Run after big fish

THE Philippine government under Aquino administration may have scored a victory in its fight against corruption and other crimes since it assumed office in June 2010.

Based on latest government figures released by the National Statistical Coordination Board, the number of former government workers imprisoned jumped from 38 in 2009 to 2,053 in 2010.

These erring government officials and employees are serving sentences for malfeasance, bribery, fraud, malversation of public funds or property, infidelity and other offenses, like usurpation of powers, unlawful appointments, and abuses against chastity.

Convictions for crimes against personal liberty and security also ballooned from 180 to 744 in the same period.

That is a dramatic increase of about 5,302 percent in prisoners convicted of crimes committed by public servants from 2009 to 2010.

Going by these sheer numbers alone, the government may have indeed made a significant headway.

In the past, the administration and dispensation of criminal justice had always been criticized not only as so slow but also as so favorable to the rich and influential.

In the Philippines, the poor and powerless languish in jail because (1) the cost of hiring lawyers to defend them is prohibitive, (2) some judges are easily bribed to rule in favor of the moneyed accused and (3) the long and tedious legal battle drains a wage-earner’s resources.

At least now, erring government workers are charged and put behind bars of justice.

This is definitely a much-needed shot in the arm of criminal justice system in the Philippines.

While such rate of crime conviction against erring public servants may be laudable, it, however, needs to be sustained.

Otherwise, the Filipino public would remain cynical of the government’s sincerity in weeding out graft and corruption and would remain so unless and until corrupt high-ranking government officials are put to justice.

The public does not only demand expeditious action if the government is to be believed to be sincere in its fight against corruption.

By focusing only on punishing small fishes – and not on masterminds – of these heinous crimes, the Philippine government’s fight against criminality would never score a real knockout victory.

Not here and not before the eyes of the international community.


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