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Business Matters
‘Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap!’

By David L. Balangue
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:29:00 05/21/2010

Filed Under: Elections, Benigno Aquino III, Graft & Corruption, Poverty

THIS IS THE CAMPAIGN SLOGAN OF SEN. Noynoy Aquino that touched the hearts of the Filipino people who believed in and voted for him as the next president of the country. It is only fitting that a candidate who made anti-corruption as his campaign slogan will be taking over the reins of a government that has been characterized by many as the most corrupt in the annals of Philippine history.

But how will Noynoy combat corruption? And how will he succeed when many of the government institutions, including those that should be providing the needed checks and balances, have already been compromised?

Working for the impeachment of the Ombudsman who has been viewed and perceived as a protector of the Arroyo administration may be a good start, but how can he succeed when Congress would most likely remain under the influence of the outgoing President and now congressman-elect Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? It is also possible that a Congress controlled by supporters of GMA could stymie any efforts to go after the Ombudsman and even turn the tables on Noynoy and move to impeach him for any perceived or concocted impeachable offenses.

This is not inconceivable considering that, as proven during the attempts to impeach GMA, the impeachment process in the Philippines appears to be a numbers game and many of the people in Congress then were not after truth or justice but were motivated by other considerations. As we know, many of these congressmen have been re-elected and will continue to sit in the next Congress. It is thus going to be an uphill battle for Noynoy to deliver on his promise.

In this regard, let me be bold enough to provide the unsolicited advice below on how to eliminate or minimize corruption in government.

Prevention and detection. We need a law that would require all local and national government units and agencies, including Pagcor and the pork barrels of our politicians, to post quarterly in a prescribed government website all their expenditures in sufficient detail, including summaries and analyses. These are funds of the Filipino people and we have a right to this information. The law will make the details of these disbursements available for the rest of the world to vet, examine, and analyze.

All the concerned heads and treasurers of government agencies should be required to attest under oath the correctness of these reports, and any material error therein, as defined, shall be prima facie evidence of fraud and shall be subject to criminal prosecution and sanctions.

This law will prevent or minimize overpricing in contracts, purchases and other disbursements since erring and suspect government officials will no longer be able to hide these from the prying eyes of the public. There will be complete transparency and accountability for government usage of the taxes, duties and other revenues collected from citizens, as well as borrowings of government. By implementing this law, abuses arising from the power of the purse and corruption among our government officials will no longer be allowed to continue and spread.

The Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of key government-appointed and elected officials should also be posted in the prescribed government website. The assets and liabilities shall be enumerated in detail in a prescribed form that will include not only the cost of the asset acquired but also the current market value with a disclosure on the source or basis of such market values. These shall be submitted under oath and any error in excess of 10 percent of the total assets reported shall be prima facie evidence of fraud and subject to appropriate sanctions and penalties. Relatives of government officials and other parties involved in the hiding of ill-gotten wealth shall be likewise prosecuted and punished, with the properties confiscated in favor of the government.

A reward system should be introduced to give monetary awards to those who are able to identify and prove fraudulent purchases, disbursements and ill-gotten wealth.

Investigation, prosecution, conviction and imprisonment. The investigation, prosecution and conviction (or acquittal) should be time-bound and completed within two months for all anti-corruption cases involving P50 million or more. An enabling law should be passed for this purpose. Filipinos have short memories and allowing these unresolved cases and investigations to drag on for years and decades has contributed to the corrupt getting away with their crimes. With the proposed legislation, no longer should we have situations where countless time, money and effort are spent in Senate and congressional investigations of massive fraud and corruption in government that lead to zero conviction, with the perpetrators even having the gall to run for public office, exploiting with impunity the indifference of a great number of Filipinos.

Attempts on the part of others to obstruct the investigation and participate in cover-ups shall make that person liable as either a co-conspirator or an accomplice and should also be aggressively prosecuted.

Corruption pays in this country. It is the hope of the Filipino people that the Noynoy administration will start the journey that will put an end to unbridled corruption. This would make available more funds to provide better education and health care to the poor and to build the needed social and physical infrastructure that will attract direct foreign investments and provide needed jobs to our countrymen, eventually eliminating poverty with the sad label of mahirap finally disappearing in the country?s landscape.

David L. Balangue is a former chairman and managing partner of SGV & Co. and is the founder of TitaCoryMovement.

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