Forum on Corruption Stirs Debate on Communal Action

Mar 12th 2008

In response to the Church’s call for communal action, the Communication Foundation for Asia recently organized a lively forum on corruption, which featured three knowledgeable resource persons and a video documentary on graft and corruption in government.

Titled “The Dark Side,” the forum was held 28 February in CFA’s Lagerwey Hall. This came in the wake of irregularities exposed during the Senate’s inquiry into the NBN-ZTE deal. Participating in the forum were CFA staff, partners, church workers and NGO representatives.

The video documentary shown during the forum was entitled “Ehemplo,” which was produced last year by the church-related anti-corruption group EHEM. Filmmaker Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., director of the documentary, gave a commentary on the video.

Guest speaker Heidi Mendoza narrated cases of corruption that she investigated when she worked for the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman. These include a high-profile case where an Army general was sentenced to a lengthy jail term with hard labor. Ms. Mendoza has since joined Dilaab Foundation, an NGO dedicated to corruption watch.

Dr. Benjamin Tolosa, another guest speaker, described ways by which lay people could monitor, investigate and report corruption. Tolosa was formerly Political Science chairman of Ateneo de Manila University. He was convenor of Puwersa ng Masa Para sa Ganap na Demokrasya (People’s Force for Total Democracy). He is also a key player in OneVoice and VForce –volunteer groups working for clean elections.

In the discussion on “communal action”, participants suggested that this could include the organization and conduct of “truth camps” in communities, offices and schools. Corruption thrives when people are kept ignorant of current affairs, or deceived with false information, it was pointed out. Education would allow people to take the proper action against abuses.

The inclination to insulation was also criticized. This was equated to indifference and being “in denial.” This is when people believe that things that happen outside of themselves do not affect them, and do not require their involvement. The speakers in the forum described how corruption affected everyone (including generations yet unborn). Corruption deprives people of the quantity and quality of infrastructure and social services that they deserve, but pay for at a high cost.

In tackling the issues of 2008, we should not use the tactics of EDSA I in 1986, a speaker said during the forum. “Those in the Dark Side would have studied all the events of 1986 in detail, and would have prepared volumes of countermeasures,” he added. The audience was reminded that the administration had the support of the military and the police, and had better logistics. Thus the Church’s call for a “new kind of People Power” could be taken to mean elevating the protest to the intellectual, philosophical, moral and spiritual plane – “where we are superior.” The challenge then was for participants to come up with new strategies to press the call for truth and accountability.

“The Dark Side” is part of a series of forums on citizenship education organized by CFA with the support of Misereor. The next forum has been planned to focus on transparency in government, and the people’s right to information.

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