Press Release
Statement by Senator Edgardo J. Angara
International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP)
September 9, 2006 | Seoul, Korea


Corruption has been a fact of everyday life in most societies for hundreds of years.

Yet, only recently have we witnessed the phenomenon that corruption has become an issue that could make or break governments almost around the world. While corruption certainly has always been a major political issue, we are now seeing that a more enlightened and comprehensive understanding of the problem is fast being accepted.

There is now a wide acceptance of the fact that corruption is mainly rooted in the weakness of state institutions and law-based procedures, as well as there is a growing awareness that corruption is impoverishing people of the developing world.

In the Philippines, we are all too familiar with the instances of corruption.


Last year, the Global Corruption Index of Berlin-based Transparency International, an anti-graft watchdog, ranked the Philippines 117th in a survey of corruption in 159 countries.

Our country had a score of 2.5; a score of 5 is the borderline figure distinguishing countries that do not have a serious problem of corruption.

That means we are near the bottom and indicates the prevalence of corruption; in fact, in the Southeast Asian region, we are only faring better than Cambodia and Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the World Bank says nearly $50 billion has been stolen from the countrys coffers in the last 20 years due to corruption. This amount could have nearly wiped out our foreign debt.

An Asian Development Bank report in 2004 estimated that corruption can cost up to 17 percent of a countrys GDP, robbing the populace of vital resources that could be used to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development.

When translated to the basic needs of Filipinos, corruption has cost 520 million textbooks for our children, 63,000 new classrooms, or 1,500 kilometers of farm to market roads.


The most important thing that needs to be done is to demonstrate that governments at all levels are determined to go after the grafters, regardless of their position or status.

The second is to come up with mechanisms to ensure that corruption is prevented, and in the process promote good governance.

To do these, we have to initiate measures so that transparency, accountability and consistency will be the norms.

Thus, our actions should not only aim at instilling the right values and attitudes, but should go beyond that to strengthening processes and institutions.

We can begin by pursuing efforts to improve the public service delivery system to make it more efficient.

Let me refer to the Procurement Reform Law that Congress had passed and which I sponsored in the Philippine Senate to overhaul the bidding system for the procurement of public goods and services. This is the countrys biggest anti-corruption measure to date.

For so long, we in the Philippines have had a system where the friends of those in power are the ones who win bids for public works projects like construction of roads and bridges, or contracts to supply books to public schools and equipment to government offices.

It is an obsolete system where bids can be rigged and final awards manipulated because of its convoluted process and secrecy.

The same system then sees losing bidders file cases in court, citing a host of reasons and heaping blame on unnamed corrupt officials.

This is a process that can drag on for years, with charges and counter charges thrown by the contending parties against each other. Meanwhile, money has already changed hands and the project is delayed to the detriment of the people.

To avoid this, the E-Procurement Law requires the agency concerned to put on its website tenders for good and services as well as the money budgeted for it. The bidders pre-qualification requirement has been done away with as this step is but a technique to pre-select a favored bidder.

The Procurement Reform Laws main objective is to have in place an improved public services delivery system to reduce the cost of doing business.

By ensuring a shorter time frame to complete a transaction, both business and the man on the street can benefit.

But equally, if not more important, a better functioning public service delivery system, with improved processes and procedures, will promote integrity by reducing opportunities for corruption to occur.

Another important legislative measure that I am currently overseeing is the Political Party Development and Campaign Finance Reform Act that seeks to make political parties ideology-based organizations and true instruments of change.

In about nine months, our country will be holding national elections, and at stake are all elective posts except president, vice president and 12 Senators.

Once again, we will see political parties fighting for their continued existence, or the birth of new ones.

Party loyalties will either be stronger or completely gone because, in the end, personal survival is more important.

No wonder then that in every election in the Philippines, we always see the effects of turncoatism.

This is the main reason why political parties here are mere paper parties, with no restricting rules binding members.

Since principles and platform come secondary to perks and privileges, few political party in the Philippines have stood out as a genuine organization that attracts members united for a common ideological cause as in, for example, Labour and the Tories in the UK.

There are indications that corruption and ideology, or lack of it, are intertwined. Political parties without strong ideological commitments, or unable to offer a concrete plan of action to address a nations ills are more prone to corruption.

It is this lack of a strong ideological base that compels political parties to seek financial support from other people or organizations.

But such support has a huge price. The price paid is either in the palpable form of preferential treatment in the award of government contracts or public appointments, or, the more subtle but vicious payback of badly needed reforms being sacrificed to please the financiers.

The desire or dream to do something good for the majority quickly dissipates into a task to reward the minority; money politics rears its ugly head.

Unprincipled politics and corruption seriously compromise the integrity of political parties and contribute to the universal distrust of politicians.

If we can establish political parties that represent the true aspirations of the people and create a new breed of politicians willing to stand up for what their constituents believe in instead of kowtowing to the vested interests of financiers, we will have taken a giant step to addressing corruption.


I am glad that the international community has taken concrete steps to combat corruption, the most important of which is the United Nations Convention Against Corruption that is also known by the acronym UNCAC.

In December 2000, the General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument was needed to take on corruption worldwide.

Three years later, it adopted an instrument known as UNCAC and urged all governments to ratify it.

An entire chapter of the UNCAC is dedicated to the prevention of corruption, with measures directed at both the public and private sectors.

These include, among others, the establishment of anti-corruption agencies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties.

The Convention also requires countries to determine criminal offenses involving corruption.

As such, it is not only limited to prosecuting such common forms of corruption like bribery and malversation of public funds but also influence trading, money laundering, and concealment of illegally gotten wealth, to name a few.

Therefore, states that ratify the Convention are asked to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of offenders; render legal assistance in gathering evidence; and assist in extradition procedures as well.

Moreover, states are also required to support efforts taken to freeze, seize or confiscate money or material goods earned or procured due to corruption in whatever part of the globe.

A fundamental principle of the Convention is asset-recovery, an important issue for many developing countries where plunder of the national wealth has been known to occur with alarming regularity.

For the UNCAC to come into force, it must be ratified by at least 30 states. So far, 140 countries have signed it and 61 have ratified it. It has now come into full force and effect. It is my hope that the parliamentarians of this conference will exert their best to have their parliaments ratify the UNCAC.


Corruption essentially hinders efforts to address poverty, weakens political institutions, stifles economic growth and lessens a countrys attractiveness to investors.

It is damaging to a countrys social progress because many decisions are driven by ulterior motives and the consequences are often ignored.

It is not easy to take on corruption, because it is actually easier to ignore it, or to even benefit from it.

We have to deal with it not just for the simple reason that it is wrong, but because it exacts a heavy toll on our political well-being and is the biggest impediment to development.

It compromises the rule of law and weakens foundations upon which economic growth depends.

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