MALACANANG, January 17, 2004
(OPS) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stressed anew the importance of resolving the decades-old insurgency problem of the country.

In a radio interview this morning, the President said that the government is using the "holistic approach" in solving the insurgency problem, with the right hand of enforcement and the left hand of peace.

The President, however, said that the insurgency problem was borne out of severe poverty. "The reason why there are many recruits," she said.

The President said she is trying to develop the poor places by putting the necessary infrastructure like roads and bridges to enable the people to go to the market and sell their products.

The Chief Executive said that many areas in Bicol have been accorded opportunity for progress so they can graduate from brutal poverty.

Meanwhile, the President said in a statement that she will pursue the peace talks because it is morally right and required by the national interest, while the Armed Forces and the police will continue to enforce law and order.

She said that formal talks between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) will resume next month in a foreign venue.

Details are being threshed out by the panels in consultation with the Royal Norwegian government, the third party facilitator in the peace talks.

"This is a new source of momentum to our political and economic security. I shall exercise the will needed to turn the economy around and fight for change for the average Filipino in a way that makes us more secure and strengthen our families wherever they are," the President said.

GMA pursues anti-graft drive without letup

The Macapagal-Arroyo administration is vigorously pursuing a life-style check on personnel and officials of revenue-generating agencies of the government in line with its continuing efforts to weed out graft and corruption in the bureaucracy.

Highlighting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s agenda for good governance is her issuance last Dec. 17 of Executive Order No. 259 providing for the creation of an anti-graft body, known as Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS), under the Department of Finance (DoF).

"The fight against corruption is part of changing the political system and we are fighting for change for the average Filipino," the President said.

EO 259 tasked the RIPS to investigate allegations of corruption among officials and employees of the DoF and all other agencies under it, such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

The EO said that reports of graft and corruption in the BIR and the BoC have been identified as the perennial and major causes of revenue shortfalls, thereby comprising the government’s capacity to efficiently generate revenues for delivery of basic services and to fund development projects.

It said the "unrelenting, systematic, and focused campaign" to prevent graft and corruption in the revenue collecting agencies of government and to protect the integrity of revenues is imperative and is a top priority of the government.

The President directed the probe body to look into reports of "unusual or unjustified accumulation of wealth disproportionate to the earning capacity of government officials and employees under its jurisdiction."

The RIPS was also authorized to initiate or, and assist in the prosecution of cases for recovery or forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth by government officials and employees.

Apart from gathering evidence, the RIPS was empowered to initiate criminal, civil or administrative charges against government officials and employees within its jurisdiction, as well as assist state prosecutors handling such cases.

The RIPS was likewise mandated to review current systems, processes and procedures in the DoF and attached agencies, and to recommend reform measures to "enhance integrity, reduce opportunities for corruption and ensure efficient and transparent delivery of public services."

The anti-graft drive has so far resulted in the filing of 706 cases against presidential appointees, 40 of which carried punitive recommendations.

Last year, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission acted on a total of 101 complaints about extravagant life-styles of appointed government officials, among them five judges who were slapped with administrative and criminal charges. One of the judges has been dismissed from the service.

An assistant provincial prosecutor was also dismissed for gross negligence and incompetence in the performance of his official duties.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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