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Anti-Corruption Strategies of the Philippines: What More Can be Done1

Gilbert E. Lumantao2

I. Introduction

The preamble of the Constitution of the Philippines declares that “(W)e, the

sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and

humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations,

promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves

and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a

regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this

Constitution.”3

It states our twin goals as a sovereign people in promulgating the Constitution,

namely, to build a just and humane society and to establish a government that serves very

high purposes like promoting the common good, conserving and developing our patrimony

and securing the blessing of independence and democracy. It is in accordance with this

concept of government that we define public office.

For us, public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees are required to

be at all times accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity,

loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.4

1
Paper submitted in compliance of the requirements of the Post-Graduate Certificate Course on Anti-
Corruption Studies of the Hongkong University conducted in September 2005.
2
The author was a Graft Investigation Officer of Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) when he
attended the course. He now works in the private sector and may be reached through the email address
gilbert@lumantao.com.
3
Preamble of the Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 23, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/conspreamble.asp.
4
Article XI, Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 23, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/consart11.asp.
A. The Structures

To preserve the people’s trust, the Constitution mandated the creation of four (4)

independent Constitutional bodies and a special anti-graft court. The independent bodies

are the Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections, the Commission on Audit and

the Office of the Ombudsman. The special anti-graft court is known as the Sandiganbayan

which is a compound of two Filipino words meaning “something to lean on” and “nation”.

The Civil Service Commission is the central personnel agency of the Government. It

is mandated in the Constitution to establish a career service and adopt measures to promote

morale, efficiency, integrity, responsiveness, progressiveness, and courtesy in the civil

service. It is also mandated to strengthen the merit and rewards system, integrate all human

resources development programs for all levels and ranks, and institutionalize a management

climate conducive to public accountability.5

The Commission on Elections is mandated exercise, among others, the power to

enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election,

plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall. They also exercise either exclusive original or

appellate jurisdiction over all contests relating to the elections, returns, and qualifications of

officials. They also decide, except those involving the right to vote, all questions affecting

elections, including determination of the number and location of polling places, appointment

of election officials and inspectors, and registration of voters.6

5
Article IX(B), Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 23, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/consart9.asp.
6
Article IX(C), Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 23, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/consart9.asp.
The Commission on Audit, on the other hand, has the power, authority and duty to

examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and

expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned or held in trust by, or pertaining to, the

government. It has exclusive authority, subject to the limitations in this Article, to define the

scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods required therefor,

and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations, including those for the

prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, inexpensive, extravagant, or

unconscionable expenditures, or uses of government funds and properties.7

The Ombudsman known as the Tanodbayan, and his deputies, are described in the

Constitution as the “protectors of the people”. They are mandated to “act promptly on

complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employee of the

government and shall, in appropriate cases, notify the complainants of the actions taken and

the result thereof.” 8

The Ombudsman has the power to investigate on its own or on complaint by any

person, any act or omission on any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act

or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient. The Ombudsman may

also direct them to perform and expedite any act or duty required by law, or to stop, prevent

and correct any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties, to take appropriate

action against a public official or employee at fault as well as recommend his removal,

suspension, demotion, fine, censure, or prosecution, and to furnish the Ombudsman with

documents relating to contracts and transactions.

7
Article IX(D), Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 23, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/consart9.asp.
8
Section 12, Article XI, Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/consart11.asp.
In addition, the Ombudsman may request from any government agency for

assistance and information necessary in the discharge of its responsibilities, publicize matters

covered by its investigations, and promulgate its rules and procedure and exercise such other

powers or perform such functions or duties as may be provided by law.

Finally, the Sandiganbayan is a special anti-graft court of the same level as the Court of

Appeals and which possesses all the inherent powers of a court of justice.9 Its jurisdiction

include violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-graft

and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII,

Book II of the Revised Penal Code, where one or more of the accused are among the

officials enumerated.10

These officials include, whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the

time of the commission of the offense, officials of the executive branch occupying the

positions of regional director and higher, otherwise classified as Grade '27' and higher, of the

Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758), and others

specifically enumerated by law.

