The United States has named Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto as one of its global “anticorruption champions” – the only Filipino among the 12 chosen from around the world to be honored under the new initiative of the Biden administration.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement on Monday, February 23, that the Biden administration launched the International Anticorruption Champions Award “recognizing individuals who have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to defend transparency, combat corruption, and ensure accountability in their own countries.”
“Around the world, corruption threatens security and stability, hinders economic growth, undermines democracy and human rights, destroys trust in public institutions, facilitates transnational crime, and siphons away public and private resources,” Blinken said.
“The Biden Administration recognizes that we will only be successful in combating these issues by working in concert with committed partners, including courageous individuals who champion anticorruption efforts and countries working to fulfill their commitments to international anticorruption standards,” he added.
In a statement announcing the winners, the US State Department described Sotto as “a standard-bearer for a new generation of Philippine politicians who prioritize anticorruption and transparency initiatives in their election campaigns and in office.”
The US State Department noted that aside from breaking the nearly 3-decade rule of a political dynasty in his city in 2019, Sotto, then a councilor, succeeded in pushing for the freedom of information ordinance in Pasig that allowed residents easy access to public documents.
“Sotto has sought to solidify his reputation as a fresh voice with a new, more transparent approach to governance,” the US State Department said.
“He pledged to avoid any kickbacks in the awarding of city contracts, established a 24/7 public information and complaints hotline, formally involved civil society organizations in the city’s budgeting and policy making, and mandated that the value of all city government contracts be reduced by at least 10% – a measure intended to reduce bribery in the contract awarding process,” it added.
In less than two years, Sotto has risen as one of the most recognizable faces in Philippine politics, driven in part by his appeal to a public – most notably the youth – that has grown weary of traditional politicians.
Inspiration to others
Blinken said in his statement that the commitment of the US, under the Biden administration, “to truth, transparency, and accountability is a mission that we must live at home and exemplify abroad” – ideals that the 12 awardees share.
“They inspire us and so many of their counterparts pursuing these ideals around the world,” Blinken said.
The other recipients of the International Anticorruption Champions Award are the following:
- Ardian Dvorani, a judge and member of the Justice Appointments Council of Albania
- Diana Salazar, Ecuador’s Attorney General
- Sophia Pretrick, Investigative Advisor for the Compliance Investigation Division of the Pohnpei State Auditor of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
- Juan Francisco Sandoval Alfaro, Chief of the Special Prosecutors Office Against Corruption and Impunity in Guatemala
- Ibrahima Kalil Gueye, chair and co-founder of the Organization for Positive Change in Guinea
- Anjali Bhardwaj, a member of the Right to Information Movement in India
- Dhuha A. Mohammed, Director General for Electronic Payments at the Central Bank of Iraq
- Bolot Temirov, investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of Factcheck.kg in the Kyrgyz Republic
- Mustafa Abdullah Sanalla, Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation
- Francis Ben Kaifala, Commissioner of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission
- Ruslan Ryaboshapka, former prosecutor general of Ukraine