'Leviste case a reflection of worsening corruption in govt'

by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2011 07:05 AM | Updated as of May 21 2011 03:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms (IPER) believes the furlough case of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste is a reflection of worsening corruption among government authorities in the Philippines.

IPER Executive Director Ramon Casiple said Friday the "in and out of jail" escapades of Leviste would not have been possible without the connivance between top authorities in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), jailguards and Leviste.

"Hindi mo masasabi na ganyan ang sistema na may basehan sa batas, basehan niyan pabor," he said.

Ten low-ranking officers and jailguards of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) have been ordered relieved from their posts by NBP Director Ernesto Diokno for charges of gross negligence.

Probe sought

In press statement, Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Jinggoy Estrada called on authorities to conduct a full probe on the so-called "VIP treatment" given to certain moneyed and influential inmates at the NBP in Muntinlupa City.

"This case again highlighted the persistent allegations that certain inmates are indeed being provided VIP treatment by jail officials," he said.

Estrada added Leviste is among 109 inmates of the NBP with "living-out under minimum security status," which means they are free to go out of their prison cells unescorted but only within the premises of the NBP reservation, and they are only allowed to leave the premises temporarily in situations where "a family member dies; they are being subpoenaed; or, they need hospitalization.

However, all three circumstances need proper authorization or pass from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Estrada added, "It is indeed proper to examine the system for any such fault, and certain legislative measures might even be necessary to correct such shortcomings in the system. However, even as we examine the system, we must first determine which officials have been remiss in their jobs here, and they should be punished accordingly."

'Arrogance in corruption'

Casiple, meanwhile, said Leviste's case is an example of "arrogance in corruption", meaning, the convicted Governor had the guts and confidence to go out in public several times without adherence to the rule of law.

"Binabandila na niya eh. May ganong confidence si Leviste. Alam niyang mali ang ginawa niya pero hindi siya nagsisisi sa ginawa nya" Casiple said.

He added that corruption worsened and has been become more systematic during the last decade.

"In the last admin, lumaki ng todo ang korupsyon, naging systematic pa, wala nang institusyon na hindi tainted with corruption" he said. "Dapat ma-break ang cycle, and the one that can break the cycle is the people in power, lalo na ang Presidente."

Thousands of cases

In the annual report of the Office of the Ombudsman, the anti-corruption agency has been handling around 12,736 cases of graft and corruption and other cases unprofessional behaviors, misconducts, and malfeasance, resulting in about 1,061 cases every month.

According to Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN), the Philippine corruption image reflected in the Corruption Index findings seems to have been validated by other survey findings such as that of the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC).

In a PERC survey released in March 2010, the Philippines was the 4th most corrupt country in Southeast Asia with a score of 8.06 next to Vietnam with 8.07, Cambodia with 9.10, and Indonesia with 9.27.

This annual survey conducted by PERC uses a scoring system ranging from 1-10 with 10 being the worst in terms of corruption.

The Philippines was considered to be at its most corrupt state in 2008, hitting its lowest mark of 2.3 (10 being least corrupt and 1 being most corrupt).

On Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer, the Philippine government's anti-corruption efforts are seen to be ineffective (48%), and some 69% think that corruption has increased.