MANILA, September 20, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  - These things take time.

Corruption has had much time to take root and grow in the Philippines. Thus, it will take awhile before the government can rectify the situation despite aggressive measures taken by the administration to curb corruption, President Arroyo said.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mrs. Arroyo said "corruption in the Philippines did not grow overnight and will not be defeated in a day."

In a bid to police the ranks of government officials and employees, the Arroyo administration has begun conducting morality, lifestyle and nightlife checks on public servants.

The President said that since she took over the helm of government in January 2001, her administration has launched reform programs to address the reported high incidence of graft and corruption in the public sector.

"These reforms lie mainly in procedural and policy initiatives that have plugged revenue leaks and cut down kickbacks from business deals," she said.

These reforms are also now backed up by the new procurement law passed by Congress, she said. "These advances in good governance have not been obvious to the media, but they have, nevertheless, blunted the edge of corruption," the President added.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said over government-run Radyo ng Bayan that Mrs. Arroyo has been unrelenting in her campaign against graft and corruption in government since she assumed the presidency.

Bunye said the Arroyo administration has pursued good governance though various measures that aim to reduce red tape and other sources and areas of corruption.

He also said the government has undertaken the filing of both administrative and criminal charges against government officials and workers who fail the lifestyle checks and are found to have committed various anomalous acts.

‘Old Hat’

The President also refuted as "old hat" the Transparency International survey that the Philippines is the third most corrupt country in Asia and the 11th most corrupt nation in the world, as the survey was "published on the Web (Internet) a long time ago."

"The story is old hat, but we are not being defensive about it," she said. The Transparency International survey results and its corruption perception index (CPI) had been posted online since 2002.

The President took strong exception to the Transparency International survey, which was based on perceptions regarding the degree of corruption in a given country. The views aired in the international anti-corruption coalition’s survey, she said, were based on the subjective viewpoints of respondents, mainly business people and risk analysts.

"We won’t argue with the perceptions of others, but the report is somewhat unfair in that it fails to take into account the deep reform measures we have undertaken to stem an endemic corruption," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo cited a more recent report carried in the Aug. 16 issue of The Economist that showed the Philippines as one of the top 10 developing countries with the most stable economy, based on a survey conducted by the prestigious firm Lehman Brother and Eurasia Group.

The survey was conducted to measure a given country’s ability to withstand crises and avoid generating them. It showed the Philippines got a 60-point score out of a maximum stability score of 100.

"Procedural reforms and strict enforcement of ethical standards are making a big difference, but it will take some time for perceptions to change," she said.

On the CPI scale of zero to 10, with 10 as the highest, or "most corruption-free" score, Finland was rated at the top with 9.7 and the Philippines garnered a low 2.6, while Bangladesh took the slot for most corrupt country with a 1.2 score.

The President got dragged into a corruption scandal, in which opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of money laundering using the alias Jose Pidal.

The First Gentleman has denied the charges hurled at him by Lacson and filed a libel suit against the senator. Mr. Arroyo’s brother, Ignacio, also came forward to claim the Jose Pidal accounts, saying he used the alias to prevent kidnapping attempts and closed the account at UnionBank of the Philippines when the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) went into effect in 2001.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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