The Philippines is still perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, getting a score of 34 on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being very clean, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International. But the Philippines has at least outranked its neighbors Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh, which all fared better than the country in the previous CPI, said TI, a civil society organization that promotes transparency and accountability. Indonesia scored 32, Vietnam 31 and Bangladesh 26.
The top five countries perceived to be very clean were Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden and Singapore, while the five viewed as very corrupt were Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan and Myanmar. TI-Philippines President Rosalinda Tirona said the 2012 CPI, which covered data gathered between December 2010 and September 2012, showed that the Philippines has to take more action to improve how things are done in the country. One of these actions is the “immediate” passage of the freedom of information bill (FOI), Tirona said. “This means we still have to do a lot more. TI-Philippines is here to show the Filipino people we can do many more things to fight corruption,” Tirona said in a briefing Wednesday.
Graft and corruption in the Philippines has long been a topic of concern for those interested in improving the conditions in the area. The corruption of government officials and the failure of governmental leaders to use their position of power wisely has led to ongoing financial hardship throughout the nation and restricted its economic growth and cultural development.
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In 1988, graft and corruption in the Philippines was considered as the "biggest problem of all" by Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila.
Then President Corazon C. Aquino likewise despaired that corruption has returned. In 1989, public perception was that "corrupt government officials are greater threat to the country" than the communist guerrillas. In 1992, former President Fidel V. Ramos considered graft and corruption as the third major hindrance towards attaining his development strategy for the country. A decade later, in 1998, the country got good marks from Transparency International and the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), LTD. The Philippines then placed 6th out of the 11 Asian countries surveyed under the PERC corruption perception index (CPI), a measure of lost development opportunities in terms of investment. However, while the anti-corruption landscape in the Philippines has improved, its low score of 6.5 still placed the Philippines as highly prone to corruption. In general, national and international opinion depict the Philippine as still corrupt and being unable to effectively fight this problem. Indeed, today, graft and corruption in the Philippines remains. About 30 % of the national budget is reportedly lost to graft and corruption every year. Thus, the 1999 budget of P 590 billion pesos (approximately US$15.5 billion) will stand to lose about P 170 billion pesos (approximately US $ 4.47 billion). The administration of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada has vowed to reduce graft and corruption by 80 % before the end of his term.
Specific engines of corruption in the Philipines
There are 8 types of corruption frequently practiced in the Philippines namely: tax evasion, ghost projects and payrolls, evasion of public bidding in awarding of contracts, passing of contracts, nepotism and favoritism, extortion, protection money and bribery.
This is very rampant, particularly in the private sector due to the refusal of those engaged in private businesses to honestly declare their annual income and to pay the corresponding taxes to the government. Ghost Projects and Payrolls
This is done by high officials of the government whereby non-existing projects are financed by the government while non-existing personnel or pensioners are being paid salaries and allowances. This practice is rampant in government agencies involved in formulation and implementation of programs and projects particularly in infrastructure and in the granting of salaries, allowances and pension benefits.
Evasion of Public Bidding in the Awarding of Contracts
Government offices, particularly bids and awards committees forego the awarding of contracts through public bidding, or award these contracts to favored business enterprises or contractors. Sometimes, members of bids and awards committees are very subjective of awarding the contract to those who can provide them with personal benefits. To legally evade public bidding, purchasing government agencies would embark on a “piece-meal purchasing strategy” whereby small amount of supplies and materials will be bought in a continuous process.
In which case, internal agreements between the buyer and the supplier is done whereby a certain percentage of the price value will be given to the buyer which sometimes result to overpricing and the purchase of sub-standard supplies and materials. The practice of passing contracts from one contractor to another In the construction of infrastructure projects, contractors have that practice of passing the work from one contractor to another and in the process certain percentage of the project value is retained by each contractor and sub-contractors resulting to the use of substandard materials or even unfinished projects.
Nepotism and Favoritism
Government officials particularly those occupying high positions tend to cause the appointment or employment of relatives and close friends to government positions even if they are not qualified or eligible to discharge the functions of that office. This is one of the root causes of inefficiency and the overflowing of government employees in the bureaucracy.
This is done by government officials against their clients by demanding money, valuable items, or services from ordinary citizens who transact business with them or with their office. This is rampant in agencies issuing clearances and other documents, those involved in the recruitment of personnel, or those performing services that directly favor ordinary citizens.
