WANTED REAL GRAFT BUSTER

04/29/10 - With the election just 12 days away, Filipinos are looking for a president who can fight graft in government.

That and “creating jobs” are the top two criteria of both businessmen and the general public in choosing a president, according to a national survey on perceptions of corruption conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The no. 3 criteria is fighting poverty - a choice of citizens - or “promoting a good business environment”, the preference of businessmen.

Highlights of the survey were discussed yesterday in a briefing hosted by the Cebu Business Club.

A random sample of 550 business managers, including 100 from Cebu, were interviewed between Nov. 3 and Dec. 5 last year.

“In voting for president, fighting corruption and creating jobs are the two priorities of managers and the public,” said SWS consultant Mahar Mangahas in a forum at the Marco Polo Plaza. (See table on this page)

In the survey, about 75 percent of business managers said they would choose a president who can fight corruption, while 53 percent gave weight to one who can generate jobs.

Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, Cebu Business Club president, said they commissioned the survey before the elections so that candidates would know that the business sector was frustrated with the present system of governance.

“This is a political exercise (intended) to develop awareness (about corruption),” he said.

The 2009 SWS Survey of Enterprise on Corruption was sponsored by The Asia Foundation and covered National Capital Region (NCR), Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, Cavite-Laguna-Batangas (CALABA) and Cagayan de Oro City– Iligan City (CDO-I).

Some two thirds of the respondents were from small and medium enterprises and one third from large enterprises.

Some 49 percent of the general public said they were looking for a president who can fight poverty. Some 42 percent of businessmen wanted a president who could promote a good business environment.

About 64 percent of businessmen believed that corruption was rampant in the public sector.

Guest speaker, former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, said the next president should form a task force in the first 100 days of office to file cases in court to recover ill-gotten wealth of past and present administrations.

“Assuming that the automated elections will succeed, we can expect to have a new president proclaimed by the end of May. This new president and his administration will hopefully signal a fresh start in governance...We should choose a presidential candidate who is not only incorruptible but who will also robustly and vigorously prosecute corrupt government officials, regardless of their relationships to him or to those close to him,” said Marcelo.

With P434 billion lost to corruption every year, he said, that amount, if recovered, could forestall the need for government borrowing from foreign and local creditors and would free a third of the national budget set aside for debt payment.

Marcelo said the task force must have “competent, professional and idealistic investigators and prosecutors with adequate funding and resources”.

He recommended people he had worked with in the plunder case against former president Joseph Estrada - Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio and lawyers Arno Sanida, Alex Padilla, James Viernes and Manolo Mabini.

But any momentum to set reforms to eliminate graft will not succeed, he cautioned, unless the Office of the Ombudsman and other anti-graft bodies are “liberated” from partisan politics and appointees chosen based on their “loyalty” to the appointing power instead of merit.

He identified Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court.

He said he was especially worried that the Supreme Court has been placed under the control of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had appointed most of the justices during her nine-year tenure.

“The plan of several groups to file cases against the incumbent administration with the Office of the Ombudsman, immediately after the assumption of office of the new president, which I have previously stated, borders on naïveté. It will look good on TV, radio and newspapers but the complaints, unless the Office of the Ombudsman is liberated, will just be dismissed,” Marcelo said.

The survey showed corruption was perceived to be rampant at the national level compared to the local government units.

Some 91 percent of Cebu respondents said corruption happened at the national level, 65 percent believed that it happened at the provincial level and 57 percent, at the city level.

Some 48 percent believed that most companies give bribe to win public sector contracts.

Those who got a rating of “poor” (-10 to -29 percent) icnludes Department of Budget and Management, Philippine National Police, Deaprtment of Agriculture, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

The Department of Transportation and Communication, Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, House of Representaives, Office of the President, and the Land Transportation Office received a bad rating (-30 to -49 percent). (CebuDailyNews)

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