MANILA , JULY 15, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer for 2013 confirms what most informed Filipinos have concluded after three years under President Aquino’s administration: Corruption in this country persists and has increased.

Based on 1,000 respondents in the Philippines, the organization’s survey showed that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) believed that corruption has remained the same or increased.

The findings are damning for the Aquino administration considering the fact that about 60 percent of Filipinos—according to a private survey I was a given a copy of –rely for their information on the country’s two major broadcast networks and two broadsheets. These media outfits however have been so sympathetic to this administration even to the point of not running reports of corruption, or at least burying them.

A more independent press, I would surmise, would put the percent of Filipinos claiming a decrease in corruption in single-digit percentages.

Why would the level of corruption fall under Aquino, when much of this agenda has been undertaken solely in the realm of rhetoric?

Leadership by example?

Ask any government official—as I had asked many of them when the issue broke out—what they think about the P10 million Porsche he got, or received, as his Christmas gift in 2010 and they’d just shake their heads.

Source: Transparency International’s “Global Corruption Barometer, 2013” Source: Transparency International’s “Global Corruption Barometer, 2013”

Because of his control of media, Aquino felt no pressure to publicly disclose the car’s deeds of sale, when he purportedly bought it and allegedly sold it. Why couldn’t he if he really bought it from his own funds? Or was it – and quite obviously it was—a gift from some crony?

While Aquino managed to bury that issue when he “sold” his car, the message sent down the bureaucracy by the Porsche issue: “You can”, but we won’t defend you if you get caught.

Leadership by example? “I’ll believe he’s really honest the day his clan actually turns over Hacienda Luisita to its farmers as the Supreme Court had ordered, and leave their mansions there,” one government official said.

There are two main government agencies whose main task is to combat corruption. The first is the Ombudsman, which investigates cases of corruption and files the charges. The second is the Sandiganbayan, which hears and decides on the case, which really make up the fangs of an anti-corruption drive.

It was during President Arroyo’s administration that the Ombudsman was first given major weapons to combat corruption, when its budget was increased drastically. I would know since as Presidential Chief of Staff then, I worked with former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo to work on the budget department and Congress’ agreements to increase its appropriations. The biggest increase in the Ombudsman’s budget was in 2009, when its financial resources were expanded 37 percent to P1.3 billion.

Despite all of Aquino’s kung-walang-corrupt-walang-mahirap rhetoric, the Ombudsman’ budget had decreased to P1 billion by 2011, and rose only in 2012 to revert to its 2009 level. Apparently realizing that people were seeing through his rhetoric, or perhaps due to the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ nagging, Aquino has increased the agency’s budget to P1.7 billion this year.

We’ll have to see however if that increase would help reduce corruption at this stage of his administration, a lame-duck one when his officials will be scrambling to make their time in government profitable for them.

Worse off though is the Sandiganbayan, whose budget has remained in the P330 million average after two years under Aquino, although this was increased to P380 million for this year.

There are three obvious indications that the level of corruption hasn’t changed and may even have gone worse under Aquino.

First, jueteng, the illegal numbers game has flourished, with nearly every operator claiming – falsely or accurately – that he is merely running the Small Town Lottery authorized by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Jueteng collectors now are even ‘modernized’, using the cheap Chinese-made motorcycles to collect bets in remote barangays and cellphones to be in close touch with bettors.

Who are responsible for the proliferation of the numbers game? It cannot operate without the support of both local governments and the police.

Pay-offs that allow it to operate undisturbed in all administrations go up to the top officials of the Philippine National Police, to its supervising body the National Police Commission, and to the big bosses at the Interior and Local Government Department – and perhaps even to the Office of the President. Media, very surprisingly or not, has left the jueteng issue below people’s radar.

We were jolted into realizing that jueteng had become a high-stakes enterprise when police colonel Hansel Marantan led a group that ambushed in January two cars, killing 13, including another police colonel. Investigation had indicated that it was a rubout by one group representing one jueteng syndicate against another. Colonel Marantan had claimed that the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, had approved his operation.

A second indication of worsening corruption is the unabated smuggling under the noses of the Bureau of Customs. After much brouhaha over 5,000 container vans disappearing, the smuggling of agricultural products hitting our farmers, and the massive shipments of illegal drugs, Bureau of Customs chief Ruffy Biazon remains at his post. Why is Aquino standing by Biazon?

