The Cost of Abandoning Good Governance

Lack of accountability has contributed to, or perhaps the main cause of corruption in Philippine government. Corruption is an important crosscutting theme that impedes service delivery and undermines the country’s ability to pursue its development objectives. Understandably, the failure of the Philippines to control corruption negatively affected the country’s well-being. There are economic, institutional, and social costs of corruption. Corruption pulls down the economy as it distorts and deters trade and investments, reduces revenues, increases costs, and propagates wasteful allocation and use of scarce resources. Corruption also has negative consequences to institutions. It distorts public policies, since it tends to favor vested or selfish interests that, more often than not, are detrimental to serving the public interest. Corruption leads to poor quality of programs, services, and projects; breeds mediocrity; and renders administrations inefficient and ineffective. It further undermines merit and fitness in public personnel administration and inhibits civil servant motivation. Moreover, corruption weakens implementation, encourages tolerance of negative bureaucratic behavior, and ruins public trust and confidence in the Government. The social costs of corruption include undermining the rule of law and political legitimacy. Corruption diverts relief from the poor, deprives them of fair treatment, and increases poverty. Corruption also increases risks to national security and peace and order. Furthermore, corruption threatens the welfare of the people. Increasing public demands for more accountability in government is one of the crucial factors to combat corruption (Martinez 1999), which, in the present form of government, has seemed to meet its dead-end.

After presenting a handful of problems concerning government accountability in the Philippines, it is instructive to reflect on the points raised by Juan Linz (1994) concerning the breakdown of democratic regimes in Latin America and the alleged “crisis of governability” of weak democracies. In Presidential or Paliamentary Democracy: Does It Make a Difference? He pointed out that Presidentialism, in combination with permissive electoral systems and weakly institutionalized political parties produce divided governments, deadlocks, institutional paralysis and, ultimately, the breakdown of democratic institutions. With the threat of a coup, or of a rebellion, the important question now becomes, are we tracking the path to a political breakdown?