MANILA, OCTOBER 11, 2008 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo has vowed to make life easier for foreign investors in the country by eliminating red tape and corruption but this is easier said than done, according to an international business intelligence group.

Speaking with reporters at the sideline of the business roundtable organized by the Economic Intelligence Unit, Justin Wood, the director for the EIU’s corporate network and its Southeast Asia expert, said the President made the right noises about her campaign against corruption but getting the businesses affected by this to report these instances is not that simple.

Wood was referring to the President’s speech where she called on businesses affected by corruption to let the government know about it.

“If there is any doubt that we don’t value any particular company’s investment, including a company experiencing some attempts to make illegal money out of them, we want to know about it,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

“Secretary Favila will take care of your problems and crack the whip. We can assure you that we will do anything we can to address your concerns so we thank you for your interest in the Philippines, we will work hard to help you expand your presence in what we are determined to be, the best investment location in Asia,” she added.

Wood pointed out that many foreign companies have aired their experiences on corruption while doing business in the Philippines but they were reluctant to report these cases to the authorities because “they feel there may be retribution.”

He said the companies felt that reporting these cases would result in limited access to opportunities, resources and contracts.

“It sounds good for the President to say we want to hear about these cases. The reality is not that simple,” Wood said.

As she had done in previous occasions, Mrs. Arroyo blamed the media for the perception that the Philippines has a corrupt government.

“A lot of their (Transparency International) basis is what they read in the papers. It’s a whole layering of perception indexes. And if you compare the Philippines with the rest of the region, we have to remember that the Philippines has the freest media in the region. Free wheeling and English at that,” the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the local media would play up stories and “even rumors and innuendoes end up as fact when they’re in the banner headline.”

“So that’s part of what we have to live with. I don’t think the business community would like to have a clamping down on freedom and liberties in the Philippines because that’s part of our competitiveness, I suppose,” the President said.

According to Wood, the perception on Philippine corruption is very high, but the problem is real based on the feedback received by his organization.

“I think it’s more than just a perception. If you talk to business people privately, they believe that perception is correct and that corruption is high and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed and it’s not an easy one to address,” Wood said.

EIU claims to be the world’s foremost provider of country, industry and management analysis.

Founded in 1946, the Economic Intelligence Unit is now a leading research and advisory firm with more than 40 offices worldwide, according to the organization’s website.

Give Teehankee a new lease on life, critics told By Delon Porcalla Saturday, October 11, 2008

Administration lawmakers called on critics of pardoned convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr. to give him a new lease on life, citing the case of two former convicts who even managed to resume their political careers.

Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Antonio Cerilles cited Quezon City Rep. Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo and former Caloocan congressman Luis “Baby” Asistio, who were both granted pardon by the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

Cerilles said the likes of Crisologo, who was convicted for arson, and Asistio, who was convicted for kidnapping, are “good examples that former inmates can lead a new life.”

The law provides that inmates with good behavior are qualified for clemency.

Another administration stalwart, Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, said the clemency petition of Teehankee filed several years ago proves that there was basis for his pardon, contrary to claims of critics.

“As Justice Secretary (Raul) Gonzalez said, the Hultmans knew about the petition because it was contained in the settlement they signed with the Teehankees in 1999, where they accepted payment for civil damages,” he stressed.

“With this issue clarified in the vital document provided by Secretary Gonzalez, it’s time the President’s critics stop hitting her decision to grant Teehankee executive clemency,” the lawmaker said.

“Critics should stop being too judgmental. They should give him a chance to lead a new life. To err is human, to forgive divine,” said Albano, a member of the House contingent to the Commission on Appointments.

Legal experts in the House of Representatives, including a member of the opposition bloc, said President Arroyo merely exercised special powers granted her by the Constitution when she granted the pardon.

House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao and Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said the President has “discretionary prerogative” to grant executive clemency to all convicts.

“Granting pardon is part of the privilege of President Arroyo, although sometimes she relies on the recommendations of the Board of Pardons and Parole,” Datumanong, a former justice secretary, said.

“There will be agitation. Let them petition it but let us make clear that it is the prerogative of the President under the Constitution,” he said.

Opposition Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City agreed with Datumanong.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, a former criminal defense lawyer and human rights advocate, said Teehankee deserves a chance at reform.

“For me, the fact that Claudio Teehankee Jr. has been convicted and was incarcerated for 14 years is already sufficient penalty for the crime which he has committed,” Barzaga said, noting that Teehankee was only the latest of more than 200 convicts granted executive clemency this year for good behavior.

“Let it be emphasized that the purpose of penalty is not only punitive but also reformatory. Hence, in this life the purpose of penalty has been satisfied and executive clemency would be proper. After all, as practicing Christians, we do not seek vengeance and we also forgive those who sinned against us,” Barzaga said.

Business execs up in arms However, the executive clemency did not sit well with Makati City’s business leaders as they accused the Arroyo government of betraying the rights of the victims of heinous crime.

“Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is correct in saying that the power to commute sentences and grant pardons is a presidential prerogative enshrined in the Constitution,” the Makati Business Club (MBC) said in a statement.

“However, in resorting to this argument to parry widespread criticism of the executive clemency granted (to Teehankee), the government betrayed a disturbing lack of respect for the victims’ rights and the public’s right to information,” the group noted. – Michael Punongbayan, Marvin Sy

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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