The four (4) Constitutional bodies perform key functions in the fight against

corruption. In the performance of these functions, they are independent in the sense that

they were created pursuant to a Constitutional mandate, their officers (the Chairpersons and

members of the commissions as well as the Ombudsman and his deputies) have fixed terms,

their decisions are not subject to any executive review, and they enjoy fiscal autonomy and

their annual appropriations as approved by Congress could not be withheld. On the other

9
Section 4, Article XI, Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/consart11.asp.
10
Republic Act No. 8249 entitled “an Act further defining the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, amending
for the purpose presidential decree no. 1606, as amended, providing funds therefor, and for other
purposes”, retrieved on October 24, 2004 from http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno8249.htm.
hand, the Sandiganbayan as a special anti-graft court is part of the Judiciary and enjoys the

independence given to the courts.

In addition, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 12

series of 2001 creating the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission.11 It succeeded the

Presidential Commission Against Graft and Corruption created in 1994 by President Fidel V.

Ramos.

The Commission’s main mandate is to investigate and hear administrative cases

involving Presidential appointees occupying positions of Assistant Regional Director and

above, otherwise classified as Salary Grade 26 and above. The administrative cases must

involve violations of Republic Act No. 1379, Republic Act No. 3019, Presidential Decree

No. 46, Republic Act No. 6713, Book Two, Title Seven of the Revised Penal Code, and all

rules and regulations promulgated by competent authorities to implement these laws.12

The Commission is also empowered to conduct studies, on its own or in cooperation

with other government agencies or non-governmental organizations, on new measures to

prevent or minimize the opportunities of graft and corruption.13

B. The Laws

Corruption has been defined as the “use of public office for private gain.” It is

derived from the Latin “cor” plus “rumpere” which translates as complete breakdown.

Specifically, it is the breakdown of a presumed relation between a principal and an agent.14

This is particularly true in the Philippines where the concept of corruption is limited to the

11
Executive Order No. 12 series of 2001, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.pagc.gov.ph/mandate.html.
12
Section 4(a) and (b), footnote 9.
13
Section 10, footnote 9.
14
De Dios, Emmanuel and Ferrer, Ricardo, Corruption in the Philippines: Framework and Context,
retrieved on October 24, 2005 from http://www.tag.org.ph/pdf/PCPS-Study1.PDF.
public sector. In fact, there is an abundance of legislation penalizing conduct considered use

of public office for private gain.

Foremost among these laws is Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the

Revised Penal Code. Book II, Title Seven of the Code defines crimes committed by public

officers. Specifically, it defines and penalizes dereliction of duty, bribery, frauds against the

public treasury, prohibited transactions and interests, malversation of public funds or

property, infidelity in the custody of prisoners and documents, revelation of secrets and

others.

Perhaps the most important of the crimes defined in the Code is the crime of bribery

and malversation of public funds or property. Bribery is defined as the act of a public

officer to agree to perform an act, regardless of whether constituting a crime or not, in

connection with the performance of his official duties, in consideration of any offer,

promise, gift or present received personally or through the mediation of another.15 On the

other hand, malversation of public funds or property is defined as the act of a public officer

of appropriating, misappropriating or permitting the misappropriation of public funds or

property for which he is accountable by reason of the duties of his office.16

Under Republic Act No. 1379, whenever any public officer or employee has acquired

during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion to his

salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income and the income

15
Article 210, Revised Penal Code, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.chanrobles.com/revisedpenalcodeofthephilippinesbook2.htm.
16
Article 217, Revised Penal Code, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.chanrobles.com/revisedpenalcodeofthephilippinesbook2.htm.
from legitimately acquired property, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been

unlawfully acquired.17

The Solicitor General, upon complaint by any taxpayer to the City or provincial fiscal

after conducting an inquiry similar to preliminary investigations in criminal cases certifying to

the Solicitor General that there is reasonable ground to believe that there has been

committed a violation of this Act and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, shall file, in

the name and on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, in the appropriate court, a

petition for a writ commanding said officer or employee to show cause why the property

aforesaid, or any part thereof, should not be declared property of the State.

Another important piece of legislation addressing corruption is Republic Act No.

