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Transparency and accountability: Where art thou in these trying times?

A witness who called in sick when it was his time to testify. A government official who feigned ignorance when a question was asked. A supplier who suddenly required a language interpreter just to speak. A businessman who was swept with amnesia when his overpriced government transaction was exposed. These are not characters in a soap opera or gangster drama, they are real as you and me. But unlike them, they walk and talk in halls and offices of power — and some get away with just a slap on the wrist.

Though they are now seen with Zoom backgrounds or on the screens of smartphones, these characters are not “new” in our society. As early as the black-and-white images on television, they have been doing the same “routines” — feigning sickness, ignorance, and even gullibility. Some use props for theatrical effect such as the popular wheelchair, crutch, or a blood pressure apparatus. In the absence of such props, they raise their voices and spew melodramatic lines as if they are Job of the Old Testament. They say that they are “tired,” “abused,” or “oppressed” for all to see. Their words are replayed over and over on YouTube and turned into memes.

The skit is not funny anymore. Can Filipinos say “enough is enough?” Time and time again, the call for transparency and accountability seems to fall on deaf ears.

Looking back at our country’s history, the growth of Philippine politics was always stunted by intrigues, rumors, and false witnesses. Succeeding administrations after Aguinaldo were not immune from political scandals. Even amid the depressing news, we hear the voices calling for transparency and accountability. From the American occupation, the Martial Law era, to the time of social media — the voices never ceased.

Even after a century of calling for government transparency and accountability, the country seemed to be lagging behind. In a report by Transparency International published early this year, it placed the Philippines at 115th spot out of 180 countries. The drop showed that transparency seemed more “opaque” in 2020 compared to 2019, when we were in the 113th spot. The anti-corruption watchdog also chided the government’s pandemic response, noting the “lack of transparency in the allocation of resources — a practice positively associated with corruption.”

The court of public opinion is divided on this. Some would defend the government’s decisions citing the exigencies in a pandemic, while some would say that each and every centavo must be accounted for because ultimately, it is the people’s money. Whatever one chooses to side with, it is important to remember that even at home, we are accountable to all members if we’re handling the household budget. How much more for a country of 111 million citizens?

As we enter the fourth quarter, Transparency International will soon release its findings for the year. A lot of political pundits are already expecting the Philippines to drastically drop in the ranking, referring to the impasse between the Executive and Legislative branches of our government. This “free fall,” however, is not impossible to contain — all the government has to do is to directly answer the allegations, quell the rumors with facts, and face the music of public scrutiny.

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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