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TOP NEWS

Philippine Customs Bureau stops turtle, coral smuggling attempt

The World Wildlife Fund estimates the economic cost of the destruction from $137,000 to $1.2 million (PHP 5.9 million to 51.6 million).



The Philippine Bureau of Customs announced on Wednesday that it stopped an attempt to smuggle turtles and corals worth $814,000 (PHP 35 million). The items were seized from two container vans on May 1 at a Metro Manila seaport. The vessel came from Cotabato Province in the southern Philippines. The shipper declared the contents of the container vans as rubber, but Customs authorities - who had a tip from an informant about the shipment - found inside rare black corals, sea shells and stuffed green sea turtles which are endangered and protected marine species. The shipment arrived at the Eva Macapagal Terminal in Manila South Harbor. The vessel left Cotabato on April 29. Inspectors from Customs and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources initially found black corals, but later discovered also sea turtles wrapped in newspapers and hidden in boxes under the corals and sea shells. Initial inventory showed at least 16 stuffed turtles measuring from 8 to 33 inches. More turtles were discovered inside the second van.

porkbarrel.jpg

"Where's Our Pork, Mr. Pesident?"

GMA ALLIES ASK FOR PORK: Congressmen-allies of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asked President Aquino yesterday why he has not released their pork barrel funds for this year. "Wheres our pork, Mr. President?" Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas asked in a news conference of the House minority bloc, to which Mrs. Arroyo belongs. Cagas said the Chief Executive has apparently been violating his promise that he would not be selective in releasing pork barrel funds and that opposition lawmakers would get their allocations. Cagas said he received information that administration allies received fund releases after the House impeached then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez by an overwhelming 212-46 vote.

GUTIERREZ MIDNIGHT DEAL HIT: Former Ombudsman Merceditas "Merci" Gutierrez had ordered the reinstatement of a dismissed Bureau of Customs official shortly before her resignation took effect. Gutierrez, in a resolution signed on May 4, granted the motion for reconsideration filed by Customs police chief Jose Yuchongco which sought to overturn his dismissal from public service for failure to disclose his properties in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). Gutierrez's resignation took effect on May 6. The Office of the Ombudsman earlier ordered Yuchongco's dismissal after finding him guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty.

ARROYO ALLIES: PNOY WANTS A FRIENDLY OMBUDSMAN >>> There could be a more sinister reason as to why the Aquino administration had sought for the removal of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Allies of former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the Aquino administration wanted an Ombudsman that would be sympathetic to its interests, amid the increasing number of allegations of wrongdoings against its members. In a joint statement read by Davao Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas, the minority said: "With the many problems of its own making, and anomalies involving its own officials, it is no longer surprising that people in the Administration are interested in installing a partisan and sympathetic Ombudsman." The minority noted the incumbent administration attacked Gutierrez and forced her to resign.

INQUIRER
Smuggling is ‘embedded’ in Customs, says group

The recent discovery of hot cars and big bikes in Cagayan de Oro City and Bukidnon exposed a system of corruption embedded at the Bureau of Customs that can be stopped through a proposal made to President Benigno Aquino III by an anticorruption group here. For Benjamin Lizada, lead convenor of the People Power Volunteers for Reform-Davao City, the case in Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro City is reflective of unabated smuggling in the entire country. "I hope we can all help in solving the smuggling problem in our country. It is very easy to solve," Lizada told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His group sent a letter on March 6 to President Aquino proposing the revival of Designated Examination Areas (DEA) outside customs zone as an effective way to fight smuggling. The letter was also signed by Fathers Archimedes Lachica and Albert Alejo, of the anti-corruption movement Ehem, and Ednar Dayanghirang, a member of the government peace panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front.

Pera Natin 'to

TACKLING CORRUPTION IN THE PHILIPPINES AN OUTSIDER'S EXPERT VIEW

Corruption has absolutely nothing to do with culture and everything to do with political and personal will. Those who point to traditions and history are simply making the poorest of excuses and are in basic denial by simply refusing to accept personal and collective responsibility for the state they are in. So says one of the world's leading anti-corruption experts -- Tony Kwok, who spoke at a public forum on Friday at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. As proof, the former Deputy Head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong pointed to the overarching Chinese culture and Confucian traditions in his home town which transformed itself from being one of the most corrupt societies to one of the cleanest. "We love money and wealth creation and the family to us is everything - but the secret is zero tolerance for corruption." The charismatic Kwok took delight in challenging those in the audience who imagined it would take decades for the Philippines to rid itself of the legacy of generations of graft. In Hong Kong, he reminded people, it took just three years.

P-NOY LAUDS STRONGER AUDIT COMMISSION

AUDITORS - "EYES OF THE BUREAUCRACY"

President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday told state auditors - "the eyes of the bureaucracy," in his words - that they could now do their job of safeguarding the public coffers without fear that they would be stopped. Speaking at the 112th anniversary celebration of the Commission on Audit (COA) at its office in Quezon City, the President urged state auditors to join his administration's fight against corruption, saying that things were now different under his watch. "If before, auditors were afraid to reveal the anomalies they see in government transactions, now you are given the power to be free, brave and fearless in your duties. If before, unscrupulous officials tend to raid the public coffers, now just hearing the name COA would strike fear in them and they would withdraw," Mr. Aquino said in a speech delivered in Filipino. "Being the eyes of the bureaucracy, you know that no one is blindfolding you in tracking down anomalies. No one is stopping you to speak up against things that are not right, and no one is tying you so you can fulfill your mandate to be honest and loyal guardians of the people's money," he said. Mr. Aquino made special mention of both COA Chair Grace Pulido Tan and Commissioner Heidi Mendoza in his speech. He said it was important in his crusade against corruption to bring into the commission people who could be trusted and would not consider any government official as a sacred cow. He said this was why he did not hesitate to appoint Tan as its chair. "And when we met Heidi Mendoza, we also did not pass up the chance to appoint her as commissioner," he said of the woman who blew the whistle on the irregular transactions made by former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

P-NOY LAUDS STRONGER COA: President Aquino hailed the Commission on Audit (COA) yesterday for becoming a more powerful institution committed to fight graft and corruption in government. In a speech before officials and employees on the agency's 112th anniversary, the President said erring government officials now fear state auditors. Aquino said COA auditors no longer do their jobs with reservation as they are now "free, brave, and fearless" in fulfilling their duties. "Being the eyes of the bureaucracy you are no longer blindfolded to prevent you from watching over wrongdoers, no one is gagging you to speak out against profligacy and no one is tying you up to stop you from performing your mandate as keeper of the countrys coffers," he said in Filipino.

AQUINO: GOVERNMENT NEEDS MORE "HEIDIS" >>> President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Tuesday honored the country's best auditors, including this year's Outstanding Commission on Audit (COA) Employee Awardee, for having discovered multimillion-peso anomalies. In a speech before COA officials and employees, Aquino commended Iloilo state auditor Heidi Pasuelo for her work that resulted in the dismissal of 2 government officers for malversation of public funds totaling P1.25 million and for her significant audit disallowances in 3 government agencies of over P97 million. The President cited Pasuelo along with her namesake Heidi Mendoza, the whistleblower on alleged corruption in the military and eventually named COA commissioners. Aquino said their honesty and dedication prevented scammers from stealing government money.

Click here to watch video of President's speech at COA 12th Anniversary in Tagalog and read article "PNoy to state auditors: Have no fear in fighting corruption"

REMAIN HONEST, FIRM GOVERNMENT WORKERS URGED: Commission on Audit Commissioner and AFP corruption whistleblower Heidi Mendoza challenged the participants in the 31st National Convention of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals Friday to remain honest and firm despite the strong temptation to power and money. Mendoza was the guest of honor and speaker of the 31st BCBP National Convention, at the Negros Oriental Convention Center in Dumaguete City that drew more than 2,500 participants. She said it is difficult to serve in government at a minimal salary, but it is very rewarding to serve the people and country with integrity and honesty.

