Parliamentarians and Good Governance; (Statement Delivered at the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), Seoul, Korea, September 9, 2006.)
Byline: Senator EDGARDO J. ANGARA
CORRUPTION has been a fact of everyday life in most societies for hundreds of years.
Yet, only recently have we witnessed the phenomenon that corruption has become an issue that could make or break governments almost around the world.
While corruption certainly has always been a major political issue, we are now seeing that a more enlightened and comprehensive understanding of the problem is fast being accepted.
There is now a wide acceptance of the fact that corruption is mainly rooted in the weakness of state institutions and law-based procedures, as well as there is a growing awareness that corruption is impoverishing people of the developing world.
In the Philippines, we are all too familiar with the instances of corruption.
Facts and figures
Last year, the Global Corruption Index of Berlin based Transparency International, an anti-graft watchdog, ranked the Philippines 117th in a survey of corruption in 159 countries.
Our country had a score of 2.5; a score of 5 is the borderline figure distinguishing countries that do not have a serious problem of corruption.
That means we are near the bottom and indicates the prevalence of corruption; in fact, in the Southeast Asian region, we are only faring better than Cambodia and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the World Bank says nearly $50 billion has been stolen from the country's coffers in the last 20 years due to corruption. This amount could have nearly wiped out our foreign debt.
An Asian Development Bank report in 2004 estimated that corruption can cost up to 17 percent of a country's GDP, robbing the populace of vital resources that could be used to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development.
When translated to the basic needs of Filipinos, corruption has cost 520 million textbooks for our children, 63,000 new classrooms, or 1,500 kilometers of farm to market roads.
What to do
The most important thing that needs to be done is to demonstrate that governments at all levels are determined to go after the grafters, regardless of their position or status.
The second is to come up with mechanisms to ensure that corruption is prevented, and in the process promote good governance.
To do these, we have to initiate measures so that transparency, accountability and consistency will be the norms.
Thus, our actions should not only aim at instilling the right values and attitudes, but should go beyond that to strengthening processes and institutions.
We can begin by pursuing efforts to improve the public service delivery system to make it more efficient.
Let me refer to the Procurement Reform Law that Congress had passed and which I sponsored in the Philippine Senate to overhaul the bidding system for the procurement of public goods and services. This is the country's biggest anticorruption measure to date.
For so long, we in the Philippines have had a system where the friends of those in power are the ones who win bids for public works projects like construction of roads and bridges, or contracts to supply books to public schools and equipment to government offices.
It is an obsolete system where bids can be rigged and final awards manipulated because of its convoluted process and secrecy.
The same system then sees losing bidders file cases in court, citing a host of reasons and heaping blame on unnamed corrupt officials.
This is a process that can drag on for years, with charges and counter charges thrown by the contending parties against each other. Meanwhile, money has already changed hands and the project is delayed to the detriment of the people.
To avoid this, the E-Procurement Law requires the agency concerned to put on its website tenders for good and services as well as the money budgeted for it. The bidders pre-qualification requirement has been done away with as this step is but a technique to pre-select a favored bidder. …