This article first appeared on La Tercera on August 17, 2020.
How many use power to favor themselves? How many really believe they have more rights than the rest? Surely many more than we imagine or the cases we know about because they have come to public light.
No one is above the law. By now it should be clear, but day by day we realize that some believe that it is not so. We are hardly surprised anymore when we find out that someone broke the rules, skirted the processes or simply did whatever they wanted, because they were sure that nothing would happen to them.
And although we have been losing our capacity for astonishment, we citizens are bored with these attitudes that only increase the distrust we have in people and public and private institutions.
The last case we learned about was that of Congressman Hugo Gutiérrez, who, being controlled by members of the Navy together with his family, committed an evident act of abuse of power. First he indicated that he “is more authority” than who controlled him, and then he mentioned the phrase “if you are going to control me, I control you, we all control each other, then it would be a problem”. And the truth is that yes, that is exactly what it is about, we must all be controlled, because we live in society and no one is above the other. Otherwise, we continue to feed the idea that there are first and second class citizens, and in the process, hatred and resentment. On the other hand, the parliamentarian’s family does not have more rights than the rest, so that if they traveled in a quarantined commune or city, each member required permits to circulate on public roads.
How can we forget similar cases, such as the one involving the then Undersecretary of Social Development, Felipe Salaberry, who, when being controlled after running three red lights, said to the municipal inspector “You don’t know who you are messing with”. And as if that were not enough, he contacted his sister, a municipal official, to avoid the infraction.
There are many examples of abuse of power by authorities who feel they have more rights and privileges, and where unfortunately a few end up undermining confidence in our authorities. But this does not only happen in the public sphere, as it happens more often than we think at the corporate level. How many times have we seen overbearing bosses who not only treat employees badly because they feel superior, but also question their own control? This can clearly lead to acts of corruption, because if the boss believes that they are not accountable or subject to the same protocols as others, they leave the door open for irregularities to occur, without the ability to prevent them.
Today more than ever, those who exercise a position of power must be concerned about setting an example, and not act as if they were worth more because of their position or profession. And in this context, we must highlight the role of compliance within organizations, worrying not only about achieving the objectives set, but also about how we reach them. In this, senior executives have a greater responsibility and it is urgent that they understand it, because if it is not practiced by example, or if it is not born from the top of the organization, it is impossible to instill a culture of “doing things right” in companies.
It is true that we cannot lump all authorities, bosses or individuals together, but unfortunately a few politicians can tarnish the reputation of others, just as a few executives can tarnish the reputation of an entire company.
It seems incredible that in the year 2020, after knowing so many examples of abuse of power and knowing the repudiation that these acts of arrogance provoke in the citizenship, the idea that some are untouchable and worth more before the law is insisted on. It is time to regain people’s trust in their authorities, both public and private.
By Susana Sierra