MANILA, June 3, 2005 (STAR) Malacañang said yesterday it considers the negative ratings of the Arroyo administration’s anti-corruption drive as a challenge to do better even as it attributed the unfavorable poll results to erroneous public perception.

In separate interviews, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the negative ratings should serve as a wake-up call for government agencies to work harder to stamp out corruption.

Bunye said the Palace is encouraged by increasing support for its anti-corruption campaign from the business sector.

"We see this (support) as part of a growing overall confidence in our efforts not just in putting our fiscal house in order but also in cutting leakage and waste and improving governance," Bunye said.

Ermita, on the other hand, said government agencies should intensify their drive against corruption as the public does not seem convinced that the government is serious about licking the problem.

He said government officials and employees should not allow themselves to be tempted by grease money while he urged the public to resist bribing public servants.

"It’s a matter of perception," Ermita said. "If the people don’t see or read in the papers who are being prosecuted or the kinds of corruption cases that are being resolved, people would think that the administration is doing nothing."

He said President Arroyo is serious about fighting corruption and government agencies are doing their part. However, he acknowledged this effort has not been given full attention by the media.

He called on the people to be vigilant and report incidents of corruption to authorities.

Ermita also urged the country’s businessmen to create a private body that would help strengthen the government’s campaign against corruption. He said this is better than private firms donating part of their profits to the government to fight corruption.

The creation of a private anti-corruption body would encourage the public and other businessmen to cooperate with the government’s efforts and report individuals or agencies engaged in corrupt practices, he said.

United Against Corruption

The President’s anti-corruption drive got a negative 30 rating from the public in the latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), a copy of which was obtained by The STAR the other day from a subscriber prior to the release of the results.

The SWS, however, said its survey rating on government’s performance in fighting corruption entitled "Ratings of High Officials Tumble: Net Satisfactions with GMA falls to —12" was published two months ago.

The SWS said the results of the survey were published last March 30.

The negative 30 rating for eradicating graft and corruption was actually part of the question on public satisfaction with the national administration, the SWS said.

Two other areas where the government got very low ratings were in "ensuring that no family will be hungry" and "fighting inflation," in which the government received -27 and -34 net ratings respectively.

But whether the SWS survey was new or not, opposition and administration lawmakers agreed yesterday that there is an urgent need to address the rampant corruption in the country, now worsened by reports of government and police involvement in the multi-protection racket on the illegal numbers game jueteng.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan urged the Office of the Ombudsman to step up its efforts to curb widespread corruption through aggressive prosecution of cases.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, on the other hand, admitted that jueteng is the most visible form of corruption in the country.

Lawmakers also renewed their call for Mrs. Arroyo to certify as urgent the proposal to redefine plunder by lowering the amount involved to P25 million from P50 million to tighten the noose on corrupt government officials.

Lakas-CMD Reps. Marcelino Libanan (Eastern Samar), vice chairman of the House committee on justice, and Isidoro Real (Zamboanga del Sur), vice chairman of the committee on good government, said the amendment of the plunder law will send more Gen. Garcias to jail and stop graft and corruption in government offices.

Media Campaign

Apparently trying to counter the negative press the Arroyo administration is getting over the jueteng inquiry, the President has embarked on a media blitz to inform the public of the government‘s efforts against corruption.

The President said she wanted to reach out to the people through the media, whose power to mold public opinion she acknowledged during a visit to the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.

"Media is such an important part of our Philippine society. You are the source of news and information but you are also a very important influence in the thinking and actions of the people," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President was interviewed over dzMM radio and ANC, where she discussed her programs and admitted the need to better explain her actions to the public.

Mrs. Arroyo also appealed to other media practitioners and entities to help her spread information about the government’s various plans, programs and policies to the public. — With reports from Christina Mendez, Aurea Calica

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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