475 PRIVATE FIRMS JOIN INTEGRITY INITIATIVE: Close to 500 local companies have signed the Integrity Pledge, a multi-organization initiative that aims to elevate integrity standards in doing business and help eradicate corruption. In a circular released to members on Tuesday, the Management Association of the Philippines, one of the organizations spearheading the Integrity Initiative, said 475 firms have so far signed the Integrity Pledge since the project was launched five months ago. The signing of the Integrity Pledge, according to MAP president Felino Palafox Jr., was "a clear demonstration of members' commitment to 'walk the talk' and implement policies and procedures that will support the initiative." "The Integrity Initiative is an advocacy for improved integrity standards. If your company is not in the list of signatories yet, please sign up immediately," he said. Apart from the MAP, other proponents of the Integrity Initiative are the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, the Asian Institute of Management, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club. Companies that sign the Integrity Pledge commit to shun bribery in any form, maintain a code of conduct for employees to pursue ethical business practices and implement internal systems that will prevent any unethical conduct within their firms. They also vow to maintain transparent and appropriate financial reporting mechanisms and to allow themselves to be subjected to audits should the need arise. They also commit to eventually enter into "integrity pacts" with government agencies and other businesses, especially in the area of procurement.

PROSECUTORS ELATED "WE'RE VINDICATED": While the Aquino administration and its allies are furious, prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman are feeling vindicated with the Sandiganbayan's approval of the plea bargain on the plunder case of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus Micael said the court's resolutions approving the agreement and rejecting the Office of the Solicitor General's attempt to intervene clearly spelled out why the plea bargain was the government's best option. Micael said the Sandiganbayan had access to all records and had based its rulings on all the facts of the case.

SURVEY MESSAGE: Decline of single-issue presidency >>> The writing on the wall appeared as the Aquino administration celebrated its success in driving Merceditas Gutierrez to resign as Ombudsman on April 29. The euphoria over the triumph of presidential pressure to get rid of unwanted government officials seen as standing in the way of President Benigno Aquino III's campaign to purge corruption in public office did not last long. On May 3, the government got a rude shock: the 2011 first quarter survey of Social Weather Stations was published by the BusinessWorld newspaper, showing that public satisfaction with the Aquino administration has plunged sharply nationwide, except in Metro Manila. Nationwide, net public satisfaction with the administration's performance dropped 18 points to 46 in March from 64 in November last year.

HEIDI "IN PAIN" OVER SANDIGANBAYAN DECISION: Commission on Audit (COA) Commissioner Heidi Mendoza said it was a 'sad day' when she learned about the Sandiganbayan's decision to allow former military comptroller Carlos Garcia's plea bargain deal. "I'm in pain - it's a sad day, but then I must emphasize that there is no place for disappointment, there are a lot of things to do, a lot of challenges that lie ahead. So, I think I just could not be hopeless. I just could not be disappointed, you know, we have a President that's supportive of us...there's no room for disappointment," she said at the sidelines of the 112th anniversary of the commission.

Aquino: Govt to exhaust "all legal means" vs Garcia plea bargain...If this move fails, Aquino said the government will ask the Supreme Court (SC) to intervene in the issue. Aquino told reporters he wondered how the Sandiganbayan arrived its 22-page ruling. He added that the Sandiganbayan, the country's anti-graft court seemed to be "in a vacuum" because it ruled in favor of Garcia despite the numerous testimonies before Congressional hearings to support claims against the general.

 
GLOBAL NEWS REPORTED ACROSS THE PLANET VIA AP & TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL
 
SANDIGANBAYAN APPROVES GARCIA PLEA BARGAIN DEAL, GOV'T EXECS CRITICIZE
 

ASSOCIATED PRESS/RETRANSMITTED BY TI: Philippine court OKs plea bargain with general >>> A Philippine anti-graft court approved on Monday a much-criticized plea bargain deal between prosecutors and a former senior general accused of plunder. The court said the evidence of plunder was weak and former Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia had complied with all preconditions for the deal, including returning assets worth 135 million pesos ($3.1 million). Garcia has pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering. Edit Link

MANILA BULLETIN: The Sandiganbayan approved Monday the plea bargaining agreement (PBA) entered into by former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Comptroller retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP). But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) can still avail of legal remedies to contest the decision, such as filing of a motion for reconsideration with the Sandiganbayan or raising the case before a higher court. "All is not lost because there are remedies under the law." Edit Link

INQUIRER: Saying the state cannot be bound by the "incompetence of its agents," Sen. Franklin Drilon urged the Aquino administration to appeal the "totally erroneous" Sandiganbayan ruling. Edit Link

ABS CBN NEWS: Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrrez may no longer be in office, but she casts a long shadow on the institution she left behind. This was proven on the very first working day since she left office, when the Sandiganbayan approved her controversial plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Pera Natin 'to
The Right To Avoid Self-Incrimination: When Is It Fair For Corruption Suspects to Cite It and When Are They Hiding Behind It?

...some probing media commentators have already asked: Did these investigations provide those accused of corruption and graft due process of the law or were they prosecuted by means of coercion, public humiliation or worse? Were they merely victims of publicity stunts of grandstanding politicians? Is there even a danger that due process and lasting justice be adversely affected by what some may legitimately call a kangaroo court of public opinion - and result in a degree of sympathy that a real court of law could prove to be unwarranted?...

First Corruption Allegations in Aquino Administration

Senator Panfilo Lacson will expose what could be the first corruption allegation against the Aquino administration. Lacson on Monday revealed that he had been receiving information about the alleged corruption under the present administration involving tens of millions of loss revenues, specifically in the Bureau of Customs (BOC)...the alleged corruption was committed in the "middle and lower level" of the agency.

EDUCATION SECRETARY: "ZERO TOLERANCE"

The Department of Education will emphasize values and sportsmanship and implement "zero tolerance" for corruption and cheating in this year's national schools' games, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said Saturday...teams caught cheating would lose points in their total scores or face suspension from next year's games,

NEW COA CHIEF SEEKS SWEEPING REFORMS

Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan on Thursday outlined her plans for the agency including sweeping reforms on how the COA conducts its audits. Among the reforms being lined up by Tan are a review of the capacities and specialization requirements of resident auditors and the secondments of auditors to posts outside the country. Tan said one of the major complaints against some COA auditors is the residency of auditors to choice government agencies, which allegedly leads to abuse...Tan said she will not recommend a lifestyle check of auditors just yet since she believes that 95% of COA employees are dedicated to their work...Tan said COA would also like a review on the rules of audit for military intelligence funds especially since 80% of the expenses are only supported by a certification from the responsible officer...She said the COA will also ensure that proper audit techniques will be conducted on projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways, considered one of the prime sources of corruption in government.

THE ECONOMIST
PUNISHING THE PAST, FORGETTING THE FUTURE

"...the president's approach to fighting corruption...is to punish the sins of the past rather than try to prevent crimes in future. Mr Aquino has proposed few reforms to the system. His administration's reasoning is that the institutions for fighting corruption already exist; they just need to be put to work properly. Recent history gives little reason to think his approach will succeed. Mrs Arroyo had her predecessor as president, Joseph Estrada, prosecuted for corruption, and the country's special court for trying graft cases, the Sandiganbayan, sentenced him to life in prison. Mrs Arroyo subsequently pardoned him. In last year's presidential election, Mr Estrada came second. The institutions in which Mr Aquino puts his faith have brought dozens of cases against Imelda Marcos. None has succeeded in putting her behind bars.

SMMUGGLING P5b: A smuggling case was filed against a listed oil firm yesterday by the Customs bureau as part of a continuing campaign to shore up state revenue... Charged under the Run After the Smugglers (RATS) program was Phoenix Petroleum President and CEO Dennis Ang Uy. Jorlan Capin Cabanes, a Davao-based Customs broker, was also included in the charge sheet alleged collusion

FIRST OMBUDSMAN NOMINEE >>> THE Judicial and Bar Council received yesterday the first nomination for resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's replacement. Lawyer Ernesto Francisco, Jr. was nominated by former Pampanga Gov.Eddie Panlilio...Francisco was one of the complainants who filed graft charges against former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in connection with the controversial NBN - ZTE deal.

Palace:

 PHL's anti-corruption record hit a low under Arroyo

The 2010 Global Integrity Report branding the Philippines as “very weak" in terms of governance and dealing with corruption [see article below] had only covered the last year of the Arroyo administration, Malacaņang pointed out Thursday.

