Customs, LTO least sincere in fighting corruption – SWS survey

Michael Bueza
Customs, LTO least sincere in fighting corruption – SWS survey
(UPDATED) The Aquino administration's efforts against corruption started well, but there was some backsliding in its last few months, based on the survey among businessmen

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) received the lowest ratings from businessmen when it comes to their sincerity in fighting corruption, according to a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted in the last months of the Aquino administration.

The 2016 Surveys of Enterprises on Corruption, released on Wednesday, October 5, revealed that the BOC received a net sincerity rating of -68, or a Very Bad rating, down from -55 in 2015.

The LTO, meanwhile, got a score of -47, tagged as a Bad rating, down from -26 in 2015. Their net sincerity ratings is the difference between an agency’s percentage of sincerity and its rate of insincerity, as viewed by survey respondents.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained the highest net sincerity rating, with +55, or a Very Good rating.

Of the 35 agencies and institutions surveyed, 9 got Good ratings, 9 got Moderate ratings, 8 got Neutral ratings, and 6 got Poor ratings. (READ: ‘Corruption meter’: How gov’t agencies fare in fighting corruption)

The surveys in 7 major areas around the country were conducted among businessmen from February 2 to May 6, 2016, or during the last few months of the administration of then-President Benigno Aquino III.

Dr Mahar Mangahas, president of SWS, noted that in the last 4 years, the government’s efforts against corruption have started very well, but there had been some backsliding in 2016.

Only 4 agencies received an upgrade in their ratings bracket compared to 2015, namely the Department of Health, the Commission on Elections, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of Agriculture.

A total of 18 agencies stayed on the same bracket this year, while 13 agencies got a downgrade in their ratings bracket. This includes the Office of the President under then-President Aquino, with a +37 rating this year, down from +54 in 2015.

This may be due to either the respondents’ higher expectations or the agencies’ inconsistent efforts, explained Guillermo Luz of the National Competitiveness Council.

“If they relaxed a little bit on their programs, then they will naturally [see a] drop [in their ratings],” Luz said. “Remember, the public is also expecting more and more. You slow down a bit, and you would not hit their expectations. You have to sustain and move faster.”

Optimistic, but needs to step up

The survey also reflected record highs in how businesses view the government’s drive against corruption. But it also showed that they need to do more in efforts versus corruption.

“The business community, in a way, has benefitted whenever there’s less corruption. But on their side, have they done enough to improve anti-corruption efforts?” asked Luz.

The SWS survey revealed that 67% of respondents believe that the government can be run without corruption, a new record high, from 62% in 2015.

Nearly 3 in 4 respondents – or 73%, also a record high – disagree that they cannot do anything to fight corruption.

Among the respondents, 51% disagree that current laws are already adequate to fight corruption, while 87% agree that the passage of a freedom of information law will reduce corruption.

81% disagree that one has to be corrupt to prosper in business in the Philippines (up from 78% in 2015), while 73% believe that cheating the government for the benefit of their company is always wrong (up from 68% in 2015).

However, 63% of respondents see “a lot” of corruption in government (up from 56% in 2013), while 35% have personal knowledge of a corrupt transaction with government in the last 3 months (up from 32% in 2015).

42% of survey takers say that most or almost all companies in their line of business “give bribes” to win public sector contracts (from 39% in 2015). As for winning private sector contracts, 26% say that most or almost all companies do the same thing, from 23% in 2015.

Meanwhile, 49% have reported being solicited for a bribe by anyone in government (up from 44% in 2015, but still below the rates during the Arroyo administration). But among them, only 10% have reported it. The top reason for not reporting the bribe, according to the SWS survey, was that nothing would be done about it anyway.

Among the respondents, 84% did not contribute to any private anti-corruption program in the last 2 years, the same rate as in 2015.

Honest business practices “still leave much to be desired,” added the SWS survey, with less than half of the respondents expecting receipts for their payments, giving full employee benefits, or paying correct wages.

“We need to figure out a way for them to do more, whether in contributions, cooperation, or reporting,” said Luz.

Generally, 59% of respondents are satisfied with the national government in promoting a good business climate (down from 64% in 2015), while 65% are satisfied with their respective city governments (from 68% in 2015).

Nonetheless, 74% expect good or excellent business conditions in the next 2 years, up from 72% in 2015.

The SWS surveys were based on face-to-face interviews with 950 business executives in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas and Cagayan de Oro-Iligan areas, Metro Angeles and Metro Iloilo. –

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.