15 December 2015

President Aquino vows to do more to fight corruption
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday pledged that the government will boost its anti-corruption campaign to better empower the Filipino people.In a speech delivered during the 3rd State Conference on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace, the President noted how the government’s all-out campaign against corruption has produced stellar results.

“Over the past five years and five months, we—together with the Filipino people—have transformed our country from the Sick Man of Asia into Asia’s New Darling; we have channeled our economic success into social services that make certain that our growth is inclusive; and we have begun to see the tangible impact of our long-term efforts to alleviate poverty, we can see this in the form of 1.4 million Filipino households—roughly equivalent to 7 million Filipinos—lifted above the poverty line, as well as the lowest unemployment rate in a decade. All this is rooted in the battle cry of our administration, that our Senate President has reminded us: Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. Where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty,” the Chief Executive said.

“Throughout our administration, we have stood by that promise, with a view of empowering our people, showing them how it is to have a government that truly works for them,” he said.

President Aquino said that to eliminate corruption and institute transparency in every possible pocket of governance, the government fixed the budgeting system that was prone to leakage and corruption, turning it into zero-based budgeting.

“This is a system that requires government to review every single item in the budget, to see which ones worked, and which ones didn’t. While it is true that this might perhaps be a more tedious method of doing things, it is more meticulous and gives way to far less wastage and manipulation by unscrupulous individuals, and rightfully so. After all, we are aware that we are not spending our personal money, but our people’s hard earned money,” he explained.

The President further said that the government reached out to communities and considered them an integral part in the budgeting process, “because they know what they need more than anyone else.”

“Since we began this approach in 2013, we have allotted it P48.9 billion, funding nearly 40,000 projects along the way; and under our proposed budget for next year, this approach will receive P24.7 billion to fund 14,326 projects,” he said.
The Chief Executive further cited websites the public could access to monitor how government funds are spent.

“We also know that corruption flourishes only when people feel powerless against it, and are thus unwilling to fight it. This is why we harnessed advances in technology to equip our countrymen with the tools they need to hold their leaders accountable. We put up websites called Budget ng Bayan and Pera ng Bayan, which translate to The People’s Budget and the People’s Money. Through these portals, any Filipino, through an Internet connection, can peruse how the national government is spending their money, and report individuals they suspect of corruption,” he said.

This philosophy, he said, drove the movement to abolish a culture of entitlement in government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), which in the past “were able to award excessive bonuses to themselves, even during years when they operated at substantial losses”.

“Through the help of our allies in the legislature, particularly Senate President Frank Drilon and then-Congressman Jun Abaya—as well as the excellent work of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, we passed a bill that professionalized how our GOCCs go about their business,” he added.

The numbers speak for themselves, the President said, noting that GOCCs turned over P84.18 billion in dividends from January 2001 to June 2010; and P131.86 billion from July 2010 to June 2015.

“Imagine that: While we have only six years in office—and while we have abolished, privatized, or deactivated non-performing GOCCs—we are well on our way to doubling what our predecessors collected in nine-and-a-half years. Is this not proof enough that good governance is good economics?” he said.

President Aquino further stressed that justice must be served to those who have erred.

“I am proud to say that, during our time in office, we have made no exceptions: We have gone after all those accused of corruption, regardless of their resources or their influence. We removed from office a Chief Justice who failed to declare 98 percent of his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, which is required by the very Constitution he swore—and failed—to uphold,” he said.

“We filed plunder and graft cases against a former President, who is now under hospital arrest. We also filed cases against prominent Senators and former heads of government agencies and corporations, all of whom were allegedly involved in a scam of massive proportions. Might I note that, at one point, all these individuals were once considered ‘untouchable’ by many.”

The President reported that a total of 736 corruption cases have been filed from July 2010 to September 2015 through the Revenue Integrity Protection Services (RIPS), Run After the Smugglers (RATS), and Run After Tax Evaders (RATE).
“This culture of integrity and accountability we have fostered has certainly borne fruit. We have rehabilitated our image in the international community, thereby reclaiming our national pride,” he said.

President Aquino pointed out that the country has improved its ranking in surveys that measure corruption, with Transparency International bumping the Philippines up 49 places in its Corruption Perceptions Index, and the Heritage Foundation bumping the country up 48 places in terms of Freedom from Corruption, which is part of its Economic Freedom Index.
The President said an empowered government has a greater capacity to invest in its people.

“We can see it in the 4.4 million household beneficiaries of our conditional cash transfer program, who have additional resources to get by, and can more ably send their children to school. We can see it in the education sector, which has managed to clear all our inherited backlogs in classrooms, school seats, and textbooks, while at the same time upgrading our basic education system to be at par with global standards. We can see it in the health sector, where the bottom 40 percent of our population can now just walk into any government hospital, show their PhilHealth card, and receive treatment, free of charge. We can see it in every Filipino who can now look forward to a more secure future, and who have regained control of their own destinies,” the President said.

President Aquino, however, said the government should not rest on its laurels.

“Until the very last day of my term, we will strive to do even more against corruption and to uplift as many of our countrymen as possible, and we encourage our colleagues from the Legislature and the Judiciary to continue doing the same,” he said. PND (jm)

President Aquino approves measure giving judges of first level courts forfeitable leave privileges
President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed into law Republic Act No. 10709, providing for 30 days forfeitable leave privileges annually to all judges of first level courts.

The law, signed by the President last December 9, states that judges of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts, Municipal Circuit Trial Courts and Shari’a Circuit Courts, all known as first level courts, shall be entitled annually to 30 days forfeitable leave with pay, in addition to the 15 days vacation leave and 15 days sick leave privileges provided for by law.“In the computation thereof, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays shall be excluded,” the law states. “The forfeitable leave privilege under this Act shall be noncumulative and nonconvertible to cash.”

Under the law, the Supreme Court shall promulgate the rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act within 30 days after its effectivity.

The measure, which originated in the House of Representatives, was passed by lawmakers on August 26, 2014, and was amended by the Senate last August 24. The House concurred with the amendments last September 23. PND (co)