In an interview with Palace reporters, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte clarified that the report covered the June 2009-June 2010 period.

Global Integrity, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization, tracks governance and corruption trends around the world using local teams of researchers and journalists to monitor openness and accountability.

“We were not here yet for the period that was assessed. That was the last year of the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," she said.

Valte is hopeful that Global Integrity’s next report would show an improvement on the country's anti-corruption rating after taking into account the Aquino administration “doing everything to improve on [its] governance and [its] anti-corruption [drive]."
Rep. Edcel Lagman had used the 2010 Global Integrity Report to criticize the Aquino administration.

In response, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda released an online  statement on the Official Gazette, pointing out that the legislator was obviously unaware of the assessment period covered by the report.

Click here to read full GMA NEWS article

Click here to read Statement of Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda

Report: RP very weak in governance, fight vs corruption 
By Helen Flores The Philippine Star


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines was rated “very weak” in terms of governance and corruption in the 2010 Global Integrity Report released yesterday.

The overall Philippine classification in 2010 was 57 or “very weak,” a downgrade from the 2008 overall score of 71 or “moderate.”

The country was rated “weak” (64) in the category “Anti-Corruption Legal Framework, Judicial Impartiality and Law Enforcement Professionalism” and the “Rule of Law.” This included the sub-categories “Anti-Corruption Law” (89 or strong); “Anti-Corruption Agency or Equivalent Mechanisms” (53 or very weak); “Judicial Independence, Fairness, and Citizen Access to Justice” (62 or weak); “Law Enforcement: Conflicts of Interest Safeguards and Professionalism” (52 or very weak).

The country scored 53 (very weak) in the category “Government conflicts of interest safeguard and checks and balances” (53 or very weak) but rated 71 or “moderate” on “Budget Process Oversight and Transparency.”

Based in Washington D.C., Global Integrity is a leading international non-profit organization that tracks governance and corruption trends around the world.

“While anti-corruption legislation is very strong, the anti-corruption agency does not have the ability to effectively deliver on its remit,” the group said.

The latest Global Integrity Report also showed that the Philippines is “very weak” in providing the public access to government information, scoring only 42 on a scale of 0 to 100.

The Philippines obtained a rating of 57 (very weak) in the category “Government Oversight and Controls.” It included the following subcategories: “National Ombudsman” (45 or very weak); “Supreme Audit Institution” (57 or very weak); “Taxes and Customs: Fairness and Capacity” (50 or very weak); “Oversight of State-Owned Enterprises” (78 or Moderate); and “Business Licensing and Regulation” (54 or very weak).

Click here to read the full Inquirer article

CLICK HERE TO GO TO PHILIPPINE SECTION OF 2010 GLOBAL INTEGRITY REPORT

_________________________________________________ ADB REPORT: Reduced corruption key to Asia's rise...Reducing corruption and improving government accountability are the greatest challenges to making Asia the world's wealthiest region by 2050, says a draft report for the Asian Development Bank..."The recent deterioration in the quality and credibility of national political and economic institutions (illustrated by rising corruption) is a serious concern", says the bank.

MERCI: I DID MY BEST, BROKE NO LAW >>> No deal with Aquino gov't over resignation - Amid questions over the Office of the Ombudsman's poor handling of pending cases, outgoing Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez says she is relieved to be leaving the post. She is set to step down on Friday, May 6. "I feel relaxed now. This impeachment trial will take the cost, so country first before personal vindication," she says. "We need a full-time Ombudsman, a full-time Senate and Congress to do the work."

CUSTOMS AUDITS LAST YEAR'S IMPORTS: The Bureau of Customs (BoC) has begun checking all shipments that entered the country last year to ensure that preferential tariffs were applied only to qualified imports. The audit seeks to verify reports that tens of thousands of imports last year were erroneously granted reduced tariffs, particularly those from China, South Korea and Vietnam under free trade deals, Customs Commissioner Angelito A. Alvarez said

REFORMS EYED TO HASTEN COURT PROCESS

THE SUPREME COURT (SC) is considering to revise the Rules of Court in a bid to hasten the justice system and decongest court dockets, Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima said yesterday.

Ms. de Lima, who met with Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad yesterday to discuss proposals on the issue, said in a press conference that the high court is looking at "doing away with adversarial type of proceedings."

The justice system adopts the adversarial court process, whereby opposing parties reason out in court and the judge determines the truth.

This is in contrast to the inquisitorial system, whereby the judge plays a prosecutor-like role during the trial.

"The adversarial type causes so much delay because there are too many hearings. SC, with the Justice department, is looking at a combination of the adversarial and inquisitorial system," Ms. de Lima said.

Under the adversarial type, court hearings are set as deemed necessary by the court, while the inquisitorial setup only has two hearings.

The preliminary hearing will focus on evidence and factual issues. The second hearing will be adjudication.

Congestion of dockets, meanwhile, will be addressed if the court will observe strict requirements before cases are filed in court.

Instead of probable cause, which Ms. de Lima says allows parties to file cases even with insufficient evidence, the court will require clear and convincing evidence before case filing.

"This will pose bigger challenges to the prosecutor because they will determine whether a case will be filed in court or not, but unlike the present practice, there will be more evidentiary requirement," she said.

Prosecutors and judges, Ms. de Lima added, will have to undergo training before the new system is implemented.

REPRESENTATIVE DIOSDADO "DATO" ARROYO: "If the government is really serious about this (anti-corruption campaign), then maybe they should examine not just the opposition but also their allies - all of them," Arroyo said. "Otherwise, they should shift their focus on all the very real problems facing our country now, instead of going on a witch hunt in an obvious effort to steer the headlines away from the very clear and dangerous indicators that our beloved country is falling apart."

SENATOR: NEXT OMBUDSMAN MUST NOT BE CLOSE TO PNOY: Ex-officio member of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) Senator Francis Escudero talked about the appointment of the next Ombudsman..."We're looking for someone who's not like the former [Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez]," Escudero said. First, the next in-line must not have close association with the President or any of his allies. Second, he or she must have will power. Third, he or she must have the level integrity and courage to run against those who violated the law.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL STALLED

COALITION: P-NOY'S LACK OF SUPPORT STALLS POPOSED FOI BILL: Lack of support by President Aquino has stalled the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in Congress, the Right to Know, Right Now Coalition said yesterday. "We believe that a key reason for the lack of progress on the FOI bill in Congress is perceived lack of decisive support from the executive branch, in particular from the President," the coalition said in an open letter to the Chief Executive. It distributed copies of the letter to media as it re-energized its campaign for the passage of the bill that would give citizens access to important documents in government agencies, including Malacañang. The coalition is composed of 155 media and civil society groups, including the influential Makati Business Club, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Ateneo School of Government, Freedom from Debt Coalition, and the party-list group Citizens Battle Against Corruption. In its letter to the President, the coalition said it has written the Chief Executive thrice since he assumed office in June last year about the FOI Bill but that it failed to receive "substantial positive feedback" from him or his Palace officials.

PALACE AMONG DARKEST CORNERS OF GOV'T FOR DOCUMENTS: A seven-month PCIJ audit of how 27 national agencies deal with access to information requests shows spotty proof of Aquino's recipe for good governance in the processes and practices of these agencies. While a few stand out as exemplars of transparency, the majority remain stuck in the old ways of opaque government, with some even sliding back into darker corners. To the last set belong the Office of the President and the nation's top integrity office, the Office of the Ombudsman. The two stick out in the PCIJ audit as the most barren fields for harvesting information and documents, particularly on the wealth of senior public officials.

