Why do Filipinos – the great majority of them economically handicapped and socially disadvantaged – allow corrupt public officials to get away with their crimes and, in most cases, reelect or elevate them to higher public office?
Two of the 10 most corrupt leaders in the world are former Philippine presidents who continue to be admired and respected and whose families continue to occupy high and powerful public office. A sitting vice president has already joined the ranks of the two while actively and callously campaigning to be the next president of the country.
Filipinos are predisposed to dismiss corruption allegations as “envy” and consider the amassment of ill-gotten wealth as a right and a privilege for those who have worked their way up the ladder to power (and infamy). Filipinos are prone to adore families that enrich – and then entrench themselves – in public office.
Who are the three Filipino public servants who rank among the World’s 10 Most Corrupt? The Philippine press names them as former presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada, and incumbent vice president Jejomar “Jojo” Binay. The three are in good company: the other seven – in no order of importance – are Arnoldo Aleman (the 81st president of Nicaragua), Alberto Fujimori (the 90th president of Peru), Jean-Claude Duvalier (the 33rd president of Haiti), Slobodan Milosevic (the third president of Serbia/Yoguslavia), Sani Abacha (the tenth president of Nigeria), Mobuto Sese Seko (the second president of Congo), and Mohamed Suharto (the second president of Indonesia). Vice president Binay has the distinction of being ranked among the world’s ten most corrupt while only a vice president.
Here’s a look at why the Philippine press ranks each of the three among the world’s top ten:
- Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (born 1917, died 1989). The tenth president of the Philippines (1965-1986) started out with noble motives and great deeds for his country and people. Because of his authoritarian bent, he eventually harbored the idea of being president for life – planting the seeds that allowed him to declare martial law toward the end of his second term while his wife and members of her family robbed the country’s treasury and stashed an astounding $10-billion or more in bank accounts around the world. Much – but not all – of the loot has since been returned by the Swiss and other governments to the Philippine treasury. Meanwhile, Marcos’ wife Imelda is a member of the country’s House of Representatives and son Ferdinand Jr. is governor of their home province, Ilocos Norte.
- Joseph Ejercito Estrada (real name: Jose Marcelo Ejercito). While in office, the 13th (foreboding?) president of the Philippines (1988-2001) was accused and convicted of plunder (involving PhP78-PhP80 million in “forged” funds) but was granted an “absolute” pardon by succeeding Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The absolute pardon erases the crime and its effects. Because of the pardon, he was able to run again – unsuccessfully – for president. He is currently the elected mayor of the city of Manila. His son Jinggoy, a member of the Philippine senate, is in jail on nonbailable plunder charges.
- Jejomar “Jojo” Binay. Accused of being corrupt since 1988 when he was mayor of the city of Makati, Binay is said to have amassed at least PhP100 million worth of real property and investments in the city and elsewhere during the 12 years he was mayor. Under investigation by the Philippine senate’s Blue Ribbon Committee and having been charged with the crime of plunder at the Office of the Ombudsman, the now vice president has consistently brushed aside the accusations as “a political demolition job” aimed at stalling his drive to be president of the country. In addition, he is said to own a 66-hectare farm and ranch in Batangas province that could easily be the envy of the English royal family. Binay’s son, current suspended Makati mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay, has also been charged with the crime of plunder before the Philippines’ Office of the Ombudsman. The vice president’s wife Elenita was a former Makati city mayor and his two daughters Nancy and Abigail are members of the Philippines Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.
Just for the record, the Philippines press is one of the freest in the world and the country’s prosecutorial and judicial systems are among the world’s most incorruptible.