3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. It penalizes, among

others, the following acts:

(1) Persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act

constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent

authority or an offense in connection with the official duties;

(2) Directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share, percentage,

or benefit, for himself or for any other person, in connection with any contract

or transaction between the Government and any other party, wherein the public

officer in his official capacity has to intervene under the law;

(3) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any

private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge

of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality,

evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence;

17
Section 2, Republic Act No. 1379 retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno1379.htm.
(4) Entering, on behalf of the Government, into any contract or transaction

manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same;

(5) Directly or indirectly becoming interested, for personal gain, or having a material

interest in any transaction or act requiring the approval of a board, panel or

group of which he is a member, and which exercises discretion in such approval;

and

(6) Divulging valuable information of a confidential character, acquired by his office

or by him on account of his official position to unauthorized persons, or

releasing such information in advance of its authorized release date.18

Republic Act No. 3019 also makes the fact that a public official has been found to

have acquired an amount of property out proportion of his salary and to his other law

income a ground for his dismissal or removal.19

The Presidential Decree No. 46, on the hand, makes it punishable for any public

official and employee, whether of the national or local governments, to receive, directly or

indirectly, and for private persons to give, or offer to give, any gift, present or other valuable

thins on any occasion, including Christmas, when such gift, present or other valuable thing is

given by reason of his official position. Included within the prohibition is the throwing of

parties or entertainments in honor of the official and employee or his immediate relatives.20

Another important legislation is Republic Act No. 6713 otherwise known as the

Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. It provides for

the norms of conduct which public officials and employees must observe in the discharge of

18
Section 3, Republic Act No. 3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,
retrieved on October 24, 2005 from http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno3019.htm.
19
Section 8, footnote 13.
20
Presidential Decree No. 46 retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.chanrobles.com/presidentialdecreeno46.htm.
official duties. The norms include commitment to public interest, professionalism, justness

and sincerity, political neutrality, responsiveness to the public, nationalism and patriotism,

commitment to democracy and simple living.21

The Code requires public officials and employees to act on letters and requests sent

by the public within fifteen (15) working days, to attend to anyone who wants to avail of the

services of their offices promptly and expeditiously, make public documents accessible to the

public within reasonable working hours.22

The Code also prohibits public officials from having financial and material interest in

any transaction requiring the approval of their office, engaging in the private practice of their

profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, and recommend any person to any

position in a private enterprise with regular or pending official transaction with their office.23

Finally, the Code requires public officials and employees to accomplish and submit

declarations under oath of their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business

interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18)

years of age living in their households.24

Other laws related to corruption include Republic Act No. 7080 otherwise known as

the Plunder Law and which defines and penalizes the crime of plunder.25 Another one of

these laws is Republic Act No. 9160, as amended by Republic Act No. 9194, otherwise

known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act and which defines and penalizes the crime of

money-laundering, requires the submission of covered and suspicious transactions reports,

21
Section 4, Republic Act No. 6713 otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for
Public Officials and Employees, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno6713.htm.
22
Section 5, footnote 16.
23
Section 7, footnote 16.
24
Section 8, footnote 16.
25
Republic Act No. 7080 otherwise known as the Plunder Law, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno7080.htm.
and empowers the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into bank deposits either on its

own or approval of a petition to the Court of Appeals.26 Finally, another important piece of

legislation related to corruption is the Republic Act No. 9184, otherwise known as the

Procurement Reform Act, which standardized the procurement procedures both in the

national and local governments.27

II. Extent and Factors Affecting Corruption

In the recently announced Corruption Perceptions Index for the year 2005 of the

Transparency International, the Philippines obtained an index of 2.5 based on 13 surveys

considered and ranked 117 out of 158 countries.28 The Philippines was thus among 70

countries that scored less than 3 on the latest CPI, indicating a “severe” corruption

problem.29

The perception index of the Philippines has been steady while its ranking in the total

number of countries has steadily gone down from the year 2001 to 2005.30 This is clearly

indicative that there is still so much that needs to be done in the fight against corruption.

Please see the following table.

Table 1. Corruption Perception Index of the Philippines

No. of
Year CPI Range Rank No. of Surveys

26
Republic Act No. 9160, otherwise known as the Anti-Money Laundering Law, and Republic Act No.
9194 amending R.A. No. 9160, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno9160.htm and
http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno9194.html.
27
Republic Act No. 9184 otherwise known as the Procurement Reform Act, retrieved on October 24, 2005
from http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno9184.html.
28
Corruption Perception Index 2005, Transparency International, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.transparency.org/cpi/2005/cpi2005_infocus.html.
29
Dumlao, Doris C., International survey rates RP’s corruption severe, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://beta.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=story_id=53787.
30
Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.transparency.org/cpi/.
Countries Considered
Ranked
2001 2.9 (0.9)* 65 91 11
2002 2.6 (0.6)* 77 102 11
2003 2.5 1.6 – 3.6 92 133 12
2004 2.6 2.4 – 2.9 102 145 14
2005 2.5 2.3 – 2.8 117 158 13
* Standard deviation

In early 2000, the World Bank estimated that corruption was costing the Philippine

government 47 million US dollars a year, or a massive 48 billion over the 20-year period

ending in 1997.31 This exceeds the foreign debt of the Philippines of about 40.6 billion US

dollars. In addition, the Commission on Audit estimates the costs of corruption in the

Philippines at 2 billion pesos each year, or 20 percent of the annual national annual budget.32

Among the contributing factors is the high centralization of the government,

patronage politics and excessive campaign expenditures of elective officials, absence of

political will in the country’s leaders, the low salary rates of public officials and employees,

and the growing resignation of the citizenry in the fight against corruption.