GOVERNMENT TO GO FULL BLAST AGAINST CORRUPTION

President Aquino said yesterday that his administration can now go full blast in its campaign against corruption, and make the necessary indictments as soon as he finds a replacement for resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. "We're closer to actually filing charges where appropriate. Can I just say that it's hard to point to specific individuals at this point in time? There's still a process that has to be followed," he said. While the President has been very vocal against perceived sins of the previous administration, particularly his predecessor Gloria Arroyo who is now a congresswoman from Pampanga, he refused to name a specific person who he deems liable, either for plunder or graft. "We will make the appropriate announcements on the cases that are ready for filing at the soonest possible time. The concentration has to be in finding the Ombudsman," he told Palace reporters in an informal interview at the Heroes Hall...Militant groups are now readying criminal charges to be filed against Gutierrez after she retires on Friday. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said one of the groups preparing charges against the outgoing Ombudsman is Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a farmers' organization. "It must be clearly stated that even though she resigned, we will still hold Merci accountable. As it is, she can be charged with various violations of the Anti-Graft Law and obstruction of justice for her deliberate inaction on the fertilizer scam," he said. Colmenares said KMP will file the charges because the fertilizer scam deprived farmers of at least P728 million that was supposed to go to them before the 2004 elections.

PCIJ: AQUINO GOVERNMENT STILL SECRETIVE >>> The Office of the President remains to be "secretive" under the leadership of President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said Monday. PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas said Aquinos office has imposed barriers to free access of government records such as additional documentary requirements, despite the Presidents transparency platform during his 2010 election campaign. "The President has been an exemplar in filing complete and prompt reports If the President could be this good, this should be the case in the entire bureaucracy," Mangahas said at a forum in Quezon City. A PCIJ report said Aquino's office demanded various documents such as registration records, mayor's permit and an executive summary describing where the files would be used before giving out copies of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs). "Instead of taking the lead in pushing for transparency in government, the Office of the President seems to be following the footsteps of other state agencies that would rather keep documents close to their chests," the report said. The PCIJ report added that three of the governments "integrity" institutions the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Elections and the Civil Service Commission are among the "most secretive" agencies in the country. The three agencies "restrict" access to public records such as SALNs and personal data sheets of government officials through various ways, ranging from imposing high prices for photocopying to sheer "ignorance" of the relevant laws on free access to information. Mangahas said that one of the ways to address the continuing lack of access to information in the Aquino administration is the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill currently pending in Congress.

DOCUMENTARY ON PHILIPPINE KIDNAP-SLAY, TRIAL-CORRUPTION WINS NY FILM FEST AWARDS: "Give Up Tomorrow," which chronicles the trial of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga, who was arrested in 1997 for the murder of two teenage sisters in Cebu, won Saturday evening the Heineken Audience Award in the 10th annual Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) in New York...Ronnie Scheib, a film critic of Variety, praised the film in his review. He wrote, "A remarkably cogent docu, 'Give Up Tomorrow' chronicles the case of a young man wrongly convicted of rape and murder, exposing a major miscarriage of justice (with Amnesty International, Fair Trials International and the UN Human Rights Commission unanimously concurring). The Philippines-set pic depicts a perfect storm of cronyism, tabloid journalism, public prejudice and corruption that could have happened anywhere, but the specificity of the players' interlocking relationships adds enormously to the drama. Arousing outrage and disbelief in equal measure, this Tribeca fest highlight should score strongly with critics and arthouse audiences and flourish in ancillary...Docus about abuses of justice abound, but few present complicated events in so concrete, linear and compelling a fashion."..."Give Up Tomorrow" looks intimately at the trial of Paco. Capturing how a rapacious media circus stoked ethnic and class hatred to prejudice public perception, the film reveals the extraordinary judicial violations that resulted in Paco's death sentence. Secret filming from Paco's cell exposes the appalling conditions of Filipino prisons, where thousands like him languish without fair trial."

PRESIDENT LOOKING FOR "DEDICATED," COURAGEOUS" OMBUDSMAN: President Aquino said on Sunday his government would be preparing to file graft and corruption cases against officials and personalities from the previous Arroyo administration but that the focus now is on finding a new Ombudsman who will replace Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned effective May 6. The President said he wanted the new Ombudsman to be "dedicated" and "courageous." Speaking to reporters after attending a Labor Day breakfast meeting he hosted in Malacañang for labor leaders, Aquino said his government had become "closer to actually filing charges where appropriate," when asked if the Palace had been lining up cases against former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

 

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More IntegriNews

HEADLINES

Former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's order reinstating a dismissed Customs bureau official shortly before her resignation was "invalid" because the Court of Appeals had already denied his petition questioning his dismissal

Corruption scandals push AFP to initiate reforms

Malacanang: Sandiganbayan's approval of Garcia's plea bargain deal will not change governments goal of fighting corruption

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has found probable cause to file tax evasion charges against former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and former Social Security System (SSS) chief Romulo Neri for under-declaration of his income or revenues earned from various corporations for taxable years 2008 and 2009.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin: No AFP corruption under my watch

Sacked Customs cop chief: I'm back to work now

The Judicial and Bar Council has set the deadline for applications and nominations for the post of Ombudsman on May 16 and shall thereafter conduct public interviews of candidates.

Customs officials seized some P35-million worth of endangered marine species, including sea turtles, which were about to be smuggled out of the country.

The military is moving to address a possible backlash on the morale of soldiers following the recent approval by the Sandiganbayan on the plea bargain agreement between the Office of the Ombudsman and former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has created a 3-man panel of prosecutors to handle the preliminary investigation of the plunder complaint filed by former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez against former president and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 3 officials of the Arroyo administration for alleged misuse of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds.

Congress approved in a bicameral conference the Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC) Governance Act of 2011 which will look over the 157 income-generating agencies of the government...they will establish an independent Governance Commission for GOCCs

Office of the Solicitor General will file consolidated motion for reconsideration before Sandiganbayan, seeking a reversal of its earlier ruling on the plea bargain deal between government prosecutors and former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Four men, including two Laguna policemen, were arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Calamba, Laguna last Monday morning for allegedly kidnapping a man and later demanding P15,000 from his family in exchange for his release.

National Bureau of Investigation planning to hire deaf-mute people to handle documents in their computer system to minimize graft and corruption

Two Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) officials were charged with plunder and graft before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly allowing Land Transportation Office (LTO) contractor Stradcom Corp. to collect over P2.2 billion in "questionable" interconnectivity fees.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: "obvious corruption" in a multi-million budget of the Department of Health for family health programs.

DND to explore legal remedies vs Garcia plea bargain deal

Government's move to appeal Garcia's plea deal "useless," says Enrile

LAWMAKER: "Sandiganbayan justices should resign"

Church groups back move to scrap Garcia plea bargain

Civil Service Commission is spearheading spot checks on government agencies to further boost the drive against cheats in government.

Two officials and a contractual employee of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) are facing cases of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct complaints for the unauthorized processing of documents under the Balik-Manggagawa Center

DoJ chief Leila de Lima nominated to replace Ombudsman Gutierrez

Guingona: Garcia plea bargain allows pabaon system

THE Supreme Court can ignore a controversial plea bargain agreement in the plunder case of a dismissed major general without double jeopardy setting in, a former Justice secretary said. "The dismissal of the plunder case is based on an illegal document, a document which [was] unlawfully entered into," Senator Franklin Drilon, a former Secretary of Justice, said

HOUSE JUSTICE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: "Basis to appeal Sandiganbayan ruling on Garcia case strong"

SENATOR: Passing the Reproductive Health bill into law will only worsen and institutionalize corruption in the Department of Health's budget for family planning

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima described as mere "harassment" the graft charges filed against him before the Office of the Ombudsman, ostensibly by purported smugglers affected by the government's vigorous anti-smuggling campaign.

Merceditas Gutierrez's camp on Monday called the filing of criminal charges against the former Ombudsman as "baseless and absurd."

Aquino allies clobber Sandiganbayan approval of Garcia plea bargain

Merci faces criminal raps over fertilizer scam

Former barangay treasurer sought after using check belonging to the village in buying construction materials from hardware store

PH gets low mark on good governance, transparency

SENATOR calls on government to beef up anti-corruption program as part of effort to make country climate and disaster-resilient

SENATE MINORITY LEADER: dismayed by delay in passing Freedom of Information bill

Customs chief orders probe of imports wrongly given preferential tariffs

ANTI-CORRUPTION unit of Department of Finance fileS criminal and administrative charges against two high-ranking Bureau of Customs officials for dishonesty and unexplained wealth

Sorsogon Provincial Governor Raul Lee invokes "inordinate delay" in 2 graft charges filed against him by Office of the Ombudsman saying ground has been upheld by the Supreme Court as sufficient basis for dismissal of a criminal case.

