By Happy Feraren, Bantay.ph Co-founder
So we were told: “anti-corruption is just not a sexy issue.”
Between our three-man team and our pool of interns at Bantay.ph, we thought of ways to make anti-corruption work appealing. Despite everyone saying that they are fed up with corruption and that they are willing to help, it’s just not as easy to get people involved.
Anti-corruption work is not pretty like environmental causes, nor is it cute like health and education advocacies. It’s not at all fun like anti-epal, and no, not half as seductive as the RH bill. Anti-corruption work is not sexy.
Fighting corruption is dirty work. When you’re battling something so complex and so deeply rooted in our political system, expect to get your hands dirty, and prepare to go through a labyrinth of red tape.
There are times when we try to call a government office to follow up for a meeting and nobody is answering the phone at 11:35 a.m. because they are all off on their lunch break (which officially starts at 12 noon). Evident in our six-month long quest to collaborate with a certain agency – to simply request if we can post a user-friendly poster of their service processes in their offices seems impossible.
Fighting corruption is shocking. The more you learn, the deeper you go, but equally as shocking is the realization that there are good people in government.
Yes, there are government officials who believe that we should have more governance and less politics. We don’t see them a lot because they are busy. They are actually working and don’t have time to pose in front of the media.
When those honest officials accept your invitation or request for a meeting for possible collaboration, their genuine concern is compelling and a very welcome surprise. From the very start, Bantay.ph always believed in working with the government.
More than noise, we wanted to change the way people did things, so that no matter who was in position, systems would work out to benefit the people.
We cannot do this alone. Currently, the Philippines has a good number of laws that have been passed to curb corruption, yet it still remains to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. There is a mismatch between the laws passed and the laws implemented – and that is where Bantay.ph wants to help.
We have created a citizen-based monitoring network to help implement anti-corruption laws starting with the Anti-Red Tape Act. Currently, Bantay.ph is partnered with UP-NCPAG, Ateneo and La Salle to generate data, mobilize manpower, and increase awareness.
With today’s tools, anti-corruption work can be really exciting. The game has changed –with camera phones, social networks, digital technology and access to information, not at a click of a button but a swipe of a fingertip—we found that the path was unexplored, novel, and possibly groundbreaking.
We plan to analyze, visualize, and publish on our website the data collected by our volunteers . We’ll also relay them to the concerned offices at the end of every trimester or semester.
Moreover, working with the youth is empowering. They are switched on, inspired, and best of all, they sincerely believe that this paradigm of corruption can be destroyed.
This is legit work. We hold honesty and integrity with the highest value.
Our battle begins in the frontline government offices that citizens often interact with. This is something within our turf, as getting corrupt higher officials behind bars is something beyond our control. With the Anti-Red Tape Act as our criteria, our NGO aims to uplift the standard of government service at the most basic levels.
Going beyond a “good housekeeping seal,” we want to get to the bottom of things and really find out what the people need. At the same time, part of our program includes spreading the word about doing things the legal way, without resorting to a fixer.
Corrupt practices in this country are “low risk and high reward.” A corrupt official can be proven guilty, yet still walk around the city with no shame and live in unthinkable luxury. These images have been accepted as the norm and deemed to be “okay” but they’re not. And that’s something we have control over. What we think or our mindsets are things we can change.
Sure, honesty, integrity, transparency, and accountability are not sexy but really? Does it matter?
On July 18 at Mandarin Oriental, Bantay.ph hosted a citizen engagement forum with the Makati Business Club, Coalition Against Corruption, and Partnership for Transparency Fund-Philippines. Called Power Shift: How you can hold your government accountable, the forum showcased projects from the private and public sectors that advocate transparency and accountability in government.
Click the download button to check out Bantay.ph’s presentation during the forum.