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Malacañang set to push tougher sanctions against corruption

ALL three branches of government, including constitutional bodies like the Ombudsman, are closing ranks to push in 2014 long-awaited remedial legislation on pending reforms and the operationalization of mechanisms that will further boost the drive against corruption.

Among the priority legislation the Palace is set to endorse for early enactment when Congress resumes regular sessions in January are the Freedom of Information bill, the proposed Whistleblower Act and tougher anti-bribery sanctions.

Affirming Malacañang’s determination to curb corruption in public office, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma on Thursday recalled the Aquino government’s commitment conveyed earlier to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

In a news briefing at the Palace on Thursday, Coloma said “our people [during the entire year] spoke the loudest against corruption and the misuse of public funds.”

He said just last week, “the leaders of the three branches of government—Executive, Legislative and Judiciary—stood on the same platform with the Ombudsman to declare a unified stand in support of the UNCAC.”

The Palace official confirmed a resolution containing the government’s commitment on the UNCAC was presented and submitted by Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa to President Aquino.

Coloma said among the significant actions they agreed to implement are the creation by Congress of more divisions in the Sandiganbayan to unclog its dockets and hasten the disposition of pending anti-graft cases; strengthening the witness protection law; enactment of the Whistleblowers Act; strengthening the anti-money laundering law; codification of anti-corruption laws criminalizing bribery in the private sector; active and passive trading of influence; amendments to forfeiture law, the extradition law, and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty; and passage of the freedom of information law.

He said Carpio-Morales had reported an 85-percent the country on international cooperation agreements and 65 percent compliance on criminalization and law enforcement.

He said the UNCAC was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2003 as the first legally binding international anti-corruption instrument that requires states and parties to implement, through laws, institutions, programs and practices, a wide range of measures to prevent, detect, prosecute and sanction corruption and recover its proceeds.

The UNCAC was signed on December 9, 2003, by 140 states, including the Philippines, and was ratified by the Philippine Senate on November 8, 2006. At that time, he said, the Philippines was only the second country in Southeast Asia and the fifth country in Asia to have done so.

“After this so-called lost decade, President Aquino said last week that “our first actions were not to build on what has been achieved, but to fill the fissures in our public institutions,” Coloma said. Butch Fernandez

Coloma said Mr. Aquino also acknowledged important elements in the fight against corruption, including the “vigorous implementation of the concept that no one can be above the law, as exemplified by the filing of cases against a former president, and the impeachment of a chief justice, and the relentless prosecution of smugglers and tax evaders through the filing of 423 cases to date.”

He also cited on-going efforts to “remove inefficiencies in government systems,” as exemplified by the top-level revamp in the Bureau of Customs, accompanied by systems and policy reforms. 

 

Coloma likewise listed the need to empower the bureaucracy to serve the public better through the “adoption of zero-based budgeting systems and enhanced transparency and accountability measures.”

 

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