Sunday, December 20, 2015

President Aquino at the 3rd UNCAC State Conference

From the Website of GPH - Government of the Philippines

President Aquino at the 3rd UNCAC State Conference

Speech of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III President of the Philippines At the 3rd United Nations Convention against Corruption State Conference

[Delivered at Malacañan Palace, Manila, on December 15, 2015]

As I near the final days of my term, it is becoming easier to fully witness the scope of the reforms undertaken by our administration, and the stellar results our shared efforts have brought. Over the past five years and five months, we—together with the Filipino people—have transformed our country from the Sick Man of Asia into Asia’s New Darling; we have channeled our economic success into social services that make certain that our growth is inclusive; and we have begun to see the tangible impact of our long-term efforts to alleviate poverty, we can see this in the form of 1.4 million Filipino households—roughly equivalent to 7 million Filipinos—lifted above the poverty line, as well as the lowest unemployment rate in a decade. All this is rooted in the battle cry of our administration, that our Senate President has reminded us: Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. Where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty.

Throughout our administration, we have stood by that promise, with a view of empowering our people, showing them how it is to have a government that truly works for them. From day one, we worked to dismantle the culture of corruption, entitlement, and waste that defined the preceding decade. One of the first things we did was to buttress the idea that those in government are public servants—and that the only privileges we should enjoy are the ones that are also accorded to every single one of our fellow citizens. Perhaps the lowest lying fruit in this regard is how we go through traffic. We reminded the entitled few who chose to muscle their way through traffic by using sirens—or what we called “wangwang”—that only five people are authorized to use those sirens. I am one of those five, and, to set an example, I instructed my security detail not to use sirens, and to wait when we have to wait, while encouraging the other four leaders to do the same. The message was clear: The days when a powerful few could lord it over the rest of our countrymen were over.

We worked to eliminate corruption and institute transparency in every possible pocket of governance. One prominent example is how we fixed our budgeting system, going from one that was prone to leakage and corruption, to zero-based budgeting. This is a system that requires government to review every single item in the budget, to see which ones worked, and which ones didn’t. While it is true that this might perhaps be a more tedious method of doing things, it is more meticulous and gives way to far less wastage and manipulation by unscrupulous individuals, and rightfully so. After all, we are aware that we are not spending our personal money, but our people’s hard earned money.

This is also the philosophy behind our bottom-up budgeting approach. We reached out to communities and considered them an integral part in the budgeting process, because they know what they need more than anyone else. Since we began this approach in 2013, we have allotted it P48.9 billion, funding nearly 40,000 projects along the way; and under our proposed budget for next year, this approach will receive P24.7 billion to fund 14,326 projects.

We also know that corruption flourishes only when people feel powerless against it, and are thus unwilling to fight it. This is why we harnessed advances in technology to equip our countrymen with the tools they need to hold their leaders accountable. We put up websites called Budget ng Bayan and Pera ng Bayan, which translate to The People’s Budget and the People’s Money. Through these portals, any Filipino, through an internet connection, can peruse how the national government is spending their money, and report individuals they suspect of corruption.

This philosophy also drove our movement to abolish a culture of entitlement in government owned and controlled corporations—who, in the past, were able to award excessive bonuses to themselves, even during years when they operated at substantial losses. Through the help of our allies in the legislature, particularly Senate President Frank Drilon and then-Congressman Jun Abaya—as well as the excellent work of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, we passed a bill that professionalized how our GOCCs go about their business. The numbers speak for themselves: From January 2001 to June 2010, GOCCs turned over P84.18 billion in dividends. From July 2010 to June 2015, we collected P131.86 billion. Imagine that: While we have only six years in office—and while we have abolished, privatized, or deactivated non-performing GOCCs—we are well on our way to doubling what our predecessors collected in nine and a half years. Is this not proof enough that good governance is good economics?

Of course, maximizing efficiencies through prudent spending is just one part of any anti-corruption campaign. Justice must also be served to those who have erred. I am proud to say that, during our time in office, we have made no exceptions: We have gone after all those accused of corruption, regardless of their resources or their influence. We removed from office a Chief Justice who failed to declare 98 percent of his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, which is required by the very Constitution he swore—and failed—to uphold. We filed plunder and graft cases against a former President, who is now under hospital arrest. We also filed cases against prominent Senators and former heads of government agencies and corporations, all of whom were allegedly involved in a scam of massive proportions. Might I note that, at one point, all these individuals were once considered “untouchable” by many.

Our focus, however, was not simply on the high-profile cases. Our goal has been to combat corruption throughout the bureaucracy and Philippine society at large. This is why, through three targeted programs—named Revenue Integrity Protection Services (RIPS), Run After the Smugglers (RATS), and Run After Tax Evaders (RATE)—we have filed a total of 736 cases between July 2010 and September 2015.

This culture of integrity and accountability we have fostered has certainly borne fruit. We have rehabilitated our image in the international community, thereby reclaiming our national pride. During our time in office, we have improved our ranking in surveys that measure corruption as already mentioned by the Senate President, but if you will allow me, let me repeat: Transparency International has bumped us up 49 places in its Corruption Perceptions Index, while the Heritage Foundation has bumped us up 48 places in terms of Freedom from Corruption, which is part of its Economic Freedom Index.

It has also encouraged even more people to get involved in the drive against corruption. In fact, just last week, I spoke at an event called the Integrity Summit, where individuals from the private sector gathered to share their ideas on how to fight corruption and how to build systems of integrity. In fact, this group has an initiative called the Integrity Pledge, the signatories of which commit to exercise zero tolerance for corruption. To date, they have gathered over 3,000 signatories, and are targeting 10,000 by 2017, and I am told that they are ahead of schedule.  Indeed, it is events like those—as well as the one we are holding today—that allow me to be even more optimistic that, moving forward, our countrymen will make certain that like-minded people are voted into office, and that those who wish to bring back the old, broken status quo will be held to account. They show that our society is far more committed to fighting corruption than ever before—that it is a fight we are all engaged in wholeheartedly.

The results of our all-out campaign against corruption have manifested in an empowered government, with a greater capacity to invest in its people. We can see it in the 4.4 million household beneficiaries of our conditional cash transfer program, who have additional resources to get by, and can more ably send their children to school. We can see it in the education sector, which has managed to clear all our inherited backlogs in classrooms, school seats, and textbooks, while at the same time upgrading our basic education system to be at par with global standards. We can see it in the health sector, where the bottom 40 percent of our population can now just walk into any government hospital, show their PhilHealth card, and receive treatment, free of charge. We can see it in every Filipino who can now look forward to a more secure future, and who have regained control of their own destinies.

Make no mistake: Despite all these successes, and despite the breadth of what the Filipino people have achieved in just five years and five months, I am aware that much more that needs to be done. The first review cycle for the implementation of this convention is proof enough. I stand here today in commitment: Until the very last day of my term, we will strive to do even more against corruption and to uplift as many of our countrymen as possible, and we encourage our colleagues from the Legislature and the Judiciary to continue doing the same.

What we must realize, however, is that much of our efforts hinges on the decisions we make, as one country, in next year’s elections. There is, of course, the crooked path, which will lead us back to the hopelessness of the past, and there is the Straight Path, through which we can maintain—if not accelerate—the pace of reform. I have faith that, with all that we have achieved together these past few years, our people will not choose to backslide; that they will choose officials with the integrity and the capabilities to build on our successes, so that we, as one Philippine nation, can give rise to a country we can be proud to bequeath to coming generations.
Thank you. Good day.

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