PALACE TO U.S. STOP CRITICIZING GMA

Manila, April 28, 2003 -- The Palace yesterday issued a veiled warning to 
the United States government for it not to speak of corruption in the 
Arroyo administration without first cleaning up the corruption in 
Washington. This is the second time Malacaņang stressed this.

Malacaņang virtually mouthed the adage of "Before you take notice of your 
neighbors mess, clean up your own backyard first."

The saying was applied yesterday by Malacaņang against the US Government 
and its investors in the Philippines who cited the ineptitude of President 
Arroyo in solving the rampant graft and corruption in her administration.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye, in again dismissing a US state 
department official's concern over the failing revenue collections and the 
corruption behind this, as well as the US government's support of the 
American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) report and the survey citing the 
Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Immigration 
as "highly bureaucratic and corrupt," shrugged off the concern raised by US 
Department Assistant Secretary for East Asia, Matthew Daley.

"Before they pinpoint at anybody (for corruption) they should look at 
themselves first," Bunye said dismissively during a radio interview with 
RMN News Manila yesterday.
Bunye also showed disinterest in, and found vague Daley's proposed US 
assistance to Mrs. Arroyo to enhance revenue collection at the BIR, BoC and 
BI.

The presidential spokesman insisted the President had been instituting 
reforms and that these reforms are already sufficient.

"We don't know what they're pointing at...the assistance they want to give, 
or...but I must stress that our government has been instituting reform 
measures to lessen or minimize the incidents of corruption in our 
government," he said.

Bunye stressed that Mrs. Arroyo since day one in office or after toppling 
the government of deposed leader Joseph Estrada in a coup, had been 
implementing reforms.

"One of the reforms we instituted is the President's approval into law the 
E-procurement system where in any public bidding there would be total 
transparency. So there is really a lot of improvement in the system," he said.

Bunye added that there is already a measure being worked out to increase 
the salaries and compensation of the country's judges. "If this would be 
approved soon this would help enhance our anti-corruption guard."

Bunye, apparently irked at both the US State Department's official reported 
"concern" and the Amcham report which was unflattering to the Arroyo 
administration, as it showed 92 percent of the respondents expressing 
dissatisfaction with Mrs. Arroyo's efforts to curb corruption in her 
government, said that "to prove that our government is working to curb 
corruption, many government officials had been charged in court for 
violating the anti-graft and practices act." he said. Bunye gave no 
examples of names.

Bunye was reacting to the Tribune report, quoting the Amcham survey 
respondents who said that top Arroyo officials are known to demand 
kickbacks and payoffs to facilitate the forging of contracts.

The presidential spokesman's statements ran counter to the survey made by 
the Amcham with some 250 US investors as respondents.

The Amcham report stated that "Public sector needs political will for there 
to be a strong republic...Corruption in government must be purged and 
officials held more accountable."

The US investors surveyed viewed Mrs. Arroyo's fight against corruption a 
mere "lip service" since her project of lifestyle check on all government 
officials proved futile, as no "big fish" had been prosecuted in court.

Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said Daley who supports 
the Amcham report had told him that Washington was willing to support 
innovative programs for the BIR, BoC, BI and other revenue-raising agencies.

"Daley expressed US investors' and US Assistance for International 
Development (USAid) officials' concern on the poor performance of the 
government needing necessary financial reforms that will improve the 
climate for American investors. This is something we do not dispute...the 
revenue collection of the government has been rather dismal," Ople said in 
a press conference.

Daley was in Manila for an official visit.

Ople said Daley had informed him that the US will bring in experts from the 
US Treaty to come up with assessments and proposals to increase the revenue 
collections of the cash-strapped government.

Since President Arroyo was installed in Malacaņang through a coup d'etat, 
the presidential couple had been linked to many scams and scandals, and 
accused of providing protection to well-entrenched smuggling syndicates in 
the filed of rice, luxury vehicles and among others. ((By Sherwin C. Olaes 
and Michaela P. del Callar, Tribune)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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