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News :: Human Rights : International : Organizing : Politics : Social Welfare
Philippines: On PERC Corruption Survey
23 Mar 2007
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reaping the fruits of her folly
There's no one to blame but the GloriaMacapagal Arroyo (GMA) government. This was the reaction of AKBAYAN (Citizens' Action Party-list) Rep. Risa Hontiveros to the corruption survey released by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, saying that the growing negative perception on the Philippines as the most corrupt Asian country is "a result of the government's brazen and systematic attempt to cover up big time corruption cases leveled against GMA, her husband, and their cronies."

"Why is GMA so surprised and irritated with the survey results when this was clearly a product of her consistent evasion of numerous attempts to hold her accountable? Why blame the opposition and the media?" Rep. Hontiveros demanded.

"She should stop acting as if she wasn't expecting the result. Even the hosting of the Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit, which was supposed to showcase the country as an excellent investment site, now faces a corruption scandal because of overpriced lamp posts," Rep. Hontiveros said.

According to the solon, "the survey should be seen as a referendum of the international business community on the GMA administration."

"It goes to show she can back flip and lie through her teeth about her government's credibility, but the international community, the media, and the people will always see through her fabrication," Rep. Hontiveros said.

Rep. Hontiveros said that a long list of large corruption cases will continue to embarrass as long as they're not acted upon. "Aside from the ASEAN corruption scandal, there are other cases that were conveniently ignored, covered up, or are not simply languishing in bureaucratic limbo," Rep. Hontiveros said.

The solon cited the following cases that were not acted upon by the government:

The P 28 billion North Rail project - This was approved by the GMA regime despite the lack of competitive bidding, the questionable legality of the buyer credit loan agreement (BCLA) and the lack of the contractor's engineering expertise and experience. The cost of the anomalous deal is $16 M per kilometer, and the 3% interest p.a. is higher than other loan packages that the country could have availed of.

Fertilizer Scam - P 728 million of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA Rice) program was used in the 2004 presidential election, with former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante as the architect of the scam.

Phil Health Cards - An 8-page complaint was filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) by lawyer Ramon Rana accusing then Philippine Charity & Sweepstake Office (PCSO) chief Ma. Livia "Honeygirl" De Leon and Philhealth president Dr. Francisco Duque III of allegedly using some P5 to 25 million in taxpayers' funds to finance the election campaign of President Arroyo last 2004 elections.

The Jose Pidal Case - Mike Arroyo has a 200-million-peso (3.64 million dollars) bank account with local creditor Union Bank under his alias "Jose Pidal," where funds from campaign supporters and alleged anomalous deals were funneled. The same scheme was allegedly used by jailed ex-president Joseph Estrada with the Jose Velarde account.

Mega Pacific Scam - The botched P1.3-billion poll modernization project of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) goes all the way up to MalacaƱang. Overpriced by P500 million, the poll body ignored its own bidding rules and changed these to suit one favored bidder, MegaPacific Corp. The Supreme Court (SC) deemed the process flawed and declared the contract null and void. However, The Office of the Ombudsman stated otherwise.

Macapagal Boulevard Scam - Adjustments to one contract caused the cost of the construction of the President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City to balloon from P731.44 million to P1.1 billion. More than P837 million of this amount went to JD Legaspi Construction, one of the three firms that constructed the project.

Power Plant Deal - This is in connection with the US$2-million bribe case filed by former Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez against Hernando Perez. It involves a $470 M power contract approved by then President Estrada. The deal could have been reversed, but among Perez's first acts was to approve the deal despite claims that it was disadvantageous to the government.

GMA's taxation goes to corruption

From the people's pockets down to the politicians' bellies.

This is how AKBAYAN Party-list described the fate of taxpayers' money as the group denounced the failure of the Arroyo administration to curb corruption. In a picket on the first day of the collection of income taxes, AKBAYAN Party-list said that it's the people's sweat and blood that corrupt officials are feasting on.

"Ordinary workers are the real victims of corruption. They pay more taxes, and yet they are deprived of services that should have been funded by public funds that are routinely and brazenly pocketed by corrupt government officials," AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros said.

Unemployed individuals also suffer more due to corruption. "They may not be paying income taxes, but they also pay taxes through the Extended Value-Added Tax (EVAT), which made the price of basic commodities more expensive. They are also the most in need of government services, such as access to basic healthcare, education, and livelihood programs, and yet the funds for such programs shrunk over the years," Rep. Hontiveros said.

According to the AKBAYAN Party-list, compared to other government revenue targets, revenue collection from employed individuals is almost 100% while collection from "sin taxes" and other revenue sources has always lower than the target figure. In 2005, for instance, BIR has a deficit of Php 12.4 billion, while the Bureau of Customs fell short of its Php 151.2 billion target by Php 9.5 billion.

Rep. Hontiveros reiterated that it's the top leadership of the government that has worsened corruption. "Corruption is embedded in this administration. It approved multi-billion government contracts with the clear goal of pocketing bribe money or "SOPs", such as the Php28 billion North Rail Project, the Php 728 Fertilizer scam, the Php 1.1 billion Macapagal Blvd. scam, and the US$ 2 million bribery case involving former Sec. Hernando Perez, a GMA ally," Rep. Hontiveros pointed out.

"This administration also has no qualms using its power to advance its interest. "Just three years ago, they spent Php 25 million in taxpayers' funds to finance the release of Philhealth cards that were used to campaign for Macapagal-Arroyo. The Jose Pidal case facing the First Gentlemen, which involves a Php 200 million allegedly from anomalous deals, is also another example," Rep. Hontiveros added.

According to the solon, curbing corruption is about making the government accountable for its corrupt conduct. "The first step is to impeach the President," Rep. Hontiveros said.
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