NO NEPOTISM: MALACAÑANG has maintained the urgency of deciding on the replacement of Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, who exits as Ombudsman today, but this does not mean veering away from the policy against appointing relatives in the government

MA. MERCEDITAS N. Gutierrez formally vacated the office of the Ombudsman on Friday afternoon, reverting back to the status of being a "sovereign citizen."

TRIBUNE: THREE CABINET MEMBERS CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION

JUDICIAL & BAR COUNCIL: New Ombudsman to get fresh 7-year term

Legislators express support for Aquino administration plan to file corruption charges against former officials of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)

Aquino: Cases vs Arroyo officials can stand in court sans Gutierrez's testimony

Palace to present House with own FOI proposals

SENATOR: Special prosecutors in controversial plea bargain deal with former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia should follow in Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's footsteps and also resign

"MIDNIGHT" APPOINTEES: Gutierrez's impeachment spokesman...confirmed that Gutierrez signed appointment papers of 8 employees at the Office of the Ombudsman before she resigned

Agriculture Secretary says documents on P728 million fertilizer fund scam remain intact

President Aquino open to the possibility of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez testifying in cases against officials of Arroyo administration, "If she testifies, then I think we will welcome. But we do not intend to force anybody, we think there are substantial pieces of evidence for numerous cases already present,"

NEXT OMBUDSMAN's first assignment after being appointed by President Benigno Aquino III: to review and revoke the plea bargain deal entered into with dismissed Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia regarding his P303-million plunder case

RETIRING JUSTICE, NATIONALIST'S SON EYED AS OMBUDSMAN: A retiring Supreme Court justice and the lawyer-son of an illustrious nationalist are among those being considered by President Benigno Aquino III to be the next Ombudsman with the resignation of Merceditas Gutierrez on May 6. A member of the administration coalition in the House of Representatives identified them as Associate Justice Conchitina Carpio-Morales (who is set to retire on June 19) and De La Salle University law dean and Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chair Jose Manuel I. Diokno.

SOLON: "Cito Lorenzo was possible witness in Merci impeach trial"

SENATE PRESIDENT: AQUINO BETTER CHOOSE "TESTED" OMBUDSMAN: Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile believes that the choice of the next Ombudsman would be a make or break for the Aquino government. "I advise him (President Aquino) to be very, very careful in the selection of the next Ombudsman because if that person who will succeed (Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez) is inutile, it will bring down the government," ... The next Ombusman, Enrile said, must not only have the mind, integrity and energy, but he or she should also have all the "moral and physical courage to enforce the laws against corruption." "Because he's going to deal with a very major problem of the country," he pointed out. Since the work of the Ombudsman is mainly to prosecute, Enrile said the next appointee must know the ins and outs of prosecutorial work.

Palace hopes new Ombudsman will "act on" Garcia plea bargain

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez maintained that she is ready to face any charges that may be filed against her even after her resignation on Friday

Member of the Judicial Bar and Council: Names heard of human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, former senator Wigberto "Bobby" Tañada and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rene Villa as possible candidates for the position of Ombudsman

New Ombudsman will serve full 7-year term: Judicial & Bar Council

Gov't readying more charges vs past administration

AFP chief vows to strengthen anti-corruption drive via special audits

Gutierrez trial aborted: Winners and losers

Supreme Court orders Palace to answer petition on Presidential Anti-Graft Commission abolition

DELAY: Ombudsman vacancy not in Judicial and Bar Council immediate agenda

"Merci resigned because of family woes"

 

MAP Circular No. 082 - 2011 -2 May 2011

“MAP Insights” Column in BUSINESSWORLD – _26 April 2011

  

PCOS for ARMM Election?

Manuel A. Alcuaz, Jr.

 

The COMELEC Website has published only one resolution for the

 the ARMM Election,. i.e., Resolution 9144 on Voters Registration.

However, there are persistent media reports that COMELEC has already passed a resolution on automating the ARMM election for P1 billion to P2 billion!

 

It is interesting that the CAC (Computer Advisory Council) had recommended that the Smartmatic machines should not be bought. The CAC was at the time headed by CICT (Commission on Information and Communication Technologies) Chair Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua.

 

Now it seems that the CAC, now headed by the new CICT Chair Atty. Ivan Uy, has reversed itself and recommended the purchase of between 4,000 to 6,000 Smartmatic PCOS machines for the ARMM election.

 

Let us analyze this COMELEC decision.

 

In the 2010 national and local elections, there were 76,347 clustered precincts and COMELEC rented about 82,000 PCOS machines.

 

In ARMM, there were 3,379 clustered precincts! Why does the COMELEC want to buy 4,000, 5,000, or 6,000 PCOS machines for the ARMM 2011 election?

 

If Chairman Brillates were not a devotee of St. Benedict, I would suspect that some people in COMELEC want to maximize their commissions!

 

One story that we have heard is that COMELEC thinks that ARMM has 4,000 clustered precincts but they will buy 6,000 machines. The 2000 extra machines will be back-up!

 

This is absurd, 50% back-up! If the machine is that unreliable, don’t buy it!

 

Another justification is that COMELEC had savings of P2.1 billion from the 2010 budget. This again is shameful thinking.

 

Having savings is never an excuse to throw away money.

 

In reality, there is no need for even a single PCOS machine for the ARMM election.

 

The 2011 ARMM Election does not need automated precinct counting. There is a need  for electronic transmission and canvassing.

 

There are only three positions in each ballot and probably a total of six to twelve candidates to tabulate votes for.

 

Manual counting is going to be fast enough, more transparent, and more credible.

 

Something that can be done in less than an hour per 200 ballots.

 

In the last National and Local Elections, there were about 20 to 30 positions to vote for and more than 200 candidates to tally. That could really take a long time to do manually.

 

The COMELEC’s insistence on automating the ARMM election using Smartmatic machines should be viewed with suspicion.

 

Ideally, there should be a thorough analysis of the different alternatives for automating future elections.

 

The purchase of 6,000 Smartmatic machines for the ARMM election is not only a waste of money this year, it may pre-empt a wise and unbiased choice for the future.

 

It looks like Smartmatic and some COMELEC insiders are making sure that they will make money in 2011 and again corner a huge contract for the 2013 national and local elections.

 

Where is “ kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap?”

 

 

 

 (The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines.  The author is President of Systems Sciences Consult, Inc. and member of the MAP National Issues Committee. Feedback at map@globelines.com.ph. For previous articles, please click

<http://map.org.ph/members/mappingthefuture.php?dir=MAP%20Insights>).

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“MAP STATEMENT OF THE WEEK”

9 May 2011

 

Office of the Ombudsman as

 

Anti-Corruption Tool

 

We in the MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES (MAP) requests the Office of the President to appoint immediately a highly-qualified Ombudsman with proven honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability and good governance, and with unquestionable good moral character so that the government can finally use the Office of the Ombudsman as a management tool in eradicating corruption in government.   Corruption continues to be one of the biggest impediments to economic growth and prosperity in the country, and it has been eroding the moral fiber of the nation.

 

The selection of the next Ombudsman is highly critical in regaining the independence and effectiveness of the Office of the Ombudsman in discharging its vast powers like making public officials accountable for their actions, investigating and prosecuting erring officials and meting out administrative penalties, and recommending policies that will eliminate government inefficiency and corruption.

 

With the Office of the Ombudsman being the real protector of the people, and not of the few, P-Noy can finally transform his “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” battlecry into reality.

 

We urge the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to bring out to the fore the background and qualifications of each candidate being considered to encourage greater public participation in the scrutiny, evaluation and selection of the new Ombudsman.

 

The resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez gives the government a prime opportunity to move forward with greater speed, and the resolution of the charges can serve as a strong signal and clear example of P-Noy’s non-negotiable, anti-corruption drive.

 

For a more proactive anti-corruption vehicle, we encourage the Aquino Administration to certify the Freedom of Information (FOI) Law as urgent and for Congress to immediately enact the FOI Law which will give the access to information heretofore hidden from public scrutiny, and provide the necessary protection for truth-tellers and whistle-blowers.

