Even if President Rodrigo Duterte wants to get rid of crooked public officials as quickly as possible, Malacañang on Monday said due process is making the fight against corruption a “struggle” for his administration.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after the Philippines fell by 14 notches in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), ranking 113th out of 180 countries from 99th in 2018.
Panelo said the decline in the CPI could prod Duterte and his administration to fire more corrupt public officials.
“It will goad us to sack more corrupt officials. Sack, S-A-C-K. Provided of course there is evidence to show that they are,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
He admitted that gathering documentary and testimonial evidence to fire these corrupt public officials made the process a tedious one as many witnesses were afraid to testify.
“We are in fact struggling because the President’s hands are tied by the due process clause of the Constitution,” he said.
Because not all public officials were presidential appointees, Panelo said it was difficult for the President to just “dismiss all of them outright”.
“You need to file charges against them, and you need evidence to back your complaint,” Panelo said.
He, however, denied critics and detractors saying that the administration’s fight against corruption is a failure.
“I don’t think so because precisely we’ve been fighting corruption. And as we have seen, the President has been firing top government officials and complains against erring—government officials have been charged in the Ombudsman and in the courts,” Panelo said.
On Sunday the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) chair Dante Jimenez belied reports that the Philippines is becoming a “more corrupt” state under Duterte’s leadership.
Jimenez’s statement was in response to the Jan. 24 article published by American business magazine Forbes, which claims that the Philippines is turning into a “more corrupt and less democratic state”.
Despite the decline in the Philippines’ CPI, Duterte has repeatedly voiced out his promise to fire public officials linked to even “a whiff” of corruption.
He also ordered to correct all existing contracts with the private sector found to be disadvantageous to the government and the Filipino people.
According to the 2019 CPI, the Philippines tied with five other countries namely El Salvador, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Eswatini, and Zambia.
Asia Pacific, where the Philippines is a part of, has a regional average score of 45, it added.
It noted that the Asia Pacific region “hasn’t witnessed substantial progress in anti-corruption efforts or results”.
The CPI, a rating of global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is “highly corrupt” and 100 is “very clean”.
It ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. (PNA)