‘Fixers’ as a product of corruption

When you think of the country “Philippines,” whether you’ve made a visit or not, the first word that may worm its way into your mind would be “hospitable,” and this is no doubt as this trait has been passed from generation to generation.

For some, it may mean a small, emerging country in Asia which houses 108.1 million Filipinos. Others may think of the boxing legend-turned-lawmaker Manny Pacquiao, or prominent artists such as Arnel Pineda and Charice Pempengco.

But for others, it is one of the most corrupt countries globally, having claimed the 99th spot out of the 180 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019.

Based on the report, the countries are rated between 0 and 100, with 0 being the most corrupt and 100, the cleanest. The assessment is based on the data from international organizations like the World Bank, African Development Bank, and World Economic Forum.

The country suffers from a widespread corruption, may it be from graft, bribery, embezzlement, and under-the-table or backdoor deals, among others.

One of the seemingly petty examples of corruption is the emergence of “fixers”—or those who make illicit arrangements or services for people in exchange for a hefty, fixed amount of cash. These persons are often found at government establishments, when securing NBI clearance, police clearance, and driver’s license, among others. These people have secret connections with government officials.

Take for example when I was 20 years old and had decided to get my own driver’s license at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) at its headquarters in Quezon City, Metro Manila. As soon as I alighted from the jeepney, a number of fixers in civilian clothes crowded and offered me different rates to be able to secure my driver’s license. I was overwhelmed, of course, but I rejected.

I know how to drive and I was pretty confident I would pass the exams.

However, as a number of applicants were told to enter the examination room, and when it was finally my turn, I noticed a guy beside me was speaking with an LTO official. She handed him two sheets of paper, which I assume, contain the questionnaires—except that it had answers. Mine hadn’t.

The process remains the same, I assume. You will still undergo written and driving examinations—except that the written exam already has the answers, in bold and capital. You will head to the driving exam area and be asked to get inside the car, but you will not be required to drive the car and prove that you are worthy of such privilege.

“It wouldn’t take that long,” one fixer said of getting a license coursed through them.

Why am I saying this? Because I believe that these fixers unnoticeably have an impact on the Philippine transportation system. To be precise: they make the drivers stupid.

These drivers, who should not have granted licenses because it is one’s privilege and should only be granted to those who deserved, were able to afford the same privilege thanks to money. Money is powerful, indeed.

These persons are the daily cause of stress on the road: they create traffic, are reckless and aggressive, do not follow traffic rules, and mostly do not care about how other people feel and what may happen to them.

In worse cases, these drivers are the cause of other people’s deaths.

One lawmaker—who called on some Filipino drivers as stupid last year—even called for much stricter rules for getting a driver’s license.

“They violate the law because they did not go through scrutiny. It’s so easy to get a driver’s license here,” the lawmaker said.

The government admitted that there were shortcomings in the issuance of driver’s license, yet what has been done to correct these?

I guess everything all boils down to corruption and this has kept these poor people poor. Poverty invites corruption, and corruption plagues poverty further.

I am not here to defend wrongdoings, but had it not been for poverty, these fixers would have not existed. These persons would have gone to enjoying a way better life instead of exploring easy things to be able to put food on their table.

Corruption delays, distorts, and diverts economic growth.

Let me just end this piece with a quote from the late Supreme Court of the Philippines chief justice Reynato Puno, and was published in the book entitled “Fixing Society: The Inside World of Fixers in the Philippines.” In the book, he was quoted as saying:

“Corruption in government not only gnaws at public funds devoted for the good of our people, but it also undermines the essence of public service and erodes public trust in government. It is a plague that causes and perpetuates poverty and injustice; a crime that hits the poor the hardest for with the meager they have in life, they are the ones most in need. A cultural disease, corruption decays our social values and moral fiber as a people.”