As an offshoot of our colonial past, the Philippines continues to have a very

centralized government despite the passage of Republic Act No. 7160 otherwise known as

the Local Government Code of the Philippines. This is perhaps illustrated by the large

number of public officials that the President of the Philippines appoints estimated by some

to reach as high as ten thousand (10,000).33

31
Nugent, Nicholas, High Cost of Corruption in the Philippines, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1057716.stm.
32
Romero, Segundo, Civil Society-Oriented Measures for Enhancing Transparency and Accountability of
Governance and the Civil Service, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.fes.or.kr/Corruption/papers/Philippines.htm.
33
Oyamada, Eiji, Lecture during the Postgraduate Certificate Course on Corruption Studies of the
Hongkong University held on September 4 to 23, 2005.
Under the Constitution, the President nominates and, with the consent of the

Commission on Appointments, appoints the heads of the executive department,

ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, or officers of the armed forces from the

rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him

in this Constitution. He also appoints all other officers of the Government whose

appointments are not otherwise provided for by law, and those whom he may be

authorized by law to appoint.34

In addition, elections are characterized by patronage politics and excessive campaign

spending by candidates for elective positions. As a result, the elected officials are obligated

to return the favor to the persons or entities who supported him during his election or to

engage in money-making schemes in order to recover his “investments”.

With a defective electoral system and with a highly centralized government, it is not

surprising that the leaders of the country fail to exhibit political will in the fight against

corruption. Nothing illustrates this better than the continuing refusal of Philippine

lawmakers to do away with “pork barrel”. The fund is an amount appropriated to each

lawmaker by Congress itself upon recommendation of the Executive Branch for him to

identify the projects for which it will be spent. This gives the lawmakers the opportunity to

demand kickbacks which have become standard operating procedure (SOP) in the

Philippines.

In addition, petty corruption in the Philippines is high because of the low salary rates

that public official and employees receive from the government. This is significant because

in countries where corruption is perceived to have been controlled, like Singapore and

34
Section 16, Article 7, Constitution of the Philippines, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.gov.ph/aboutphil/consart7.asp.
Hongkong, the salaries of public servants are either higher or comparable to the public

sector.35

Finally, after decades of hearing promises from politicians to curb corruption and

after deposing two (2) presidents for, among others, graft and corruption, with no apparent

decrease in the volume and frequency of corruption, the Filipino people are more and more

resigned to the fact that nothing can be done about it. This attitude of the people

contributes all the more to the levels of corruption in the Philippines.

III. Strategies to Address Corruption

With the appointment of Tony Kwok (former Deputy Commissioner of the

Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hongkong) as Adviser to the Philippine

government, the anti-corruption strategies of the Philippines are more and more pointing

towards the three-pronged strategy of enforcement, prevention and education. It is clearly

an improvement from the seeming absence in the past of a concerted effort to curb

corruption in the country.36

When Tanodbayan Simeon Marcelo assumed office, he realized there were only thirty

seven (37) field investigators at the Office of the Ombudsman. He also realized that there

were only thirty two (32) full-time prosecutors handling 2,000 cases.37 This was stark

contrast to Hongkong which had lot more investigators and prosecutors for a much smaller

population.38

35
See footnote 31.
36
Philippines No. 2 on Asia graft list, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.asianjournal.com/cgi-bin/view_info.cgi?code=00009845&category=NW.
37
Marcelo, Simeon V., Enhancing the Role of Civil Society in Anti-Corruption Work, retrieved on October
24, 2005 from http://www.ombudsman.gov.ph/.
38
Marcelo, Simeon V., OMB Anti-Corruption Reforms and Strategies, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.ombudsman.gov.ph/.
To address this, the Ombudsman sought additional funding and hired additional

field investigators and prosecutors. They also conducted or sent their investigators and

prosecutors to various trainings in order to improve their skills and efficiency. In addition,

the Ombudsman also heavily involved itself in prevention and education.

