We Must Purge the System of Corruption; (Speech of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the Celebration by the Office of the Ombudsman of Its Anniversary and Launching of European Commission-Ombudsman Corruption Prevention Project Held at the Manila Diamond Hotel, 12 May 2005.)

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THE winds of change are blowing in the Philippines, and I am confident that they will sweep away the deep and corrosive effects of corruption that have crippled our nation for too long.

The fight against corruption is the moral challenge of our time. If we are to liberate our economy and liberate our people, we must liberate ourselves of the shackles of the culture of corruption.

One of the best decisions I made in the fight against corruption was to appoint Sonny Marcelo as Ombudsman. Almost overnight, Sonny has gathered new and other stakeholders to close ranks behind a unified campaign against graft...

The fight against corruption is a central part of my overall reform plan. It has to be. It is inseparable from our drive for economic and social justice. Corruption is the biggest obstacle to achieving our ten-point program.

Last night, with the passage of the VAT (Law) in the House, we have hurdled legislation to put our fiscal house in order, such as the Sin Tax or tax on alcohol and cigarettes and now, the Value-Added Tax.

We have passed a fiscally responsible national budget, we have broken ground in privatizing the electric power sector and passed a law that will encourage internal revenue and customs workers to intensify their collections.

All these, so that we can achieve a balanced budget by the end of our term and still provide the infrastructure and social services needed in our pro-poor program.

I assure our people that the returns from the implementation of the fiscal reform measures will be invested wisely. And there is no more important use of that money than to invest in strengthening our anti-corruption efforts.

The money from that will also be flowed back to engender fiscal and economic stability, which should redown to better and more convenient public services. What I have mentioned, the alcohol and cigarette taxes, the Vat Law, the Lateral Attrition Law, the national budget that is the legislative part of our reforms.

The executive part of our reform plan has to do with the stepped-up campaign against graft, against tax evasion, against smuggling, it has to do with mitigating the effects of all price increases and inflation, it has to do with energy reform and conservation, with agribusiness infrastructure and encouraging more investments to grow the economy.

These measures must go handin-hand with education reform and a social justice agenda that invests in a pro-poor program to be able to lift up those citizens who live at the edge of society.

I have faith in our nation and in our people, but to fight poverty and grow our economy, we must purge the system of corruption, eliminate government waste, increase tax collection, and invest in our nation through revenue increases to help the poor.

Like a cancer, corruption must be cut out if the patient is to survive, not to mention, to grow healthy. In our fight against corruption, we have dismissed two very high-ranking officials from the DPWH, four from Customs, six from BIR. …