Does corruption hinder progress?

Opinion & Analysis Mar 8, 2019 at 5:07 pm
Jody Wilson-Raybould as she testified on the investigation into the SNC-Lavalin Affair

Jody Wilson-Raybould as she testified on the investigation into the SNC-Lavalin Affair

We Filipinos like to lazily blame corrupt government as the cause of the Nation’s many ills. But as Canada’s experience with corruption shows, the relationship between corruption and progress isn’t as clear-cut. It’s time for us Filipinos to look much deeper into what is hindering our progress as a Nation, because the often-used excuse of “corruption” is starting to wear thin.

By José Victor ‘Jayvee’ Salameña

On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, a major snowstorm wreaked havoc in Southern Ontario. But the weather was appropriate, as the snowstorm served as a perfect metaphor for the political storms that brewed in the US and in Canada on that very same day. Earlier that day, in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen presented his testimony at U.S. Congress, accusing his former boss as a “racist” and a “conman”.

Sir John A Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, was also embroiled in a corruption scandal.

Sir John A Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, was also embroiled in a corruption scandal.

And in the afternoon, former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould began her testimony at the House of Commons justice committee, where she alleged in her opening statement that she “experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada …”, a testimony that now adds gasoline to the fire in a political scandal dubbed the “SNC-Lavalin Affair”.

Filipino-Canadians should know that the current SNC-Lavalin Affair is just the latest political corruption scandal in Canada’s history. It was only fifteen or so years ago since the federal Liberals, then led by former PM Jean Chrétien, were embroiled in the “Sponsorship Scandal.”

Not that the federal Liberals have a monopoly on government scandals. The former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was destroyed in part by the “Airbus Affair” that plagued former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Another Liberal, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the longest-serving Canadian Prime Minister, also had his share of war profiteering scandals in World War II, as did Conservative PM Robert Borden in World War I.
Corruption also affected Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A Macdonald, whose reputation has suffered in modern times due to his government’s treatment of Aboriginal Canadians in Canada’s early years. (Much like the reputation of the first Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo).

JOSEPH ESTRADA

JOSEPH ESTRADA

Macdonald’s “Pacific Scandal” had as many as 150 members of his Conservative government accept bribes from a Montreal tycoon to build the railway from British Columbia to Ontario. The scandal only became known when a safe was broken into and the incriminating documents leaked to newspapers and to the opposition Liberal party. Yet Sir John A would win another term in 1878 and would continue as Prime Minister until his death in 1891.

(Something to think about when we complain how Filipinos can still vote for allegedly corrupt politicians like former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, both of whom are in political offices once more).

We Filipinos should not be surprised to find corruption – even here in Canada. Corruption is as old as Plato’s Republic and The Holy Bible, both of which mention and warn against it. But despite the colorful history of Canada’s corruption scandals, Canada still progressed into the developed nation that now serves as our second home.

GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

Of course, while corruption in Canada is as tame as a domestic house cat compared to the ferocious tiger that is the rampant, dangerous and often deadly corruption of the Philippines, it still begs the question that should be on every Filipino-Canadian’s mind: If corruption didn’t hinder Canada’s progress, is corruption the hindrance to Philippine Progress? Or do the problems of the Philippines lie deeper?

We Filipinos like to lazily blame corrupt government as the cause of the nation’s many ills. But as Canada’s extensive experience with corruption shows, the relationship between corruption and progress isn’t as clear-cut. It’s time for us Filipinos to look much deeper into what is hindering our progress as a Nation, because the often-used excuse of “corruption” is starting to wear thin.