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MAY IS "ANTI-GRAFT AND CORRUPTION
AWARENESS MONTH"
 
MALACAŅANG
PROCLAMATION BY THE PRESIDENT NO. 591
DECLARING THE MONTH OF MAY OF EVERY YEAR AS "ANTI-GRAFT AND CORRUPTION
AWARENESS MONTH"
(Sgd.) GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

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IntegriViews
OPINION

On the Corruption Problem

Political science professor Michael Johnston writes, "If people do not trust each other, their leaders, or their institutions, they are unlikely to act against corruption through the political system." That, in a sentence, describes the Philippine problem insofar as fighting corruption is concerned. The highly questionable decision of our Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court) in the Carlos Garcia plunder case is merely the latest in a continuing string of events (spanning decades) that make us Filipinos view our leaders and our institutions with deep abiding distrust.... He writes, "The Philippine case falls squarely within what I have termed the Oligarchs and Clans syndrome of corruption.... Essentially, it refers to a situation in which significant and growing political and economic opportunities abound in a setting of weak institutions. Corruption, under those circumstances, tends to be dominated by the dealings of a relatively small number of powerful figures and their personal followings. Oligarchs and Clans foster particularly worrisome forms of corruption and their deep roots in Philippine geography, history and society create strong constituencies with a stake in the status quo." He adds, "Oligarch-and-Clan corruption, as seen in a variety of societies ranging from Russia and Mexico to Nigeria and Venezuela, as well as the Philippines, is contentious, disorderly (often in a zero-sum pattern), and can be linked to a climate of pervasive insecurity as well as to violence." He points out, "Often public agencies and policies -- including law enforcement and reforms -- are owned by one elite faction or another, or are perceived in such terms, anti-corruption efforts may well have little credibility as a result."...A necessary, if not sufficient, step in attacking those problems is to demonstrate that reform is actually happening, and that people have an immediate stake in its continued success." Well, the latest Sandiganbayan decision certainly does not provide such a demonstration. All anti-corruption efforts by all previous governments in this country have failed miserably in this critical demonstration aspect. There is no indication, at least thus far, that the current government is going to be an exception. -- René B. Azurin in Business World

Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz went straight to the point in reacting to Monday's news from the Sandiganbayan. "In the first place, the Second Division did not approve the plea bargain of General Carlos Garcia," he clarified. "It merely reiterated its approval, made on May 4, 2010, on condition that Garcia surrender P135 million in stolen wealth. It just says now that he has complied." Cadiz laid the predicate to the first of many glaring inconsistencies in the contentious plea deal. The P135 million is more than double the P50-million threshold to constitute the heinous crime of plunder. Garcia had offered to return such plunder-size loot as far back as February 2010. So how can Justices Edilberto G. Sandoval, Teresita V. Diaz-Baldoz, and Samuel R. Martires now call the case against him weak? Cadiz pointed out other discrepancies, which he will raise in a motion for reconsideration... -- Jarius Bondoc in The Philippine Star

Two unconscionably delayed cases

THE PHILIPPINES is notorious in the world for having the slowest judicial system. The wheels of justice grind oh so slowly. Reasons can be corruption, lazy and cowardly judges, justices and prosecutors, clogged court dockets, and dilatory tactics of the defense. One new dilatory tactic is to persuade judges and justices to inhibit themselves - through bribery, threats or pakiusap - from a case. The case makes the rounds of justices and judges, each of whom inhibits himself with one pretext or another. There are two capital cases I will narrate to you that are being delayed like this... -- Neal Cruz in Philippine Daily Inquirer

Three reports as wakeup calls
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc in The Philippine Star
 

The 2011 corruption index by Political-Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. (Hong Kong) was a red flag. Sleaze in the Philippines had worsened since 2010, among 16 Asian economies. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 as worst, the country scored 8.9 percent, poorer than the previous 8.25. The Philippines retained its third-most corrupt slot only because the ratings of Cambodia (9.27 from 8.3) and Indonesia (9.25 from 9.07) slipped too. (Source: BusinessWorld)...

Came another red flag, the 2010 report by Global Integrity (Washington) with some parallelisms with PERC’s corruption ratings. With the highest score this time at 100, the Philippines rated 57  “weak”  in terms of government and anti-corruption. This was a big drop from 71, “moderate”, in 2008.

With anti-corruption laws rated strong at 89, anti-graft agencies were ineffectively very weak at 53. Judicial independence and citizen access to justice rated weak, 62. Law enforcement conflicts-of-interest safeguards and professionalism scored very weak, 52. Budgeting oversight and transparency was moderate, 71; but government conflicts-of-interest safeguards and checks and balances were very weak, 53. So overall the anti-corruption legal framework, judicial impartiality, law enforcement professionalism, and rule of law was weak, at 64.

Other fields measured: public access to government information, very weak at 42; national ombudsman, very weak at 45; supreme audit institution, very weak at 57; taxes and Customs fairness and capacity, very weak at 50, oversight of state-owned enterprises, moderate at 78; and business licensing and regulation, very weak at 54. Overall, government oversight and controls rated very weak, at 57.

Public administration and professionalism scored moderate, 71. It was pulled down by a very weak score of 58 in civil service conflicts-of-interest safeguards and political independence....

The latest Social Weather Stations performance polls can be read partly as people’s reactions to corruption. The net satisfaction rating of the Aquino administration dropped 18 points to 46 percent in early March, from a record high 64 percent the previous quarter. Sixty-five percent of 1,200 respondents expressed satisfaction, while 18 percent were dissatisfied, and 16 percent undecided. (Source: BusinessWorld)

The admin also got a net rating of 14 percent in eradicating graft. The SWS classified this as “moderate”.

 

Click here to read full article

LESSONS FROM SINGAPORE CABDRIVERS: YOU only need two taxi rides in Singapore to agree with a corruption poll tagging the Philippines as one of the most corrupt countries in Asia, if not the world. -- Kathrina Alvarez in Sun-Star

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned in bad faith after all. So moaned Rep. Neri Colmenares, upon discovering that Gutierrez had promoted a slew of assistant ombudsmen and directors on the eve of announcing her departure. To think that in her parting words Friday to the Ombudsman staff, Gutierrez had said she was leaving for the sake of the nation. Before the midnight appointments, the eight positions reportedly were vacant for nine months. If Gutierrez had lived with the vacancies that long, there was no compelling reason to rush to fill them up last week. With the midnight appointees, Colmenares said, Gutierrez would be able to influence the work of her successor. One of the new designees has been linked to a syndicate at the Office of the Ombudsman that dismisses graft cases for a fee. Another purportedly is associated with Gloria Arroyo's in-laws. A third was responsible for the six-year-delayed ruling on the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. The case was one of the causes of Gutierrez's impeachment for betrayal of public trust. Allegedly she had sat on it to cover up appointer-friend Arroyo's illegal diversion of the money to the 2004 presidential campaign. As senators were preparing last month to try Gutierrez, her office publicized in pre-emption the completion of charges against two high agriculture officials. The bombshell exploded in her face, though. For, ridiculously listed as well for indictment were the very whistleblower to whom investigating senators had granted immunity in 2005, and a minor official who has been dead two years. Cleared of course was the supposed beneficiary Arroyo. It highlighted all the more Gutierrez's messy habit of exculpating Arroyo. Yet she promoted the case investigator, giving the impression that she was rushing to reward. -- Jarius Bondoc in The Philippine Star

Gutierrez's departure also poses a challenge to P-Noy. He no longer has any excuses. There is no longer an ombudsman to blame should corruption continue to plague the administration and wrongdoers thrive despite the President's rhetoric. The new ombudsman, for one, should not only be above reproach, but also be energized and raring to go against malefactors. I feel almost sorry for the person who will be named OMG's successor, given the outsize expectations and the watchful eyes of critics who will surely look for the slightest weakness or merest mistake before pouncing. Even now, despite the President's pronouncements, we see reports of various anomalies taking place. True, it's mostly low-ranking subalterns involved, such as police literally pocketing millions while transporting a captured kidnap suspect and the supposed ransom money. There are also those members of the Highway Patrol Group (since suspended) accused by a comedian of extorting millions from him in the guise of a carnapping charge. Honestly, I am astonished at the brazen manner corruption at this low level continues to thrive. And if mere policemen think they can get away with it, how sure are we that higher-ranking officials aren't even now stealing whatever they can from the treasury? -- Rina Jimenez-David in Philippine Daily Inquirer

