FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN THIS TIME OF PANDEMIC
With the bulk of national funds now necessarily and hastily being allocated for controlling the Covid-19 pandemic, Filipinos hope that there will be transparency and accountability in the disbursement of taxpayers’ funds.
It will be a great injustice to millions of Filipinos who have had to suffer the consequences of the Covid-19 and quarantine protocols if those in the halls of power dip their thieving fingers into government funds aligned for fighting the contagion.
Of the P355 billion so far spent by the government in response to the pandemic since March as reported by the Department of Budget and Management, around P247B was taken from pooled savings and P96B from unprogrammed appropriations.
For the nth time, the President has warned national and local officials against any misuse of funds intended for financial assistance to affected Filipino families and for the procurement of supplies and equipment needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the President was given by Congress additional powers under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to reprogram, realign, and reallocate any appropriation under the 2020 budget, Malacañang must walk the talk in any way possible if only to keep concerned officials and agencies on their toes until the situation stabilizes.
We see the wisdom here, as corruption often flourishes in times of disasters. In the past, billions of government funds intended as cash assistance or for the distribution of relief goods for victims of disasters have been lost to graft and corruption.
Even donations from other countries and from the private sector have not been spared from corruption in past administrations.
It saddens us that the Department of Health, the lead agency in the fight against the Covid-19, and the department Secretary himself, are embroiled in allegations of graft and corruption over the purchase of test kits, delayed procurement of personal protective equipment for health care frontliners, and non-use of the test kits invented by the University of the Philippines.
Even with the President vouching for the integrity of the DOH Secretary, there seems to be no logic in his claim that because the secretary is already wealthy, corruption is a remote possibility.
Let the Ombudsman carry out first its investigation over alleged irregularities on the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic to prove that the government means serious business against those who cannot contain their greed.
Alleged graft and corruption are not confined in the country, as other nations with high cases of Covid-19 have their share of such misdeeds. Thus, it can be said that corruption is as much a pandemic as Covid-19 itself.
It is also at this time of pandemic that we remind the President and those in the halls of power – from Malacañang to the barangay level – that accountability and transparency are key to effective management against the pandemic and not the blame games, which have become apparent in some local government units such as Cebu, where the most number of Covid-19 cases are being recorded in the country today.
We laud the city government of Baguio for regularly posting on social media all cash and non-cash inflow in support of the city’s response to the pandemic from both government and private donors.
This is a crucial time for government to fulfill the promises for good governance as elimination of graft and corruption can spell humanity’s survival in this global crisis.
How the world handles this crisis will also be judged by generations to come as the actions taken now will take a toll on them.
The choices made today may make for a better world or spell doom for the present and the future generation. It’s a tough challenge those in power must keep in mind.