“Tong” or Protection Money
This is a form of bribery which is done by citizens performing illegal activities and operations. They deliver huge amount of money to government officials particularly to those in-charge of enforcing the law in exchange for unhampered illegal operation. The law enforcement officer who receives the money will be duty-bound to protect the citizen concerned together with his illegal activities from other law enforcement authorities. This is practiced mostly by gambling lords and those engaged in business without the necessary permits.
The “Lagay” system or Bribery
The “lagay” system or the act of citizens to bribe government officials occupying sensitive positions in government is perpetuated due to bureaucratic red tape. Too much paper requirements, long and arduous processing of documents, ineffective and inefficient personnel management and the absence of professionalism in the public service force ordinary citizens to employ extraordinary and illegal methods for the immediate processing and issuance of required personal documents. The most frequently employed method is offering a considerable amount of money to a government official who can facilitate the issuance of the desired documents in agencies issuing licenses, permits, clearances, and those agencies deputized to make decisions on particular issues. Another method in this category is the employment of “fixers” whereby people will pay certain individuals who may or may not be government employees to process or obtain personal requirements for them.
Measures employed to control graft and corruption
The government employs legal measures and anti-corruption bodies to combat the problem of graft and corruption.
1. Legal measures
a. The 1987 Philippine Constitution
Article XI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, titled “Accountability of Public Officers”, states in Section 1 that “public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.” Section II of the same article states that the President, Vice-President, members of the Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for bribery and graft and corruption.
b. Republic Act No.3019 also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act of 1960 This law enumerates all corrupt practices of any public officer, declares them unlawful and provides the corresponding penalties of imprisonment (between 6-15 years) perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture of unexplained wealth in favor of the government.
c. Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987 This order reiterates the provisions embodies in Section 1, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution. It also gives the President the power to institute proceedings to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials and employees.
d. Republic Act No. 6713 also known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees of 1989 This act promotes a high standard of ethics and requires all government personnel to make an accurate statement of assets and liabilities, disclose net worth and financial connections. It also requires new public officials to divest ownership in any private enterprise within 30 days from assumption of office to avoid conflict of interest.
e. Republic Act No. 6770 also known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989 This provides the functional and structural organization of the Office of the Ombudsman which will be discussed later on.
f. Republic Act No. 7055 also known as An Act Strengthening Civilian Supremacy over the Military This law creates two avenues for trying erring members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other members subject to military laws. Crimes penalized by the Revised Penal Code and other special penal laws and local government ordinances shall be tried in civil courts.
Military courts shall take cognizance of service-oriented crimes only.
g. Republic Act No. 7080 also known as the Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder This act penalizes any public officer who by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth, through a combination of series of event criminal acts, an aggregate amount to total value of at least fifty million pesos (P50,000,000).
h. Republic Act No. 8249 also known as the Act Further Defining the Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan This classifies the Sandiganbayan as a special court and places it at par with the Court of Appeals.
i. Presidential Decree No. 46 declares it unlawful for government personnel to receive gifts and for private persons to give gifts on any occasion including Christmas, regardless of whether the gift is for past or future favors. It also prohibits entertaining public officials and their relatives.
j. Presidential Decree No. 677 requires the Statement of Assets and Liabilities to be submitted every year.
k. Presidential Decree No. 749 grants immunity from prosecution to givers of bribes and other gifts and to their accomplices in bribery charges if they testify against the public officials or private persons guilty of those offenses.
2. Constitutional anti-corruption bodies
The 1987 Philippine Constitution has created constitutional bodies to deal on graft and corruption and to effectively implement the provisions of public accountability. These bodies are granted fiscal authority to ensure their independence and their actions are appealable only to the Supreme Court. These constitutional bodies are:
a) The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB)
The Office of the Ombudsman investigates and acts on complaints filed against public officials and employees, and serves as the “people’s watchdog” of the government. The Ombudsman and his deputies (Overall Deputy Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman for the Military, One Deputy Ombudsman each for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) are the “protectors of the people”. This office:
i) oversees the general and specific performance of official functions so that laws are properly administered;
ii) ensures the steady and efficient delivery of public services;
iii) initiates the refinement of public procedures and practices; and
iv) imposes administrative sanctions on erring government officials and employees, and prosecute them for penal violations.
b) The Civil Service Commission (CSC)
The CSC is the central personnel agency of the government which is mandated to establish a career service and promote moral, efficiency, integrity, responsiveness, progressiveness, and courtesy in the civil service. It shall also strengthen the merit and rewards system, human resource development, and public accountability. It has jurisdiction over administrative cases including graft and corruption brought before it on appeal.
c) The Commission on Audit (COA)
The COA is the watchdog of the financial operations of the government. It is empowered to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property under the custody of government agencies and instrumentalities. It shall promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations for the prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or unconscionable expenditures, or use of government funds and properties.
d) The Sandiganbayan
The Sandiganbayan is the anti-graft court of the Philippines. It has jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases involving graft and corrupt practices and such other offenses committed by public officers and employees. It is in charge of maintaining morality, integrity and efficiency in the public service.