We are again witnessing another door closing to the airing of the alleged anomalies of the Arroyo administration. The resignation of the Ombudsman prevents the Congress prosecutors from publicly presenting the evidence that could ultimately link the former President to the anomalies that the Ombudsman is accused of delaying resolution. The words of praise for the Ombudsman's action from the allies of the former President betrays their relief as well as hers that again, the truth is hidden from the public. -- MELITO SALAZAR JR. in Manila Bulletin

The vacancy in the Ombudsman and the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon posts allows the President to ensure that the public office tasked with ensuring accountability of public officials and transparency in government may once again be able to perform these tasks and, at the same time, be perceived to be able to perform these tasks. The next Ombudsman and the next two appointments to the Supreme Court must not only meet the constitutional qualifications for the office, which are minimum requirements, but must also address the perception that they are not beholden to the President... Unfortunately, the President has been known to stand by certain people perceived to be close to him. He must be able to transcend this and look toward choosing the best person for the job - one who can, and is perceived to be able to, do the job of restoring accountability even if it will mean his friends and associates will suffer... The burden to ensure that the right choices are made to the offices that ensure accountability of public officers and transparency in government is one that he cannot shirk or pass on to any other person. The resignation of Gutierrez has removed the one stumbling block toward effective investigation and possible prosecution of the former President, but it has also removed the most convenient scapegoat for non-performance by this President.

 

Pera Natin 'to!
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From Pera Natin 'to
 
AWASH WITH CASH, SHORT ON ACCOUNTABILITY

>>>>>> PAGCOR insiders maintain that no less than PhP 265 million (USD 6 million) in organizational funds were spent on election campaigns during the tenure of Genuino at the same time that its operating budget more than doubled from 20 per cent of gross income to 45 per cent...Money was not a problem during the past administration for the only government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) to oversee legalized gambling in the country nor it seems was accountability: There just wasnt any...In 2007, the PAGCOR Charter was amended through Republic Act 9487 that extended the agency's franchise for another 25 years. This law also mandates it to regulate and operate games of chance, issue licenses, and enter into joint venture, management, or investment agreements with private entities. Such a provision only helps to bolster a commonly-held public view that it is a cash cow for those who hold the reins of government...In its reports, COA determined that in 2006 alone, the total budget for discretionary and miscellaneous expenses of PAGCOR directors and different offices exceeded the combined limitation of all officials (PhP 3.7 million or USD 86,046) by PhP 29.43 million (USD 684,419). The audit agency affirmed that while the total allocation was not fully spent, PAGCOR still overshot the limitation allowed by PhP 20.71 million (USD 481,628...in the final days of the Arroyo presidency and the corporations leadership of Genuino, a total of PhP 21.119 million (USD 491,139) was spent on cheeseburgers and fried chicken to the Philippine National Police as shown by 28 McDonalds receipts...the PAGCOR Board of Directors acquired high-end real property for housing of officers and employees amounting to a total of PhP 1,145,468,220 (USD 26.63 million)...No fewer than 23 PAGCOR officials received a combined basic pay totaling PhP 13,828,316.77 (USD 321,589) while also gaining an average of 41 per cent more in perks (PhP 33,774,610.45 or USD 785,456) in 2009. All officials received far more in perks than their actual basic pay...The first six months of the new PAGCOR management generated PhP 945 million (USD 22 million) in savings and saw a 3.79 percent hike in gross revenues... Things now look brighter for the government in terms of PAGCOR...The only thing presently lacking is a substantive and independent investigation into the activities and spending of senior PAGCOR officials and board members during the previous administration.

NCIP: MILLIONS LOST, NOT ACCOUNTABLE >>> The National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is mandated to protect and promote the interest and well-being of our indigenous peoples with regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions and institutions. It is currently in the classification of "other executive offices" under the Office of the President. But some NCIP offices in the country appear plagued with corruption - in the form of long-standing un-liquidated (unreported) fund disbursements - some dating back more than a decade. While the agency gets only less the PhP 600 million (USD 14 million) for its annual budget, if the Philippines is to get serious about corruption, looking into a government agency like the NCIP is key.

Good Governance and Anti-Corruption: A Framework for Reform >>> ...addressing the problem of corruption requires the expansion of targets of reform, going beyond the enactment of new laws and of the creation of new bodies. In addition to institutional reforms that include reforms in policies, structures, systems and procedures, reforms should also include those targeted at changing mindsets, behaviors and values of the governance actors (government, business and civil society).Third, reforms should also be targeted to strengthen leadership and political will of implementers (both the national and local levels). Lastly and equally important is the citizens engagement in the fight against graft and corruption. Encouraging citizens and engaging them in the fight against graft and corruption make our intentions more powerful...

PNP ARMM: Serious Allegations of Corruption over Firearms and Recruitment Being Made - And Denied

Should Annual LGU Savings Go To Employees' Perks or Basic Services?

PHOTO EXPOSE: Public Officials or Public Profiteers? >>> Six months after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued its Memorandum Circular 2010-101 banning the use of names, initials and photographs of government officials on public projects...photojournalists...were asked...to watch out for, take and send in photos to help name and shame those who have abused their elected position for private gain. See them here!

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Pera Natin 'to

TACKLING CORRUPTION IN THE PHILIPPINES AN OUTSIDER'S EXPERT VIEW

Corruption has absolutely nothing to do with culture and everything to do with political and personal will.

Those who point to traditions and history are simply making the poorest of excuses and are in basic denial by simply refusing to accept personal and collective responsibility for the state they are in.

So says one of the world’s leading anti-corruption experts -- Tony Kwok, who spoke at a public forum on Friday at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. As proof, the former Deputy Head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong pointed to the overarching Chinese culture and Confucian traditions in his home town which transformed itself from being one of the most corrupt societies to one of the cleanest.

“We love money and wealth creation and the family to us is everything – but the secret is zero tolerance for corruption.”

The charismatic Kwok took delight in challenging those in the audience who imagined it would take decades for the Philippines to rid itself of the legacy of generations of graft.

In Hong Kong, he reminded people, it took just three years...

...as Kwok reminded and showed his audience in Quezon City on Friday through graphs and charts citing reliable public opinion surveys, “all presidents of the Philippines enjoy high confidence about combating corruption at the beginning.”

The election of the past four presidents (since the period of Cory Aquino) provided a “golden opportunity” when public confidence was high. But in each case, confidence subsequently collapsed. Public confidence and political credibility, he said was one of several key factors in ensuring a successful anti-corruption strategy and result.

Political will is crucial, he insisted. “All Philippine presidents have made statements and promises about corruption, but the follow-through has been missing.”

He indicated that it was crucial for administrations to move behind the hyperbole and turn statements and promises into action. The Philippines he said enjoys some of the strongest and best laws against corruption – and yet it fell down on implementation. The Philippine law on public procurement was a perfect case in point: It was one of the best laws in the world.

And yet, Kwok said: “System and laws are not enough – it is all about enforcement.”

He demonstrated that while many South East Asian countries had their own statutory anti-corruption commissions and groups, many fell down and have proved failures when it came to implementation.

Such failures, Kwok argued, were down to such things as a lack of resources; lack of independence; the wrong strategy; inadequate laws; inadequate jurisdiction; lack of credibility and support; lack of any coalition of support; a corrupt judiciary; a lack of professional staff and a lack of public accountability and political will.

He pointed out that here in the Philippines it took on average 12 years for a corruption case to be decided in court.

And one of his recommendations for the Philippines was for an overall plan that would allow the judiciary to solve up to 90 per cent of corruption allegations and cases within 12 months...

And while many need no convincing, Kwok also made a very clear case linking economic performance to corruption.

“If you want economic growth you really need to fight corruption. Foreign investment is simply not comfortable going into countries where there is high corruption. When it comes to foreign investment, Hong Kong is very popular and the Philippines far less so. Why? Simply there is no level playing field here and foreign investment needs a level playing field. The first aspect to that is the [public] budget. If you have a good control on corruption, you have good control and input into the budget. In the Philippines you have 20-30 per cent of the public budget lost to corruption. In Hong Kong that money goes to things like public housing – the benefits are clearly obvious.”

