Press Release
September 30, 2010

Justice Secretary cites need for legislative support in global
campaign against corruption

MANILA, PHILIPPINES--Justice Secretary Leila De Lima today acknowledged the need for more stringent legislative measures for the Aquino government to fulfill its much ballyhooed campaign promise to eradicate corruption, which she described as a "common epidemic."

Speaking before Members of Parliaments from 10 countries who have vowed to fight corruption in their respective countries at the Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza this morning, De Lima lauded the world parliamentarians, led by Philippine Senator Senator Edgardo Angara, in their continuous effort in finding solutions and crafting policies to aid anti-corruption initiatives of their governments.

"It is very appropriate that a member of our Philippine Senate (referring to Angara) would feel compelled to bring together fellow stakeholders in this region in order to find a solution to this common epidemic," De Lima said.

"While other officials stubbornly assert that the status quo is predominantly clean, it is good that members of Southeast Asian Parliamentarians Against Corruption (SEAPAC), especially our very own Senator Angara, recognize that the opposite is true," De Lima added.

De Lima was the principal speaker of the Meeting of the GOPAC Task Force on the United Nations Convention against Corruption and Monitoring that is held jointly with the regional meeting of the Southeast Asian Parliamentarians Against Corruption (SEAPAC). Angara, a founding member of SEAPEAC, hosted the gathering. Also present was former Kuwait Member of Parliament Dr. Nasser Al-Sane, GOPAC chairman.

In her speech, De Lima acknowledged the Aquino administration's anti-corruption efforts but cautioned that the implementation of reforms must not just come from the top level of government, saying that for corruption to be eliminated, change must also take place "at the level to which people are exposed."

That is where ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) comes in, De Lima concluded, saying that the passage of important legislation will bring about lasting changes which, if strictly adhered to, will eliminate the threat of corruption in the country once and for all.

Besides the expected full ratification of the UNCAC, member parliamentarians are expected to submit individual country reports that will be used in GOPAC's continuous policy-making advocacies and anti-corruption initiatives.

In his opening remarks, Angara said that one nation alone cannot deal with corruption. "Corruption transcends boundaries as well as cultures. To fight it, we must link up. We must have cross-country cooperation," Angara said.

"Even in the Philippines, we cannot simply say that we, parliamentarians, will deal with it on our own terms, by our own selves. Within a country, one must deal with corruption jointly and cooperatively with other government departments and agencies," Angara added.

According to Angara, member-parliamentarians attending the two-day conference are expected to report on their respective country's capacity in preventing corruption, as well as share insights on key strengths and weaknesses on their most recent anti-corruption initiatives.

"By sharing our experiences, we can learn how to correct and improve our own approach to fighting corruption, with the end in view of to developing our own strategy unique to our own socio-political, cultural setting," Angara said.

According to Angara, SEAPAC's approach is to strengthen not just political institutions but also political parties. "Each nation must develop its own strategy unique to its own socio-political, cultural setting and that is what we are doing in the country," he said.

According to Angara, a study conducted by the University of the Philippines has indicated that the country has one of the best set of anti-corruption laws. The study had also concluded that the Philippines, although replete with anti-corruption laws, seem unable to eradicate the threat of corruption in all aspects of government.

"We have the Government E-Procurement Law, the Freedom of Information Act. We even have in place anti-money laundering legislation. How is it then that we are not less corrupt than most?" Angara lamented.

According to Angara, "corruption is sapping very valuable resources that otherwise we could have utilized to achieve the Millennium Development Goal, primary of which is universal poverty, education, maternal health and sanitation. They are the number one killers in this world, and we are taking away valuable resources through corruption, away from these very valuable social services."

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was on hand to give the introductory remarks this morning, echoed Angara's sentiments. "Corruption is neither a monopoly nor a national delicacy of the Philippines. It is endemic to many, if not all governments of the world," he said.

"Our society has endured too much graft and corruption in the past that people simply fail, wittingly or unwittingly, to recognize that corruption exists," Zubiri said, adding, "we have become apathetic to the reality that is corruption, that the same has become the rule rather than the exception. Those who benefit from it ignore corruption all together for all the obvious and convenient reasons."

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