A third indication of worsening corruption is the paucity of cases filed by the Ombudsman against officials in local governments, where the bulk of graft actually occur.

I was told that this was due to the fact that regional offices of the Ombudsman have been largely neglected, with many of its investigators who could have been deployed there still ransacking old government records to find proof of graft by former President Arroyo.

After three years of leaving no stone unturned, the one case keeping her detained is one in which the sole witness would have been in jail for his involvement in the Mindanao massacre, if not for his false testimony against Arroyo.

The expose of this paper’s emeritus chairman, Dr. Dante Ang, of an extortion attempt for an MRT contract could be just the tip of corruption cases, and attempts at such under this administration.

It is a breakthrough that should encourage principled people in Aquino’s government to reveal to media how crooked the “Tuwid na Daan” really is. and

News Analysis: IMF raises growth forecast for Philippines but study shows income gap widens ( | Updated July 11, 2013 - 11:30pm

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The International Monetary Fund ( IMF) has again raised its growth forecast for the Philippines this year to 7 percent, which is the high-end of the 6-7 percent growth forecast of the government for 2013.

In media briefing on Wednesday, Shanaka Peiris, IMF's resident representative for the country, said that the Philippine economy relied heavily on domestic demand rather than export revenues that fuel the economies of neighbors like Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. "This showed that the country was one of the few emerging markets that could better cope with current global economic conditions,"Peiris said.

The Philippines, the IMF said, remains one of the few bright spots in the global economy, with domestic demand fueled by remittances from migrant workers and increased government spending expected to offset the slowdown in the developed world.

Remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which the IMF expects to grow by 5 percent this year, also remain stable, fueling domestic demand.

OFW remittances are expected to reach $22.5 billion this year. Remittances from the country's 10 million migrant workers are the Philippines' biggest source of foreign exchange, which protects the economy from any sudden shortage of cash from overseas.

Amidst this positive assessment on the Philippines by the Washington-based multilateral financing institution, officials of the government of President Benigno Aquino III cannot seem put their act together on the question of whether the country's robust economic growth has reduced poverty or narrowed the gap between the rich and the poor.

A paper, written by Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), detailed the country's national income accounts that supported the perception that the benefits of the robust economy were enjoyed more by the rich than the poor.

The NSCB is a government agency under the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the highest economic policy-making body of the government.

The paper confirmed that gap between the country's rich and poor is widening, with high-earning individuals enjoying significantly faster growth in incomes compared with people from the middle- and low-income classes.

Albert said that people from the high-income class, which account for between 15.1 and 15.9 percent of the country's population, enjoyed a 10.4 percent annual growth in income in 2011. The study used data covering 2010 and 2011.

In contrast, incomes of people in the middle-income segment grew by only 4.3 percent and incomes of those in the low-income group by 8.2 percent.

But Malacanang, the seat of the Philippine government, on Wednesday debunked the findings of one of its own agencies, saying that poverty is not widespread and the gap between the rich and poor in the country has not widened.

"I'm not sure if that's correct. There has been growth even in the lowest levels," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said at a briefing, disputing the conclusion of an NSCB study.

Lacierda pointed to the continued increase in the income levels of Filipinos belonging to the middle class. "For instance, there's a growth (in income) of 8 percent in the lowest level; 4.3 percent in the middle income; and, from the high (income individuals), it is about 10 (percent). All those growths, if you notice, are above inflation rates. Inflation is 3. 2 (percent). There's real growth even in the low level," he said.

This was the second time that the Aquino administration questioned data from the NSCB, which are based on official statistics.

In April this year, President Aquino himself doubted the veracity of poverty statistics released by the NSCB that indicated that economic growth had hardly made a dent in poverty incidence in the country.

The NSCB reported that the poverty incidence stood at 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012 - a level that was " practically unchanged" from the same period in 2009 (28.6 percent) and 2006 (28.8 percent).

Lacierda insisted that the Aquino administration was pursuing its"inclusive growth" policy but added that "it's not going to happen overnight."

Meanwhile, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the country's central bank, announced Wednesday that foreign direct investments (FDIs) to the country reached a net inflow of $202 million for April, up 61 percent year-on-year.

The net inflow for April was a reversal from the $78 million in FDI capital that left the country the month before.

This brought the year-to-date level to a net inflow of $1.5 billion, roughly just slightly lower than the level in the same four-month period in 2012.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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