Press Release
February 16, 2010

by Senator Benigno S. Aquino III
PCCI Presidential Debates

To improve the investment and economic climate of the Philippines, we must target graft and corruption that scares away investments and saps public confidence.

What is corruption? It is theft and a form of murder by a thousand cuts. It robs our people of opportunities, and condemns them to never having a fair chance to realize their potential.

Around P280 billion has been lost to corruption in 2009 alone. This can build 280,000 schools or 560,000 classrooms or purchase 280 million sets of textbooks or train thousands of teachers.

Our students should no longer be deprived of these services, so we will fight graft and corruption on four fronts.

First, in the area of law enforcement and the rule of law.

With a no-nonsense example at the top, I am confident that an uncompromising attitude towards inefficiency and wrongdoing will be demonstrated at all levels.

Meritocracy will define our civil service and enable our line agencies to concentrate on their core functions.

You are familiar with Total Quality Management. We will reflect this in our bureaucratic processes. Whether it is in textbooks or asphalt-laying, we will not tolerate inferior products and poor service. We will penalize delays.

We will enforce law and order so you can be secure in your homes and offices.

We know who use and abuse the law either to coddle favorites or extort from the vulnerable. We know who the smugglers and the tax evaders are. We know who the kidnapping and bank robbery syndicates are, too. With your help, we will take them down.

My government will welcome whistle blowers and give them sanctuary. I will not let the mafia use my government as its own enforcers.

Prosecution will be fair, but also expeditious by virtue of judicial reforms.

Second, government procurement.

Entrepreneurship involves risk. Therefore, we will provide a regime of laws and not men, where regulations are predictable because they are sensible to begin with and are sensibly enforced. We shall welcome investments, while refraining from issuing sovereign guarantees.

The legitimate businessman, local or foreign, has nothing to fear from a transparent and equitable procurement process. We will promote oversight, particularly in areas such as the military procurement of lubricants, long used to no oversight at all.

Third, streamlining rules and regulations for greater transparency

We shall harmonize our regulations, taking into account the actual business cycle, bringing down the cost of doing business. For example, businesses that need to import raw materials will be expected to pay the VAT at the point of sale, not at the start of manufacture. As you grow your businesses, I am confident that you will, in turn, grow our tax base.

You and I require adequate intelligence to make valid assumptions and thus, informed choices. Our official statistics and figures, as you know, are increasingly devoid of credibility. We will restore the trustworthiness of our official figures so they are, once more, a useful and reliable tool in decision making and planning.

Fourth, fiscal prudence

The national budget shall be scrutinized from the ground up. Nothing will be taken for granted because too many wasteful, redundant, and frankly, corrupt programs exist at present.

A government you can trust

Let me close by rejecting the false dichotomy put forward by my opponents: that our people must choose between a risky, naïve idealism or a healthy pragmatism. The dichotomy is false because its underlying assumptions are false.

There is no conflict between practicality and lofty ideals. Practicality is assured, as long as the lofty ideals of governance are always top of mind.

What is dangerous, is to have a failure of the imagination, one that substitutes cynical transactions for principled leadership, and prefers to subvert institutions rather than to empower the citizenry because it lacks faith in the Filipino.

Ang laban na tapat ay laban ng lahat.

Government must serve you. When leaders put their interest ahead of the people they serve, they betray their people and set themselves up as the people's master. This leads to squandered opportunities. Rather than empower our people, leaders insist on staying in power regardless of the consequences to our institutions, our economy, and our broader society.

Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.

When leaders uphold the sovereignty of the people, government becomes a partner in empowerment.

This is the essence of genuine people power.

Thank you.

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