Philippine Headline News Online
October 14, 2005
The judiciary is the “biggest stumbling block” in the Philippine government’s effort to curb corruption, mainly because of its snail-paced trial of graft charges against corrupt government officials, Hong Kong’s former anti-corruption czar said.
“It can hardly be a deterrent,” Tony Kwok told The Star, noting that it takes at least six years for the courts to resolve one graft case, while it takes only one to two years in Hong Kong. Kwok, the former head of the world-renowned Independent Commission Against Corruption, said this “undue delay in the prosecution of corrupt officials” is why the judiciary is the “biggest stumbling block” in the government’s fight against corruption.
However, Kwok expressed hope that corruption can still be minimized, if not totally eradicated, if the government has the political will to weed out scalawags from among its 1.5 million personnel.
“We can eradicate corruption, provided there’s strong political will, the Ombudsman is given sufficient resources and the judiciary is able to reform,” he said in a speech at a forum hosted by the Asia Society Philippine Foundation at the Manila Peninsula.
“Fighting corruption is a game of perception. In any society, there are lots of potential corrupt people,” Kwok said, adding that the government can still wipe out corruption in the next two years – but only if it fulfills the three conditions he specified.
Kwok, chief advisor to the Ombudsman since 2003, said he expects a “suitable replacement” for Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo who leaves government service on Nov. 30, the date he set for his irrevocable resignation to take effect.
“The next Ombudsman should have a great degree of integrity, have a sense of mission, political courage, ability to manage, must be professional and someone who knows about corruption enforcement,” he said.
Kwok also said Marcelo’s successor “should be a person who has some sense of integrity and political will to push for the various reforms which he commenced. The man should be able to live beyond his stress,” referring to Marcelo’s deteriorating health, which the outgoing Ombudsman cited as his reason for resigning.
“I’m probably one of the few persons who can fully appreciate the stress of his job since I have been in this job for 27 years. There’s enormous stress in his job. I can understand if for health reasons he resigned,” Kwok said.
President Arroyo, declaring war on corruption, appointed Kwok to be her special advisor on anti-corruption in May. She said she is confident that, with Kwok’s help, she can win the battle within the next three to four years.
Kwok said that in the Philippines, corruption is viewed as a low-risk, high-return crime. Most companies put aside 22 percent of the cost of a government project just to pay bribes, a survey by the Social Weather Stations polling group found after questioning 700 managers across the country.