Corruption in the Philippines – what we cannot do, or why it seems so hopeless

Many bewail the extent of corruption in the country.  But official denial or wishing it to go away is just that.

One useful strategy is to know that certain things matter but these things are not under our control.  These things represent what may be called “unavoidable” corruption.  It’s not that we should be resigned to such corruption.  It simply means that we should concentrate efforts in other areas.

What follows is a listing that seems applicable to the Philippines based on the empirical findings reported by Johann Graf Lambsdorff in his monograph, The Institutional Economics of Corruption and Reform (Cambridge, 2007).

What are these “unshakeable” factors that promote or cause corruption?  They are:

1.       Geography — countries near the equator and far away from major trading centers tend to be more corrupt.

2.       Abundance of natural resources – this is a curse since the more we have such resources, the more corrupt our politicians.  (Could it be because minerals legally belong to the State?)

3.       Religion and hierarchical values – countries predominantly Catholic or Muslim tend to have more corruption.

4.       Family values – the more we respect family values, it seems that the more we have Mafia instincts that protect and coddle corruption.

5.       Political immaturity (or time) – it takes a while for democracy to take root, and in the meantime, “young” democracies tend to be corrupt.

6.      The near-impossibility of getting direct evidence.  Strictly speaking, this is not an unshakeable factor, but a fact of life.  Corruption works as a conspiracy, and typically only the perpetrators have the evidence of their wrongdoing.  If corruption were merely a civil wrong, the doctrine of ipsa loquitur would apply, in that something obviously corrupt is, if the defendant does not or cannot explain.  But corruption is a crime, and the right against self-incrimination impedes prosecution.  Thus, the criminalization of corruption can be a fruitless exercise.  When a corrupt politician says “Show me the evidence,” he pleads his presumptive innocence, and effectively obtains refuge under a constitutional right against self-incrimination.  This means we should forget about direct evidence and concentrate on prevention rather than punishment. (An interesting legal question – Can corruption be prosecuted only as a civil wrong?)

It helps to know that the battle is mostly with ourselves, and that we should be thankful for little victories. 

So,  what is there to do to fight corruption?  There are no silver bullets but some promising paths.  Sounds like a zen story.  This is left to another post.


3 thoughts on “Corruption in the Philippines – what we cannot do, or why it seems so hopeless

  1. corruption is everywhere, there is no reason why the Philippines is corrupt. However Filipinos believe that corruption only exists in their country.


  2. sure there is corruption all over the world including the US, in fact bribery is legal in the US, what they call lobbying. You can lobby in the legislative and executive branch. But there are norms to be followed that if you get caught in corruption you will be dealth with accordingly and will not escape the wrath of the Justice system unlike in the Philippines were, if you are well connected and powerful you are untouchable which is a travesty of justice and injustice. So in the US you sure can commit corruption at your own risk.


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