MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Philippines has taken "huge strides" towards ending corruption but without long-term structural reforms this may be reverted in the future, President Benigno Aquino III said on Thursday, January 31.
"The Filipino people have taken huge strides towards establishing a culture of fairness and accountability" but corruption cannot be eliminated by sending a few erring officials to jail, exposing a single faulty contract or removing from office a single oppressive tyrant," Aquino noted during his keynote speech at the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) 5th Global Forum in Manila.
Aquino explained that the country has made notable progress towards the goal of ending corruption, especially through the prosecution of high-level officials such as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and deposed Chief Justice Renato Corona.
"No less than a former president was charged with plunder among other things [and] our own Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was impeached and stripped of his position when he was found to have lied about more than 98% of his cash assets," the President told the forum.
But while the cases have "undeniable impact on our cultural milieu," Aquino stressed that "without structural reform, another corrupt president may someday take the reigns of power, another chief chief justice may one day again betray the public trust."
Reforms cannot be 'blips on radar'
The Philippine leader insisted that his administration's early successes in bringing the powerful to justice are not to be taken for granted, and must be followed up with a strategic, long-term plan to fight corruption from its core.
"Reforms cannot be mere blips in the radar—they must usher in an enduring mainstream of good, honest governance," he said.
Aquino told an audience of dozens of visiting lawmakers attending the forum that "only through legislation can the bedrock of inclusiveness and positive, meaningful change be set."
He explained what his administration is doing to battle corruption.
"While policy formulation can at times be a complex matter, the overarching idea behind our efforts is simple: to put the people front and center in any agenda, and to go back to the basics of public service; in short, to do the right thing."
To illustrate this, Aquino gave the example of the Department of Public Works and Highways, which he claimed recently was able to save P264 million by following the right bidding procedures and negotiating "a major infrastructure project in the heart of Metro Manila."
"It was done with the same quality, and they even finished 100 days early," he explained.
Together against corruption
"We are all fully aware that, in the coming years, we will continue to grind it out with elements in our respective societies who simply want to profit from the hard work of others, who want to establish, or maintain, an undeserved upper hand over the common citizen," the President warned.
Aquino however stressed that "today, we are forming a more cohesive force against corruption" and together a solution is possible.
"The more we share our ideas, the more we listen to one another—the sooner we will achieve our goal of eliminating corruption and reforming the system for the benefit of our peoples," he said.
The time, he concluded, is now.
"It is now up to us to reach out to the most cynical of our people and show them that (…) if each and every one of us works towards a better world, then it is possible to push human civilization into its next great chapter—an era of honesty, transparency, inclusiveness, and genuine people empowerment." - Rappler.com