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Analysis

Businessmen see ‘a lot’ of corruption in gov’t

/ 01:20 AM January 17, 2014

President Aquino’s ratings plunged to a new low in opinion poll surveys conducted last December in the wake of widespread criticism of his administration’s slow and chaotic response to the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in Eastern Visayas two months ago.

In a survey by Pulse Asia, his performance rating dropped six percentage points to 73 percent in December from 79 percent in September. His trust rating also slumped to 74 percent from 76 percent in September. More embarrassing and galling to the President was the poll finding that Vice President Jojo Binay had a higher performance rating (80 percent) and trust rating (77 percent).

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The fall of the President’s performance and trust ratings pulled down the corresponding ratings of his allies in Congress, a constitutionally independent political institution. The ratings of Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. suffered collateral damage, apparently because of their close association with Mr. Aquino. Drilon’s performance rating fell to 43 percent from 50 percent, and his trust rating to 40 percent from 46 percent. On the other hand, Belmonte posted 43 percent and 38 percent in performance and trust ratings, respectively. These results deliver the dire message that the public is expressing disapproval of congressional leaders acting as toadies of the chief executive, and it wants them to be more independent of him.

The survey was conducted a month after Yolanda battered the Eastern Visayas, and after the government came under heavy criticism from the international media for its slow response in providing relief assistance to typhoon survivors in the form of food, medicines, and medical services. The President was criticized for playing down the death toll; he said it was closer to 2,500 than to the estimate of 10,000 made by local officials. As of early January, the death toll stood at more than 6,100, with more than 1,000 still missing and corpses littering the streets of Tacloban City remaining unburied.

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In another survey that can only further batter government performance ratings, the Social Weather Stations released results showing that 55 percent of respondents considered themselves poor. It was 50 percent, or 10.8 million families, three months earlier. According to the survey results first published by BusinessWorld, 41 percent of the households were considered food-poor, up from 37 percent, or 7.9 million families, in September.

These results show that the government’s antipoverty program has had little impact on alleviating poverty. These also reveal that the economic growth claimed by the government has not translated into jobs that could provide incomes to the poor that would lead them to enjoy the benefits of the economic growth. These further mean that the poor have been left out of the benefits of the growth strategy aimed at creating “inclusive  growth,” under which no one is left behind.

According to 2012 poverty figures released by the National Statistical Coordination Board, 10.7 percent, or about one in five Filipinos, is poor. The NSCB has placed the number of Filipinos living in extreme poverty at 7.5 percent, or about 1.6 million.  The SWS survey showed that 55 percent of all respondents, or 12 million households, considered themselves poor.

The administration’s claims of being a squeaky-clean and transparent regime have come under attack from the results of another SWS survey finding that more than half of the executives of some 1,000 enterprises in Metro Manila and six other urban areas said last year that there was “a lot” of corruption in government.

Sixty-six percent of the business executives claimed seeing “a lot” of corruption in the public sector—a 30-percent increase from 43 percent in 2012, according to the 2013 SWS Survey  of Enterprises on Corruption. But despite this perception of widespread corruption by the business executives, the results also showed that they expressed satisfaction with government efforts to promote a good business environment and business expectations for the next two years.

The results were presented at a Good Governance Summit where the President delivered the opening address, a report in this newspaper said. The field work of the survey was done during the height of the pork barrel scandal.

Thirty-five percent of the respondents said they had extensive knowledge and 57 percent had little knowledge   of the administration’s anticorruption drive. The survey also found that 38 percent of the executives had personal knowledge of public-sector corruption in their sector in the last three months—an increase from a record low of 33 percent in 2012.

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The percentage of respondents saying government measures to eradicate corruption were effective dropped from 78 percent to 73 percent. Only a fifth believed that the government often/almost punished corrupt officials. More damning is the finding that 42 percent said that “most/almost all” companies in their business sector had given bribes to win government contracts in 2013—practically unchanged from 41 percent in 2012.

The survey was based not only on the perception but also the experience of businessmen in dealing with government agencies.

Now the question arises: Will the administration move on from the survey data and get the business executives to back their perceptions? Otherwise, this exercise could lead to a mutual cover-up between the government and the business sector.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Eastern Visayas, Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Franklin Drilon, Good Governance Summit, Jojo Binay, President Aquino, Super Typhoon Yolanda, Trust Rating
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