prosper. Although it may sound like an impossible dream, it seems that their days are actually numbered, as public opinion is changing very fast, highly influenced by social media. Although they may still be able to buy their way into the traditional media, they could not buy the social media.
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