3. Other government anti-corruption bodies
Other government agencies in the fight against corruption are the following:
a) The Department of Justice (DOJ)
The DOJ conducts preliminary investigations on complaints of a criminal nature against public officials that are filed with the Department, subject to the approval of the OMB if the offense investigated was committed by the public official in relation to his office. The DOJ also prosecutes in these cases if the public officials involved belong to ranks lower than salary grade 27[LOVE1] .
b) The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP)
These law enforcement agencies conduct fact-finding investigations on graft cases. They conduct entrapment operations which, if successful, results in the arrest and filing of criminal complaint against the perpetrators in the courts. It may issue subpoena and serve warrants of arrest issued by the courts. The NBI agent or policeman who conducted the investigation also acts as witness for the prosecution during journal preliminary investigation and the prosecution of the case by the Ombudsman.
c) The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG)
This was created primarily to go after ill-gotten wealth. It is also tasked to adopt safeguards to ensure that corruption shall not be repeated and institute measures to prevent the occurrence of corruption.
d) The Presidential Commission against Graft and Corruption
This was created under Executive Order No. 151 by then President Ramos to investigate graft and corruption cases in the executive department. It has jurisdiction over corruption cases if the crime involves:
i) Appointees with rank of or higher than Assistant Regional Director;
ii) At least one million pesos;
iii) An offense that may threaten grievous harm to national interest; and
iv) Cases specifically assigned by the President.
e) The Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council
The council coordinates the government anti-corruption efforts. It is composed of the Commission on Audit, the Civil Service Commission, the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Presidential Commission against Graft and Corruption.
D. Impediments to the anti-corruption efforts
Despite the existence of these graft and corruption counter measures, this menace remains a major problem of the Philippine government. This can be attributed to the following factors:
1. Specific culture of Filipinos is enhancing the proliferation of graft and corruption. The strong family ties justify giving benefits to unqualified recipients which are very evident in employment and awarding of contracts. This societal phenomenon is adversely affecting professionalism, efficiency and effectiveness in the government service as well as in the construction of public infrastructure and procurement of government supplies and materials that are sometimes substandard and overpriced.
2. The Filipino culture of gift giving justifies bribery and extortion thereby making it hard for law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies to arrest the problem. This social practice renders inutile the law prohibiting gift giving thereby further enhancing this corrupt practice.
3. Agencies deputized to fight graft and corruption are not well funded by the government. There is also lack of recognition, merits, awards and rewards given by the government for the efforts of anti-corruption bodies. Personnel of these agencies mandated to go against corrupt public officials are vulnerable to bribery because of lack of financial support, integrity and professionalism. Measures have to be introduced in the recruitment of anti-corruption personnel to ensure that they possess morality, honesty, integrity and dedication to duty.
4. Transparency is not religiously observed particularly in government transactions. The public is denied access to activities of government officials. The people are not informed, in detail, of the share of each executive department, the legislature and the judiciary, in the national budget and how these departments spend their financial requirements.
5. Effective monitoring of government programs and projects as well as expenditures are not being seriously undertaken by those tasked to monitor them. They are also vulnerable to bribery and do not actually conduct thorough inspection but merely rely on information gathered. 6. The statement of assets and liabilities, which is an effective mechanism to curb graft and corruption is religiously submitted yearly by all public officials. However, no agency of government is deputized to examine the veracity of the data entered in those statements. Most public officials with unexplained wealth can successfully hide the same by paying accountants to make accurate and official statements for them. Read answers about military courtesy
7. Other anti- corruption provisions may work against getting good people in government. One example is the requirement of divestment, currently, the only approach to the possible conflict of interest that will be encountered by the entry of well- qualified people in the government. The current divestment procedure may be too harsh since it could effectively mean that no top industrialist should be a Secretary of Trade and industry, and no top banker may be Central Bank Governor. That would be closing to the government a valuable human resource. Besides, the appointing power must put a person where his expertise is. Others would circumvent the law by divesting themselves with their direct link to a business enterprise by transferring their interests to trusted relatives or friends but in reality, they still remains in control of the enterprise.
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