"The drive against corruption will only gain momentum if there is real accountability, especially of the biggest crooks in government. The Aquino administration concretely can set the tone for this by going after former president Arroyo and her many big and small cronies, in her family and among her allies," Jose Enrique Africa, Ibon Foundation research head, said.
MANILA - President Benigno S. Aquino III won on the campaign slogan "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap" (if there is no corruption, there would be no poverty). But in less than 100 days since he assumed the presidency, there are so far no indications of a truly determined anti-corruption drive by the new administration, said Jose Enrique Africa, research head independent think-tank Ibon Foundation.
The first 100 days of any administration are unique as it is the moment of transition from the old government, and the new administration is at the height of its optimism, trust and popularity, Africa said.
"What it does in the first 100 days is not necessarily final for the remaining six years and, to be sure, just so much can be realistically done in so short a time. Yet the first 100 days offer important insights into the character of the new administration and establishes the directions of its governance," Africa added.
However, Africa noted that the Aquino administration "is showing few signs of conviction and a real reform agenda and has not used its first 100 days to establish any real momentum for the economic and political reform that the country needs - belying its promise of change."
No Prosecution of Arroyo
"The drive against corruption will only really gain momentum if there is real accountability, especially of the biggest crooks in government. The Aquino administration concretely can set the tone for this by going after former president Arroyo and her many big and small cronies, in her family and among her allies."
However, Africa noted there is a lack of drive in prosecuting former president Arroyo and her cronies.
The Truth Commission formed by Aquino was deemed as toothless.
The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg) describes it as "a toothless and footless fact-finding body." "To say the least, creating a superbody with no powers of prosecution makes this presidential move to address corruption a farce and reveals a lack of political will and decisiveness on the part of the new chief executive to fulfill a major promise," according to Cenpeg's Issue Analysis.
Jueteng, Still Rampant
Under the Aquino administration, jueteng, an illegal numbers game, remain widespread.
In his blog, Retired Pangasinan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said jueteng money "go regularly to corrupt collaborating local public officials who see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing about the illegal numbers game being played under their noses." Cruz said the police "act as very willing and able protectors of the same rigged and crooked numbers game."
Cruz said there was a resurgence of jueteng, according to field reports that were reaching him.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico E. Puno was implicated in jueteng, with reports saying he gets up to P8 million ($181,818) a month. Cruz also named retired Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa as among those who benefit from the illegal numbers game.
Cenpeg said the president also needs to do house cleaning within his own government. "Unimpeachable sources revealed, that top officials in the Aquino government involved in security matters are on the take on the P38 billion ($864 million) jueteng industry," the group said.
Catholic bishops also said if the Aquino government is to be true to his campaign promise, then he should put a stop to jueteng.
2011 Proposed Budget, Prone to Corruption
The Aquino administration's proposed P1.645 trillion ($37. 386) national budget for 2011 has been criticized as prone to corruption.
The budget allocated for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel is P 24.8 billion ($5.64 million) - an increase by P13.9 billion or 129 percent from the current allotment.
"Going against public clamor, the President not only maintained but also increased the PDAF by several fold. PDAF - or pork barrel - guarantees congressional alignment to the presidency in exchange for annual "development funds" much of which ends up in corruption," Cenpeg said.
Cenpeg also said the large allocation of pork barrel "undercut Congress' independence and its role as a check-and-balance vis-à-vis the President." Cenpeg explains that by maintaining and increasing the pork barrel, the President has given corruption a tacit endorsement. "Governance by political patronage makes the Aquino presidency no different from Arroyo. The higher the expectation of the chief executive is from the dominant traditional legislators to support his legislative and political agenda, the bigger the pork barrel must then be allocated."
Ibon Foundation also noted what it calls dubious budget allocation such as the P29.2 billion ($663 million) budget for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), especially its Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program. These, according to Africa, "creates massive opportunities for patronage politics at both the local and national levels."
The think-tank also noted a vague large lump-sum item for locally-funded projects under the Department of Agriculture (DA). "Public-Private Partnership Support Fund" under the DA Office of the Secretary has an allocation worth P5 billion ($113.64 million). "Lump sum funds are prone to corruption. Who decides on how these funds are going to be used?" Africa asked.
These large amounts, according to Africa, will be prone to corruption if there is no real anti-corruption drive in government. "While the seeming moves towards greater transparency of the Aquino administration are welcome, it remains to be seen how far these will really have an affect beyond public relations gimmickry," Africa said.