MANILA, June 2, 2005 (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo’s anti-corruption drive got a negative 30 rating from the public in the latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The SWS, however, has yet to officially release the results of the survey, although a copy was obtained by The STAR from an SWS subscriber who declined to be identified.

Asked to gauge the sincerity and effectiveness of the government’s anti-corruption campaign, respondents of the SWS survey gave the government, headed by the President, a minus 30 percent overall rating.

"This means that the public feels that the national government is losing the war on corruption," the subscriber said.

"Even without this survey result coming out yet, the Makati Business Club was already extremely worried over this public perception," the subscriber added.

Asked to give the Palace’s reaction to the survey results, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said he was not prepared to comment on the matter until the survey firm makes an official announcement.

"We’re not a subscriber to the SWS so we have no way of verifying this," Bunye told The STAR. "We would respond at a proper time once they (SWS) make an official announcement on this."

The survey was reportedly conducted after Mrs. Arroyo had declared an

all-out war against graft and corruption last March.

The government’s anti-corruption campaign was officially launched with the creation of the Swift Action Team (SWAT) headed by Mrs. Arroyo’s chief presidential legal counsel, Merceditas Gutierrez.

Asked to comment on the SWS survey, Gutierrez told The STAR that the anti-corruption program of the Arroyo administration had just started and she appealed to the public for patience.

"Give us time to do our work. It took Hong Kong many years to address this problem. But slowly, we are making progress," Gutierrez said, referring to the experience of Hong Kong’s anti-corruption commission, whose former chairman, Tony Kwok, was hired by Mrs. Arroyo as a consultant in drawing up the Philippine government’s program to rid the bureaucracy of corrupt officials.

Gutierrez said she would be appearing today in a Senate public hearing on the proposed ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, in which the Philippines is one of the state signatories.

Gutierrez believes that this would show the earnest efforts of the Philippine government to comply with international standards in fighting graft and corruption.

As a treaty, the UN Convention Against Corruption has to be ratified by the Senate before it becomes binding and obligatory to the Philippines.

"This would give us the terms of reference in addressing graft and corruption such as what laws to pass and what the government should do to implement plans and programs," Gutierrez explained.

"When we ratify this, we would really be obliged to come up with plans and programs to address graft and corruption through legislative and administrative regulations, among other things," she said.

Since the SWAT started operations a few months back, Gutierrez said they have so far conducted "lifestyle checks" on 20 government officials and employees from graft-ridden government agencies like the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Bureau of Customs, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Education, and the Land Transportation Office.

These agencies were cited in another SWS survey as among the most corrupt government agencies in the country.

Because of the results of the December 2004 SWS survey on corruption, Gutierrez revealed they would now include GSIS officials headed by its board chairman and general manager Winston Garcia among their lifestyle checks and investigations of reported anomalies.

The GSIS was cited by the SWS survey respondents as the most corrupt government agency in the country.

Gutierrez, however, said that the SWAT anti-corruption action teams could only do so much in the investigation and prosecution of suspected grafters in government.

"We will soon come out with our road map, which we call the National Program of Action, and it will involve all stakeholders — the executive and legislative branches, the judiciary, local government units, constitutional offices, and even the media," she said.

"We will come up with a ‘scoreboard’ that will monitor the implementation of these anti-corruption plans and programs," she added.

According to the SWAT chief, independent monitors will be assigned to chart the ongoing "scoreboard" on the Arroyo administration’s war on corruption.

"It takes time to investigate. But we promise results soon," Gutierrez vowed.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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