MANILA, Philippines – Can the Philippines ever free itself of corruption? It hopes so in the next 5 years.
Heeding the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the first legally binding international anti-corruption instrument, the Philippines has put together a comprehensive 5-year UNCAC action agenda that aims to chart the country’s implementation of UNCAC requirements.
On Tuesday, December 11, leaders from the government and the private sector signed a plan to curb corruption and to comply with the UNCAC.
Among the UNCAC’s highlights and expectations from participating countries are prevention measures directed at both public and private sectors, criminalizing corruption offenses, cooperating with other countries in the fight against corruption, and recovering ill-gotten wealth.
The action plan prepared by stakeholders earned the approval of United Nation Development Programme Resident Representative Luiza Carvalho who praised the the Philippines for its progress so far, and for its efforts to continue corruption mitigation.
“The Philippines is beginning to win ground on this battle,” she said. “Let us now prove to the Filipino people that the political will to follow through is already there.”
The draft, which put together the suggestions of the legislative, executive and judicial branches, as well as the inputs of media, civil society organizations, and the business and private sectors, looked to amend or implement existing laws, or create new ones.
It called for the criminalization of active and passive bribery of public officials, stiffer and higher penalties to corporations charged with corruption offenses, and for the amendment of the code of conduct for public officials and employees.
Several promises were also influenced by the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in May, who was found guilty of failing to disclose his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Zamboanga City first district Rep Maria Isabel Climaco, who represented the House of Representatives at the conference, said that the Philippines must take advantage of what it has learned.
“Our momentum of policy reform against corruption has been strengthened. We cannot afford to lose that momentum,” she said.
“The impeachment trial bode well to the fight against corruption.”
Aside from mandatory disclosure of SALNs, the draft looks to create a law allowing the Ombudsman to look into all deposits both within and outside the Philippines, to penalize those who fail to comply, and to consider concealment and disguise as unlawful activity.
Other changes include the increase of the period of prescription for graft and corrupt practices for 13 years, an act defining the crime of money laundering, and more protection for whistleblowers.
It also vowed to pass the Freedom of Information bill.
To fulfill its international participation commitment, the Philippines agreed to extradite offenders on the basis of reciprocity.
Climaco praised the points on the draft as effective measures to curb corruption.
“We must create the groundwork through the conduct of a comprehensive review of existing legislation, rules and regulations that impact the government’s impact against corruption. We must come up with an honest assessment of government agencies in their fight against corruption,” Climaco said.
Aside from the resolve of Congress, all other sectors also promised to do their share in achieving the country’s UNCAC goals.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales vowed that her office would pursue the action agenda, “as its contribution to the battle cry of daang matuwid towards sustainable national development and inclusive growth.”
The Senate emphasized records that show anti-corruption measures pending in the second reading.
Civil society organizations (CSOs) also assured stakeholders that while most proposals were legislative, they too would do their part in keeping an eye on government agencies and hold them to their promises, while laws were in review.
Fr. Alberto Alejo, who represented CSOs, highlighted the importance of following through with the agenda.
“Corruption is violence. It hurts, it kills, it demolishes institutions, it drives away people to go abroad and find their destiny there. Corruption kills,” he said.
The draft was signed by all stakeholders and will be finalized after last-minute comments. It will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III for approval, along with a general statement of commitment from the various sectors. – Rappler.com