On the other hand, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission adopted the three-

pronged approach of enforcement (also referred to as deterrence), prevention and education.

In December 2004, it conducted a high-level Presidential Anti-Corruption Workshop where

twenty two (22) action points (doables) in the areas of deterrence, prevention, education and

strategic partnerships. The Commission continues to monitor the implementation of these

doables.39

In line with this four-point thrust, the Commission conducted a strategic planning

workshop and adopted an official vision and mission statement. It was agreed that the

vision of the Commission is “a graft and corruption-free Philippines characterized by

transparency and accountability in governance, honesty and integrity in the bureaucracy in a

corruption-intolerant society”. Its mission is “to be the President’s arm in eradicating graft

and corruption through effective deterrence, prevention, education in partnership with all

stakeholders”.40

As core values, the Commission upholds the good citizenship values enshrined in the

Constitution of the Philippines. These include unity, faith in the Almighty God, patriotism,

work, respect for life, concern for the family and future generations, concern for the

39
Integrity Development Action Plan (IDAP), retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.pagc.gov.ph/final_consolidated.ppt.
40
PAGC vision and mission statement, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.pagc.gov.ph/vision.html.
environment, promotion of the common good, respect for the law and government, truth,

justice, freedom, love, equality, peace and order.41

The Commission’s main goal for investigation is to make graft and corruption a

high-risk, low-reward activity, for prevention, to minimize opportunities of corruption, and,

for education, to promote a corruption-intolerant society.42

For investigation, the Commission targets a hundred percent (100%) approval

sanctions recommended to the Office of the President, hundred percent (100%) filing of

criminal charges on cases turned over to the Ombudsman, the forfeiture of assets based on

lifestyle checks conducted, among others. For prevention, it targets an increase of Internal

Audit Units established and in the number of agencies implementing agency-specific anti-

corruption programs. For education, it targets an increase in the perception ratings of the

efforts to fight corruption and in the number of agencies with agency-specific codes of

conduct.43

To achieve its investigation targets, the Commission was reorganized in order to

increase the number technical personnel (or those directly involved with investigation,

prevention and education) as against those providing support. The Commission also made

arrangements for the training of its investigators including trainings by the Office of the

Ombudsman, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the World Bank, and others.

To further enhance its effectiveness, the Commission is now pursuing the

amendment of Executive Order No. 12 expand its jurisdiction to include Executive Order

No. 292 otherwise known as the Administrative Code of the Philippines, and to obtain

41
PAGC Medium Term Plan (2005 to 2009).
42
See footnote 39.
43
See footnote 36.
greater powers in requiring the assistance of government agencies, officials and employees in

the performance of its mandate.

To attain its prevention targets, the Commission sought the help of the World Bank

and was awarded a grant meant to promote the establishment and operationalization of

Internal Audit Units in government agencies.44 These Internal Audit Units are long overdue

having been mandated by law as early as in the 1960s.

The Commission is also promoting the conduct in various agencies of the Integrity

Development Review, a self-assessment tool meant to assess the corruption vulnerabilities of

agencies, and has identified key agencies which will be prioritized.45

To achieve its education targets, the Commission participates in the promotion of

the good citizenship values and for the adoption of agency-specific codes of conduct.

IV. What More Can be Done

Clearly, more needs to be done in order to make graft and corruption a high-risk,

low reward activity in the Philippines. One very obvious area where there is need for

improvement is political will. The leaders of this country need to demonstrate their sincerity

in fighting corruption by steering away from even just the appearance of misconduct and

taking responsibility for their actions by accepting the legal and moral consequences.

Another is in the area of enforcement. Let us note that the Independent

Commission Against Corruption of Hongkong46 and the Corrupt Practices Investigation

44
New World Bank-assisted project launched, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.worldbank.org.ph/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/EASTASIAPACIFICEXT/PHILIPPI
NESEXTN/0,,contentMDK:20665144~menuPK:332988~pagePK:141137~piPK:141127~theSitePK:33298
2,00.html.
45
Pursuing Reforms through Integrity Development, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.dap.edu.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&Itemid=104.
46
The Independent Commission Against Corruption website, http://www.icac.org.hk/eng/main/index.html.
Bureau of Singapore,47 both very successful anti-corruption units, were basically created to

replace failed anti-corruption units in their police forces. Being so, they retained various

enforcement powers of the police including the power to arrest and search, to grant bail, to

require statements, and others.

