Transparency starts within
|March 16, 2013||By Patrick Ong under Opinion|
When Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s alleged gift scandal came out, everybody was pissed. The senators who received millions in “new allocations” for their projects, among other things, did not want the public to see them as thieves. Some even went as far as lashing back at Senator Allan Peter Cayetano and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago for exposing them and criticizing them in public.
The four senators,including Defensor-Santiago and Cayetano, who received far less than Php 1.6 million, the amount Enrile had supposedly given their colleagues,were also pissed. Aside from the fact that they received much less, some of the senators who received the gifts alleged that they were just jealous since they received less than half of what most senators received,Php 250,000 to be exact.
Enrile was, of course, not spared from the public mayhem his gifts had caused. Aside from the growing loss of confidence in his leadership in the senate, which his gifts, according to many, should have addressed, Sen. Santiago had asked for an investigation on the importation of luxury cars at Port Irene, a project the senate president had helped established years ago under the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Free Port (CSEZ).
The public was not too happy about the cash gifts each of the 18 senators received nor was anyone really happy about the damage the senate brawls had done to the image of the country. Even President Aquino had asked the senate to stop the series of allegations and word wars.
There were calls for the senate president to resign from his post and as a senator of the country, especially in a time where spending by public officials around the world has become an increasing issue, not to mention Chief Justice Corona’s impeachment case that also involved allegations that the former chief justice had misused funds.
Even students took to social media to give their own two to a million cents worth on the issue. Everyone started to speak up about the issue.
I was thinking back then that Enrile’s story would prompt the government and private institutions to look into the importance of transparency, but when I started to hear some of the comments, I quickly realized that many, including the youth, have detached themselves from realizing the importance of transparency.
Government officials started commenting on the issue as if their own offices did not have any transparency issues. Moreover, the church and several private institutions delivered their stand on the issue, while forgetting their own problems with transparency.
We like to speak about others, but we forget to look at our own institutions and ourselves. We forget to see that we have, in a way, contributed to the culture of not disclosing information that should concern every person, and to some extent, we have allowed people not to disclose important information because we never bothered to ask.
The issue is deeper than we think. Transparency is not just about fulfilling the bare minimum. It is about treating people as relevant stakeholders who may actually have good insights on an issue, a problem or a project.
Moreover, the culture of transparency starts with initiative. People, as well as organizations have the responsibility to seek important information and campaign for real transparency. In addition, we have to process the information that we get and churn it into something concrete.
Transparency is an issue we all have to address. It is a culture that needs to trickle down from government agencies to barangays, DLSU’s central administrators to lower level administrators, professors to students and employer to employees.
Even an educational institution like De La Salle University, an institution that has marketed itself as a world-class institution, has failed to see the importance of full transparency in the areas of operations, finances and plans, including the Science and Technology Complex merger.
Several offices in the USG are no different, as some have opted to deal with the bare documentations minimum instead of fully campaigning for transparency within the USG.Moreover, the USG has failed significantly in discussing issues such as grievance cases and school finances. Instead, many USG units have focused on “student services,” which are nothing more than parties, fund raising activities and the occasional free labor requests from the administration.
Even student media institutions within the University that should take pride in promoting transparency have, in the past decade, also lacked in promoting and actively campaigning for real transparency because of fear of persecution and lack of interviewees. Faculty, administrators and students alike have succumbed to the ideal of promoting peace.
What kind of peace? This kind of peace disregards grievance cases. Imagine, this year, the University has resolved just a handful of grievance cases from the hundreds that should have been filed. Why? Students are simply afraid to file cases, but because they are afraid, they also contribute to the growing idea that grievance cases don’t work. Moreover, since few are complaining, many get away with it.
This kind of peace has damaged “student representation.” Instead of focusing on promoting student rights, the USG has settled for the parties and fund raising activities, which have affirmed our stereotype—elitists.
This kind of peace has derailed the University in its quest to become a world-class institution that promotes freethinking.
To be fair, the University has taken steps towards real transparency, but transparency is a culture that we need to develop as Lasallians. It is about seeking the truth and creating an opinion that builds on the opinions of others. It also is about admitting faults, but more than that, transparency is about including everyone.