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The US State Department Scores Corruption And Lack Of Transparency Under GMA

February 27, 2009


The US State Department’s newly-released Country Report on the Philippines runs all of 29 pages.

Apart from narrating the latest statistics on the nation’s vital signs, there are very telling indictments about how Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is running the Philippines.

The key institutional players in the society cone under scrutiny and get their dose of criticism, not least among them the judiciary and the mass media:

“US STATE DEPT COUNTRY REPORT HIGHLIGHTS “Government Corruption and Transparency

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Both the government and the private sector have established a number of anticorruption bodies, including an ombudsman’s office and an anticorruption court, and public officials were subject to financial disclosure laws.

The government prosecuted 168 officials in 276 corruption cases from January to November. Convictions included the July 17 conviction of the governor of Samar Province and several provincial board members; the September 10 conviction of two Mindoro Oriental district representatives, a former vice governor, and former provincial board members; the September 11 conviction of a former mayor and former municipal treasurer in Kalinga Province; and the October 29 conviction of a former ARMM regional governor and two of his staff.

The government pursued cases against high-ranking officials at the Government Service Insurance System and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The law provides for the right to information on matters of public concern.

However, denial of such information often occurred when the information related to an anomaly or irregularity in government transactions. Much government information was not available electronically and was difficult to retrieve.” ..

.”Broadcast and print media were freewheeling and often criticized for lacking rigorous journalistic ethics.

They tended to reflect the particular political or economic orientations of owners, publishers, or patrons, some of whom were close associates of present or past high-level officials.

Special interests often used bribes and other inducements to solicit one-sided and erroneous reports and commentaries that supported their positions.

Journalists continued to face harassment and threats of violence from individuals critical of their reporting.” “…

The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judicial system suffered from corruption and inefficiency.

Personal ties and sometimes bribery resulted in impunity for some wealthy or influential offenders and contributed to widespread skepticism that the judicial process could ensure due process and equal justice.”

“The judiciary is independent and impartial in civil matters. There are administrative remedies as well as judicial remedies for alleged wrongs; however, corruption was widespread in the judiciary, and cases often were dismissed.”

The Arroyo regime will most surely just shrug its shoulder about the report just as it does with other views critical of its performance, adding at the same time it’s stock answer that GMA is just focused on her job.

The observations about the judiciary, and by extension, the national prosecution serve under the voluble and not-too-popular Justice Secretary, is also very telling given how justice or lack of it impoacts on the oveall stsate of human rights in any country, much more so in a poor country such as ours.

The US State Department’s broadside about corruption and GMA’s inability to mitigate it is easily validated in the still news making World Bank blacklist of contractors involved in suspected bid rigging with even presidential spouse Atty. Mike Arroyo implicated.

The starring role in the corruption criticism against Arroyo obviously goes to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez against whom citizens are now drawing up impeachment charge for her perceived ‘foot-dragging’ on scandals ranging from the ZTE-NBN deal to the fertilizer fund scam.

With just 14 months left in its disputed term, even Filipinos don’t really expect any change in how the government of the day goes about its work.

What they are rairing to do is to elect a new leader with the requisite integrity, broad pro-Filipino socio-economic perspective, and abiding commitment to the rule of law.


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