How members of Congress can help publicize and draw popular awareness about the UNCAC

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REP. BERNADETTE HERRERA-DY
Bagong Henerasyon Partylist

United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Corruption is a deeply rooted and deeply felt issue in the Philippines. It is almost common among us Filipinos to reduce everything that is wrong with our country to the consequences of corruption. While simplistic, this notion holds a lot of truth. Over the decades, corruption has reduced the effectiveness of our efforts to reduce poverty and assist socio-economic growth.

The  United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which we signed in 2003 and has been in force and effect with the Philippines since 2006, is the first legally binding international instrument to combat corruption.

In its eight chapters and seventy-one articles, the UNCAC obliges its member parties to implement a comprehensive and detailed range of anti-corruption measures that will shake up our laws, institutions and practices – all for the better.

The UNCAC is not simple rhetoric. Our country’s ratification of this Convention highlights our commitment to eradicating corruption, which has been a great stumbling b l o c k i n a c h i ev i n g o u r M i l l e n n i u m Development Goals. A commitment of this scale will require no less than intense c o l l a b o ra t i o n a m o n g o u r c o u n t r y ’ s leadership, public agencies, the private sector, and our civil society.

No better timing than now to publicize and draw popular awareness about the UNCAC, we have a sitting President whose commitment to Transparency, Accountability and Anti-corruption is 101% - Daang Matuwid As a member of Congress, I see it as a duty to publicize and promote awareness of the goals of the UNCAC.

But before we can do that, we have to generate awareness of UNCAC first in Congress (half of our legislators in the House are new). Each member of Congress should act according to the goals and principles outlined by the UNCAC – and this commitment from our country’s leadership will go a long way we should practice what we preach.

It will help a lot to distribute to them the UNCAC toolkit for Parliamentarians or UNCAC itself – we should request from UN copies for the members of the House. As legislators of our country, our members of Congress must be well versed in the details of the Convention, so that we can understand its implications on our domestic laws and the national legal system as a whole. We welcome workshops that will explain UNCAC to us.

Suggest to the House leadership and s e c re t a r i a t t h a t i n b r i e f i n g n ew legislators, discussion on UNCAC should be part of it. Suggest to schools like UP and Ateneo who give preparation courses for elected government officials to also include UNCAC.

Of course, one of the main prerogatives of Congress is to enact legislation that we deem to be beneficial for our country. After we ratified the UNCAC several years ago, the next important move was to i m p l e m e n t t h e p rov i s i o n s o f t h e Convention. Therefore, it was our task as legislators to enact or amend domestic laws to realize and give expression to the letter and to the spirit of the Convention.

Update the House and the public of the progress of the House in complying with the Convention because unknowingly for some, myself included, we have passed several laws complying with UNCAC

Hence, every time we pass a bill in congress that relates to our compliance in UNCAC, it should always be mentioned. Perfect timing is the Freedom of Information Bill that we are discussing in the House – the media is really interested in this and to promote this bill also as one compliant to UNCAC will be a big step to remind our country that there is such a convention. The amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

In its 2010 report, Global Integrity – an international non-profit organization that tracks governance and corruption trends globally – gave the Philippines a strong rating on its anti-corruption laws, with a score of 84 out of 100, with “100” being the highest. However, in the actual implementation of these laws, the Philippines received a weak score of 31 out of 100 – hence our OVERSIGHT function must be given more focus.

We must collaborate with government agencies, civic organizations, as well as the private sector, to coordinate, develop, implement, and maintain our anticorruption policies. These policies must promote the participation of society, and reflect the pr inciples of integr ity, transparency, and accountability

In order to do this, UNCAC summit should be held again •  Last summit was May 27, 2009 wherein a roadmap was launched •  We have to call on the Ombudsman to update us on this. •  Gap analysis •  What is our action plan for compliance? •  Signed by the 3 branches of government In the UNCAC coalition website, our report for this is blank.

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL OF US TO KNOW WHERE WE ARE NOW AND WHAT ELSE DO WE NEED TO DO ? The CHECKLIST is very important tool to generate awareness of UNCAC.

Through the summit, we will be able to promote awareness of our fight against corruption, in line with the goals of the UNCAC. Our citizens must be attentive of corruption and its extraordinary, negative impact on individuals and society – right t i m e i s n ow ! W i t h t h e o n go i n g impeachment, awareness of how high a s t a n d a rd we s h o u l d s e t i s b e i n g emphasize.

The issues coming out of the impeachment should be addressed as it will generate a lot of awareness of UNCAC. Eg: SALN issues – clear cut rules Bank secrecy laws Foreign currency deposit

We are all aware of the endemic nature of corruption in the Philippines, but we must engage our citizens to no longer accept corruption as part and parcel of everyday life in this country, and instead, reject all forms of it.

It is important to actively continue and conduct our information dissemination campaign about the UNCAC, targeting not only our government officials, but also members of the private sector, civic society groups, and the general public. The LGUs should also be made aware of UNCAC, and I suggest that during conventions of Philippine Councilors League, National Movement of Legislators, SK conventions, briefing on UNCAC should be a topic.

Our adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption sends a clear message that we are determined to prevent and control corruption in our country. Of course, this adoption is only the beginning.

Without concrete action, our rhetoric and efforts to promote public awareness will be lost on our people. After all, actions speak louder than words. The law-in-thebooks must be mobilized towards a law-inaction.

If fully enforced, the UNCAC is an instrument that can make a real difference to the lives of millions of our people in the country. It warns those that are corrupt that betrayal of the public trust will no longer be tolerated. It reaffirms the importance of core values in our society, such as honesty, respect for the rule of law, accountability, and transparency.

I also believe that this commitment must start from our country’s leadership – because no matter how much we publicize and promote awareness of our fight against corruption, if we ourselves are not trustworthy or do not hold great integrity, our citizens will never stand by us in this issue. As members of Congress, we ourselves are walking advertisements. At the end of the day, it starts with us.

By removing one of the biggest obstacles to growth, it can help us achieve our long-term development goals. Thus, we must take the necessary steps to promote public awareness of this issue, and put into place a structure that will effectively eliminate corruption – which in turn, will lead to a strengthened civil society, robust economy and sustainable human development.

Thank you

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