How much do we lose to corruption?


    ‘Since today is August 21st, let me end with this: Someone once believed that the Filipino is worth dying for; nowadays, how many believe that the Filipino is worth profiting from?’

    TWO days ago I asked on Facebook: what is the going rate for the “for the boys”?
    What provoked the question was a Bloomberg report from January announcing to the world that PRRD was setting aside US$ 7.5B to “solve the world’s worst traffic problem.”

    Think about it: if the leakage to corruption from government programs is 10%, then the leakage to corruption for the traffic program is $750 Million. Or P35 billion, roughly.

    The comments I got were fairly consistent. Many said 10% was too low. One said “it used to be 15% until contractors gave in at 25%. Someone said it was even up to 40%. Happily, a friend who is an undersecretary at the DTI said, “wala kaming ganyan.” I replied” “The DTI is never top-of-mind whenever the topic is for-the-boys!”

    But if not the DTI, then where? Who?

    Yesterda, there was another report: the bicameral conference committee (a joint committee with members from the Senate and the House) had approved the final version of Bayanihan 2, worth P140 billion, with another P25 billion on standby. Great news, in a way, because people are going hungry, had lost their jobs, and no longer know how to make ends meet. Frankly, due to the massive economic dislocation that COVID-19 has caused, even this is a drop in the bucket. But beggars can’t be choosers, yes?

    On the other hand, let’s go back to my question: what is the going rate for the “for the boys?” If it is 10%, then from the P140 billion Bayanihan 2, slice off P14 billion as your “cost of doing business.” A drop in the bucket if meant for COVID relief. But a king’s ransom many times over, if this just goes straight to the bank accounts of the corrupt.

    Now imagine if the average going rate is 20%. All of a sudden the traffic projects will yield P70 billion that will line the pockets of various individuals from high-ranking officials to bureaucrats, proof that government service isn’t always what we are told it is, a “thankless job.” P70 billion and still a thankless job? Wow.

    And let’s use 20% on Bayanihan 2: all of a sudden, the take, or the “cost of doing business” is P28 billion. Just like that. Thanks to a pandemic that has revealed so many gaps in our healthcare system and holes in our economic safety nets. Obviously, those who will benefit from this bonanza – P28 billion – couldn’t care less about the gaps and the holes. With that money they can pay for the best healthcare they can find. And surely get VIP treatment along the way.

    I don’t want to try calculating the cost of doing business at 30% and at 40%, not because I can’t handle the simple math, but because I do not want to depress myself any further. But go ahead if you want to.

    Am I making things up? What do you think? Maybe the best way to answer the question is this: Do you know of anyone who is in public office and who has somehow become much more “comfortable” over the years? Given the pay scale in government, do you think that “comfort” has come from dedication to the “thankless job”?

    A week or so ago I posed another question on Facebook: “Dear Mr. President: Did you inherit the crooks within PhilHealth or were they bred under your Administration?” I haven’t received any answer to this question from anyone, not even a simple “dirty finger.” But why do I ask the question?

    Simple. This was an administration, like the one before it, that ran on a promise to do away with the corrupt. PNoy said “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” and he left all of us excited at the thought that an honest president would finally put an end to what has been bedeviling our society since man invented money. He didn’t, but then we had PRRD, gallant PRRD, who promised to kill all drug lords, kill all corrupt, and plant our tricolor somewhere in the middle of the West Philippine Sea. Until we found out that he was just kidding about the third one, was simply focused on the small fry with the first, and deals with those charged with corruption depending on whether they are a friend or foe.

    It seems now that the corruption at PhilHealth has been happening long before 2016. What did the previous presidents do about it? What did PNoy do? What did GMA do? What did previous health secretaries do about it? Just as we need to come down hard on the Duterte administration so that it deals firmly with this matter, we also need to ask his predecessors what they knew, when did they learn what they knew, and what actions did they take on the basis of what they knew.

    It seems to me that year in, year out, administrations have been happy taking token action against the corrupt practices at PhilHealth, but have been unable, or unwilling, to really lance the boil, so to speak.

    Too many benefit from the system?

    Too many, unless you compare the handful of executives with the millions who are meant to be served by the system. And who, year in and year out, are powerless to stop the systematic looting of the coffers of government into which they contribute their hard earned money.

    So how much do we lose to corruption? Ten percent? Twenty five? Forty?

    Nowadays, every time I hear government mention a budget it will spend for programs meant for us, I make a quick calculation to see what “the boys” get in return as reward for the “thankless job” they do for us.

    Since today is August 21st, let me end with this: Someone once believed that the Filipino is worth dying for; nowadays, how many believe that the Filipino is worth profiting from?