Monday, January 27, 2020

Philippines decline in corruption index to prod Duterte admin to fire more crooked execs

The Philippines' lower ranking in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index would prod the Duterte administration to fire more corrupt officials, Malacañang said Monday.

The Philippines slipped 14 notches in the 2019 index, ranking 113th out of 180 countries from 99th in 2018. The CPI, which was released by Transparency International, evaluated the countries using a scale of zero to 100 where zero translated to "highly corrupt" while 100 meant "very clean." The Philippines scored 34 in last year's index along with Nepal, Eswatini, El Salvador, Kazakhstan and Zambia. "It will goad us to sack more corrupt officials, provided, of course, there is evidence to show that they are," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing when asked to react to the Philippines' latest CPI ranking.

"The problem is this: There are many complaints of corruption but the president, as a lawyer, needs certain documentary and testimonial evidence to give him the basis. And many Filipinos are still afraid to reveal themselves, or to give the evidence of the sort," he added. The CPI 2019 report said vibrant economic powers like China, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines "continue to struggle to tackle corruption." It cited the restrictions on participation in public affairs and the supposed effort to silence dissenting voices and to keep decision-making out of public scrutiny. Panelo admitted that the government is struggling against corruption because "the president's hands are tied by the due process clause of the Constitution."

"It would be different if all of these have been appointed by the President, you can just dismiss them outright. You have to file charges against them, you need evidence to back your complaint," the Palace spokesperson said. Panelo, nevertheless, claimed that the administration's anti-corruption effort is not a failure.

"I don't think so. We've been fighting corruption and as we have seen, the president has been firing top officials. And the complaints against erring government officials have been charged in the Ombudsman and in courts," he added. President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed not to tolerate even a whiff of corruption under his watch and has dismissed several officials, including Cabinet members, who were linked to irregularities. His critics, however, doubt the seriousness of his campaign, noting that he has given new posts to some of the officials he fired.