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SUNSTAR

Hong Kong graftbuster: Ombudsman needs more powers

THE government gives the ombudsman the job of fighting corruption but not the tools to so, an anti-corruption expert from Hong Kong said Friday.

Speaking at a forum at Ateneo de Manila University, former Independent Commission on Anti-Corruption Tony Kwok Man-wai said the Office of the Ombudsman has too little power, too few investigators, and not enough money.

The anti-corruption consultant also said that the Office of the Ombudsman "has no ammunition" to fight corruption because it does not even have arrest powers.

He said the ombudsman must be given the power not only to arrest corrupt public servants, but also check their bank accounts, tap their telephones, and conduct surveillance operations without the suspect's knowledge.

"Here, it is a haven for corrupt officials. They know their bank accounts cannot be checked. They know their homes cannot be searched. Nobody will listen to their phone calls, except if they are President," Kwok said.

He said that because the suspect's consent is not needed, there are few opportunities for a cover up or for political interference.

He added the most important factor in fighting corruption is political will from the President.

Kwok said political will can be measured by how much money is being used to support the drive against corruption, how strongly anti-corruption laws are being pushed, the lack of political interference in cases, and the existence of a zero-tolerance policy.

He said, however, that fighting corruption is not just the President's or the ombudsman's job, but of all government employees.

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Freidrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty

Philippines on the Right Track in Fighting Corruption

Former Commissioner and Head of Operations of HK-ICAC Tony Kwok

Former Commissioner and Head of Operations of HK-ICAC Tony Kwok

Anti-corruption expert Tony Kwok, who was also an investigator at the Office of the Ombudsman during the tenure of Simeon Marcelo, said that the Philippines is on the right track in its fight against corruption and is doing better than other countries in Asia.

The Former Commissioner and Head of Operations of
Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (HK-ICAC) presented the survey results of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on the General Performance of the National Administration from March 4-7, 2011. Kwok noted that President Benigno Aquino’s rating initial rating of 20+ in the area of eradicating graft and corruption was unprecedented, and that it is still high but declining. In the SWS survey, the rating is now 14+. He attributed this to public perception, more than as the result of actual actions of the government. "Perception is crucial," he would emphasize several times.

Kwok said that there is nothing unique about corruption in the Philippines. He narrated how Hong Kong was very corrupt in the 1970s, where corruption was blatant and even syndicated. “Many believe that it would need a decade to eradicate corruption when it has become embedded in the society. That is false. Hong Kong was able to do it in three years,” expressed Kwok. Kwok suggested a three-pronged approach to corruption: education, prevention, and deterrence. He underscored that these three are equally important to fight corruption. More so, there should be political will to enforce a system that has a zero-tolerance to corrupt practices. “The people should at least have the perception that their government is serious about fighting corruption, that is already half the success. But of course, we have to work on all levels, in all sectors to fully address corruption. The goal is to have an ethical society that does not operate on double standards,” Kwok stressed.

Kwok is in Manila for consultation meetings. He was invited to give a lecture on Corruption in the Philippines: What went wrong? What can we do now? by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Kwok’s visit is timely as the Philippines welcomes the resignation of Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez whose leadership at the Office of the Ombudsman was marred by partiality. Corruption cases that involved President Gloria Arroyo, her family, and cabinet were purposely docked for years.

The data gathered by Kwok showed that there are 1.8 million civil servants in the Philippines and only 200 state prosecutors. This gives a ratio of 1:9000. The number of prosecutors already increased from the time Kwok was a consultant at the Office of the Ombudsman. There were only 37 prosecutors then, and their conviction rate was merely 14%. Kwok advocated for budget increase for anti-corruption agencies that would contribute in the professionalization of their staff.

Prof. Winnie Monsod and Transparency and Accountability Network Executive Director Vince Lazatin

Prof. Winnie Monsod and Transparency and Accountability Network Executive Director Vince Lazatin

Prof. Winnie Monsod, who was a reactor at the lecture, challenged the audience to take advantage of the opportunity that the Philippines has now to fight corruption. “The public is already outraged by the corruption issues that have been hounding the country for years. We have a committed leader who is perceived as clean. The combination of these equals a perfect timing for an anti-corruption campaign,” expressed Monsod.

“Ever since President Aquino declared that there will be no wangwang (VIP car sirens), people’s tolerance to it has decreased. When before it was normal to hear it, now it has become of an exception. This means that we can also quickly change the attitude towards corruption,” encouraged
Transparency and Accountability Network Executive Director Vince Lazatin, who was also at the forum as a reactor.

The lecture is part of the year-long 25th anniversary celebrations of PCGG. An exhibit entitled
Excesses, Recoveries, and Good Government kicked off the programs. Kwok’s lecture is the first in the Haydee Yorac Lecture Series organized by PCGG and supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF). Haidee Yorac was the 11th head of the Office of the Ombudsman and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service. “The Aquino Administration had already gone about moving the goalposts on good governance. We hope that this lecture series would encourage not only discussions, but concrete actions in the fight against corruption,” said FNF Philippines Country Director Jules Maaten.

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NEWSBREAK

Ombudsman needs more powers, bigger budget

 

By PURPLE ROMERO - May 8, 2011

Congress, judiciary should support anticorruption efforts too, says expert

President Aquino can always appoint a credible and efficient Ombudsman, but his effort will only bear fruit with the help of Congress and the judiciary, among others.

Tony Kwok, former head of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission on Anti-Corruption (ICAC), told a forum Friday that under the present set-up, the Ombudsman wouldn’t be able to do much in catching corrupt officials due to its limited powers.

“It cannot arrest, it cannot wiretap calls,” he said.

Kwok said Congress should grant the Ombudsman more powers to investigate. Republic Act no. 6770, which creates the Office of the Ombudsman, gives the anti-graft office prosecutorial and investigative powers, but the most that it could access are bank records.

Kwok said both houses of Congress should work toward passing an “anti-corruption friendly law,” which would enable the Office of the Ombusman to do the following:

a. demand for information

b. arrest and detain suspects

c. search

d. restrain property

e. order a surrender of travel documents

f. conduct surveillance and undercover operations

g. intercept phone calls...

Aside from more money and more powers, the Ombudsman also needs a stronger judiciary to make its anticorruption efforts effective. “The judiciary is highly inefficient. It takes the courts 6.6 years to conclude a case. It’s one for the Guinness of Records,” he said...

But most important perhaps is the need for the executive branch to respect the independence of the Ombudsman. Kwok lamented that the agency “is sometimes used as a political tool.”..

Kwok said President Aquino should appoint “a person with a mission,” and that this mission should include catching “the big fish.”...

But he noted improvements over the years, such as the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the Solana Covenant between the Commission on Audit, the Civil Service Commission and the Ombudsman in 2004.

The Solana covenant is a joint anticorruption plan that lists the following objectives: the establishment of a database for the statement of

assets, liabilities and net worth of public officials and the monitoring of unliquidated cash advances, among others.

 

__________________________________________________

INQUIRER:

"Catch big fish to end corruption"

...one of the suggestions made by international anticorruption expert Tony Kwok in a lecture on corruption given at the University of the East...Using this strategy, Kwok, former operations chief of the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), said he was able to help oversee a significant decrease in overt corruption in the Chinese region within three years.

"When fighting corruption, we're fighting against public perception. When people believe the fight is genuine, they will start refusing to pay bribes," and start publicly reporting corruption instead of taking it as "an accepted way of life," he said.

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Click here to go to the full article in Pera Natin 'to

Click here to go to original article on the Freidrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty website.

Click here to read full Inquirer article

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Ehem -- the anti-corruption initiative of the Philippine Jesuits echoes the urgent call for cultural reform against corruption in the Philippines.
Ehem aims at bringing people to a renewed sensitivity to the evil of corruption and its prevalence in ordinary life. It seeks ultimately to make them more intensely aware of their own vulnerability to corruption, their own uncritiqued, often unwitting practice of corruption in daily life.
Ehem hopes to bring people, in the end, to a commitment to live the way of Ehemplo --- critical of corruption, intent on integrity!
 
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