Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday that corruption was never part of the Filipino culture as he assailed the government’s lack of political will to prosecute grafters and corrupt officials, particularly those in high places.
A recent report by Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy showed that the Philippines ranked fourth in terms of corruption among the 16 countries in Southeast Asia based on its survey of over 2,000 expatriate businessmen.
On a scale 0 to 10, with zero the best possible score and the lowest level of corruption among civil servants and politicians, the Philippines scored 8.06. The three top corrupt countries, according to the survey, are Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar defended the government’s record. “Ang problema po ay nasa kultura natin ‘yan, hindi lang sa mga institusyon. Ito ay kultura sa pulitika at saka sa pamumuhay,” he said.
Enrile, however, said it was not true.
“Alam mo, wala naman sa kultura natin ang corruption,” said Enrile, a reelectionist under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). “Noong panahon ko sa gabinete… may corruption din noon pero nasa itaas. Sa ibaba, walang korapsyon at nasusugpo namin.”
The veteran legislator said the present administration had done so little in fighting corruption and its lack of political will to enforce the laws against graft anzd corrupt practices had failed to put perpetrators behind bars.
“Ang korapsyon lang noon ay sa Bureau of Customs pero ngayon medyo laganap na,” the Senate chief told a radio interview.
Since her ascent to power nine years ago, Arroyo and the First Family have been linked to various scandals involving kickbacks to bribery, including the aborted $329-million National Broadband Network contract forged with ZTE of China that was reportedly overpriced by $130 million, the P728-million fertilizer fund scam which was given to favored officials at the time when Arroyo was seeking a fresh mandate, and the controversial $503-million NorthRail mass transit project, among others.
Last January, Renaud Meyer, country director of the United Nations Development Program, told a forum that tackled corruption in the Philippines that close to P2 billion was lost to corruption every year. A more recent estimate, he said, placed the cost of corruption at 20 percent of the national budget in contrast with the 16 percent earmarked for education and 4 percent for health.
“Marami na tayong batas. Kailangan lang mapairal, ma-implement at ikulong ang dapat ikulong lalung-lalo na ‘yung mga malalaking lider, malalaking empleyado ng gobyerno na gumagawa ng katiwalian,” Enrile said.#