On the other hand, the Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines is more like a

special public prosecutor rather than a law enforcement agency. Worse, law enforcement

agencies in the Philippines, particularly, the Philippine National Police and the National

Bureau of Investigation hardly concern themselves with corruption and are ill-prepared to

enforce corruption laws. There is therefore a need to be creative under our legal system to

be able to make corruption a “real” crime in the eyes of the public.

Also, there remains a need to further improve the efficiency of our anti-corruption

bodies. There is to make arrangements for the early detection of corruption through the

establishment of an efficient complaints mechanism aided by modern technology like mobile

communication and the Internet. (This reminds me of a news report saying that certain call

center equipment acquired by the Department of Interior and Local Government were

unused because of high maintenance costs and I wonder whether the equipment would be

of better use by anti-corruption agencies.)

In addition there is a need to intensify and institutionalize the conduct of lifestyle

checks. There is a need to actually document and “manualize” what is really a lifestyle check,

how is it conducted and by whom. (In my stint as an investigator, I have yet to see such a

documentation.) There is also a need to establish a more efficient mechanism to retrieve

information necessary for the successful conduct of lifestyle checks including those coming

from the National Statistics Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Land

47
The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau website, http://www.cpib.gov.sg/.
Transportation Office, the Land Registration Authority and Registers of Deeds, the Bureau

of Immigration and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

There is a need for anti-corruption bodies to adopt performance standards in order

to monitor the achievement of their goals. For this purpose, the service standards of the

Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau of Singapore serve as a perfect model. Through the

standards, the Bureau is able to measure their effectiveness and thus monitor the

achievement of their goals.48

There is a need to address the delays in the prosecution of graft and corruption cases

especially at the Sandiganbayan. It must be stressed that without certainty of punishment,

corruption will continue to be a low-risk and high reward activity in the Philippines and all

our efforts would be for naught.

There is also a need to pass the Whistleblowers Act. In the recent past, the

Philippines has witnessed whistleblowers who unfortunately suffered because of their

decision to speak out. One was Ms. Acsa Ramirez who was paraded in front of the media as

a suspect in a tax fraud scam which she himself reported. Another was Mr. Virgilio Tagud,

Jr. who was penalized by perpetual disqualification from public office along with persons

against whom he himself filed a complaint. One can only imagine the chilling effect of these

two incidents.49

As for the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, a lot of things needs to be done

including the amendment of its charter and its rules of procedure, the setting up of an

efficient complaints mechanism, specialized training for its investigators, acquisition of

modern equipment and facilities, including perhaps an appropriately equipped interview

48
Service Standards, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.cpib.gov.sg/aboutus.htm#Service.
49
Global Corruption Reports 2004: Philippines, retrieved on October 24, 2005 from
http://www.globalcorruptionreport.org/download/gcr2004/11_Country_reports_L_Z.pdf.
room, the organization of a specialized surveillance/cover operations unit, the adoption of a

Commission-specific code of conduct, and others. These should make the Commission a

more efficient investigative arm of the President in the fight against corruption.

V. Conlusion

During the Postgraduate Certificate Course on Corruption Studies which I attended

at the Hongkong University last September 4 to 23, 2005, one lecturer – Mr. Alain Sham, a

Senior Prosecutor at the Department of Justice of Hongkong – observed that the

Philippines seem to have everything in the fight against corruption. He said that we have

good laws, strong anti-corruption bodies, among others.50 With this paper, I have tried to

show that this is not so. More needs to be done for us to achieve such levels of success as

that of Hongkong and Singapore.

We do have good laws but enforcement is clearly lacking. There is also a multitude

of anti-corruption bodies but their efficiency and coordination is obviously wanting. On the

other hand, we have a very vibrant civil society a growing number of anti-corruption

professionals who without doubt are capable of turning the tides for this country. With

persistence, we should be able to see a new Philippines in the future – no matter how far.

50
Sham, Alain, Lecture during the Postgraduate Certificate Course on Corruption Studies of the Hongkong
University held on September 4 to 23, 2005.
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Lectures

Oyamada, Eiji, Lecture during the Postgraduate Certificate Course on Corruption Studies of
the Hongkong University held on September 4 to 23, 2005
Sham, Alain, Lecture during the Postgraduate Certificate Course on Corruption Studies
of the Hongkong University held on September 4 to 23, 2005

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PAGC Medium Term Plan (2005 to 2009)