Somewhere in this week’s issue of Philippine News is a story about a planned trip of Department of Tourism officials along with a handful of members of the House of Representatives to Iceland and Norway. The trip was ostensibly in compliance with the national government’s Gender Awareness and Development program.
What it really is, is a useless junket, one that would cost Filipino taxpayers millions of pesos. It is not just the plane fare – business class, of course! – and hotel where our tax money is wasted. The junketeers will also get a fat allowance, as well as other perks.
What’s interesting about the trip is the inclusion of the four congressmen as well as House secretariat employees who have noting to do with the country’s efforts to push tourism to the global market. It is also unclear what they have to do with gender awareness and development.
In truth, this is just one of countless examples of how our tax money goes down the drain. Billions of pesos are wasted because of the sense of entitlement of the top officials of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
I wanted to exclude the judiciary, but it is well known that our judges and justices also enjoy spending money as if there was no tomorrow whenever they go on leave. They find some excuse, usually to attend some meeting of jurists in some First World countries. There, they usually discuss the latest news and information over bottles of fine wine. Such data are all available on the internet, which is where they can also meet face-to-face in real time.
They don’t take this option because they would still be stuck back home.
Judges and justices are the least guilty of wasting the people’s money, though. It is Congress and Malacanang with their power over the budget and the power to dispose of the funds that extreme abuses are committed.
During their regular breaks, one would be hard put to find a senator or congressman here in the country. The majority will be abroad, and they don’t even pretend that their trips are “in aid of legislation.”
And if you think our legislators are an abusive lot, look at how the executive branch has been burning money with trip after trip of the president, bringing along for the ride a number of civilians who have no business in those junkets.
The records are pretty clear. President Duterte has taken more foreign trips in his first year in office than his predecessor did in his entire six years in office. Further, the entourage of Mr. Duterte has always been excessively large in each of those trips.
Just take a good look at the photos of the last couple of trips that the chief executive has taken, and see who joined him. Know that each one in the entourage is given an envelope with a fistful of dollars for “personal expenses.”
Foreign trips by government officials are rarely ever absolutely necessary.
It may be argued by some that the junketeers are just doing their job. But they should know if the trip they take is essential in delivering necessary basic services to the people. Most of the time, it’s not.
There are many other ways that government officials are corrupted by the system, of course. Trips with freebies and perks are one way, but there are many others. The old favorite remains kickbacks from government contracts.
During the time of Gloria Arroyo, kickbacks rose to a heady 50 percent of the project cost. During PNoy’s time, this slid to 20 to 25 percent. It is not clear how much the going rate is now under Mr. Duterte, but do not for a minute believe that graft and corruption has been eradicated under the current regime.
The saddest part is that kickbacks used to be the territory of mid to lower level government bureaucrats. But after Ferdinand Marcos, it became clear that graft and corruption flourished at the top.
After Macoy, Cory may have been clean, but her close relatives were not. Ditto with Fidel Ramos. Then of course, Erap was both corrupt and incompetent. Arroyo took corruption to greater heights, perhaps worse than Marcos.
And PNoy whom many now miss may have been relatively clean like his mom, but he too was surrounded by “smart” officials who gave themselves ultra-hefty retirement benefits.
And now we have Digong Duterte. He may not be padding his pocket, but he is turning a blind eye to what the incompetents around him are doing.
In the Philippines circa 2017, corruption remains a way of life.
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