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Defining corruption

By Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate

The message of President Rodrigo R. Duterte about corruption in government is clear. It is clear enough that he has been firing top government officials left and right.

It must be clear by now that President Duterte does not limit corruption to mere pocketing of public funds through commissions, kickbacks and bribe money.

President Duterte fired a number of high-ranking government officials who attended “too many” conferences overseas.

The President’s action is something “new” in government because attendance in international conferences has always been viewed as necessary and part of government officials’ responsibilities.

Those fired had a solid defense if used during the administrations prior to President Duterte’s – their attendance to international conferences is legal and above board because they are covered by the required authority or permission.

President Duterte is obviously different from his predecessors because it is clear from his actions that he defines corruption as anything that is against the best interest of the public.

The President’s actions challenge the current “norms” in government operations. The this-is-how-things-are-normally-done-in-government argument will not sit well with the President if the same will not result in an outcome that is good for the Filipino people.

While attendance in international conferences may be important and necessary, the primary consideration should always be on the benefits that the people will get from the government officials’ attendance in the same.

In regarding attendance in international conferences as a necessary task or function of government officials, the primary consideration is not mere attendance but the outcome of the same.

In a number of times, President Duterte asked what value has the attendance of government officials in international conferences, like on global warming for example, have in addressing the problems on the people?

It is obvious, as it is right, that “corruption” is not just stealing public funds or using them for personal gain.

It is also using them in ways that do not result in outcomes (and not just outputs) that are in the best interest of the people.

Given the President’s decisions to fire officials who are wasting public resources, we should be confident that the new “norms” in government operations will be pro-people, as what they should really be. Those responsible in issuing travel authority to government officials and employees should now be guided by the norm President Duterte has set – travel of government officials and employees overseas using the people’s money will only be proper if it will result in outcomes that are beneficial to the people.