RP corruption ranking improves slightly: TI

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Nov 18 2009 05:17 PM | Updated as of Nov 19 2009 03:29 AM

MANILA -  Corruption in the Philippines dipped slightly in 2009, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index published by global watchdog Transparency International.

The 2009 CPI showed the Philippines ranked 139th among 180 countries included in the index, up from its previous 141st ranking in 2008. The Philippines scored 2.4 in the TI index, compared to 2.3 last year, which ranked it equal to Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Baltic state of Belarus.

The CPI measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in a given country, with a score of 0 perceived to be highly corrupt and 10 perceived to have low levels of corruption. The five countries seen as least afflicted by corruption were New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland. On the other hand, Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Iraq countries scarred by war and ongoing conflict linger at the bottom of the index.

Retired judge Dolores Español, head of TI Philippines, said nine out of 13 global surveys conducted in 2008 to early 2009 were used to assess the Philippines' CPI score. She said three sources for the 2009 CPI are IMD, which releases the yearly World Competitiveness Yearbook; the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), and the World Economic Forum.

Español said the slight change in the country's latest CPI score is a "misperception" on the government's anti-corruption initiatives. She said the CPI score does not the consider recent decision of the Office of the Ombudsman absolving President Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of any culpability in the anomaly-riddled broadband network contract between the Philippines and China's ZTE Corp.

"In 2008, obviously the major corruption cases such as the NBN-ZTE deal were still pending before the Ombudsman. I believe the decision of the Ombudsman to [absolve] the principals and go after the whistleblowers will have an effect on the CPI score. Why will you charge the whistleblower when they are not the principal actors regarding the corruption incident?" she told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Last August the Office of the Ombudsman cleared President Arroyo and her husband of graft in connection with the botched $329-million NBN deal but indicted former elections chief Benjamin Abalos and Social Security System president Romulo Neri.

The ruling came two years after businessman Jose de Venecia III, son and namesake of the former House speaker, exposed the alleged anomalies in the deal and implicated the First Gentleman and Abalos.

A Senate Blue Ribbon committee report released earlier this month recommended the filing of charges against the Arroyo couple, Abalos, de Venecia and whistleblower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada Jr.

Español said other instances of the Ombudsman's lackluster approach to fighting corruption include the filing of "weak" criminal charges against former justice chief Hernani Perez who is accused of extorting $2 million from businessman and former Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez. Equally telling was the Ombudsman's inaction on alleged rigging of public works contracts by contractors already blacklisted by the World Bank, she added.

Corruption barometer

Español said majority of Filipinos still believe that Philippine government's efforts against corruption remained ineffective.

According to the Global Corruption Barometer released last June, 77 percent of Filipinos believe that government's actions against corruption remained largely ineffective compared to 21 percent who said that anti-corruption initiatives were working. Two percent of 1,000 Filipinos interviewed by the Asia Research Organization for the survey said anti-corruption initiatives were neither effective, nor ineffective.

The Global Corruption Barometer showed that public officials and civil servants were perceived as the single institution or sector to be the most affected by corruption (35%), compared to political parties (28%), parliament or legislature (26%), judiciary (7%), business or private sector (3%), and media (1%).

The study showed that 11 percent of respondents in the Philippines said they had paid a bribe in the past year. On the other hand, 64 percent of respondents said they are willing to pay more to buy from a corruption-free company.