Press Release
Statement of Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr.
before the Cambodian Delegation at the Senate
August 8, 2006


Welcome to our friends from the Senate of Cambodia led by H.E. Mr. Chea Cheat and thanks to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for making this forum possible.

I am a bit unhappy that the over-all topic that we are to discuss is corruption, a sordid facet of the life of nation. My sadness is somewhat offset by the fact that I am to discuss Anti-Corruption Legislation in our country and its effectiveness.

More than enough laws

This country abounds with more than enough laws to fight corruption. I can rattle off some of the major laws that penalize corruption:

1) The Anti-Graft Law;

2) The Revised Penal Code articles specifically on bribery and malversation;

3) The Anti-Plunder Law;

4) The Anti-Money Laundering Law;

5) The law that requires public officials to file Statements of Assets and Liabilities;

6) The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards Act; and

7) The Law mandating the forfeiture of unlawfully acquired property.

We even have a constitutional provision that defines public office as a public trust and requires public servants to live frugal lives and to act with transparency in the discharge of their duties.

Dismal records

And yet, the records of the various administrations that have run this country are, to put it diplomatically, dismal on the matter of combating corruption.

It is safe to say that the state of corruption that distinguishes one administration from another is simply one of degree.

Long ago, when I was still a student, I heard of some corruption in high places of government that run into a few thousand pesos.

When I became a professional, the corruption seems to have scandalously risen geometrically to millions if not billions of pesos today. Massive corruption has also infected the lower echelons of government.

Entire body politic

And now, as a political player in government, I know that sad to say corruption appears to have infected the entire body politic.

Just days ago, USAID gave a grant of some P1 billion to combat corruption in the country.

Some people in high places of government reacted with joy at the news of the grant.

Source of embarrassment

To me it is a source at the very least of embarrassment.

Embarrassment because it announces to the world that corruption is a fact of life in the country.

Embarrassment because it proclaims to the world that as government, we are unable to combat corruption by ourselves.

Embarrassment because it assumes that it is more money that the government needs to fight corruption successfully.

Embarrassment because it suggests that what a learned man once said is true: that corruption in government succeeds only if the culture of a people allows it.

Political will, absent

I must say that while money is needed, perhaps, to oil the anti-corruption machinery of the country, it is not the primordial factor in the drive against corruption.

What is lacking in the government drive against corruption is the political will of the officials in government starting from the president down to the lowliest implementor of the laws of the land to execute the laws against corruption without fear or favor.

We have more than enough laws to jail all the corrupt public officials of the land.

Earlier, I cited some of the existing laws on anti-corruption.

Some easy examples

Still we see public officials steal not only money but also the elections to gain public office. Up to this moment, they appear able to thumb their noses at the people with impunity.

Up to this moment, we see millions of government fertilizer funds intended to assist the farmers disappear into the pockets of bureaucrats and some politicians in 2004. The ones responsible are still roaming free either here or seeking asylum elsewhere.

Up to this moment, we see tainted deals entered into some years back to automate our election process. And the officials responsible to this very day are making pious pronouncements of their innocence from their air-conditioned government offices.

Up to this moment, we see questionable contracts to construct railroads in the country entered into about two years ago by the government. And there no sincere effort to undo or correct them.

And up to this moment, we see billions of trust funds of our overseas workers inexplicably disappear from public view as if the magician Houdini dipped his hand into the funds. This is very sad because the money is needed to evacuate our 30,000 overseas workers stranded in Lebanon.

Local officials, too

Worse, we now see a presidential admission that local governments also suffer from corruption.

In her state of the nation address three weeks ago, she announced that in a city in Mindanao corruption in city contracts had dropped down from 68% to a lower figure. To the chagrin of the more observant among our people, the presidential statement was taken by the city officials as a pat on the back of the city mayor instead of as a left-handed warning that she knew of the corrupt deals in the city and that she should by law have to call the mayor and other city officials to account.

To our peoples disappointment, up to now, she appears to have done nothing to throw the book at the erring local public officials concerned.

I can cite more specific instances of graft and corruption in the land. But why bore you with more bad statistics?

Let me just repeat at this juncture that this country does not need more laws to fight corruption.

Deed, not word

This country needs the political will from our government officials to stamp out corruption.

If government is to combat corruption successfully, the leaders starting from the president- must show by deed, not only by word, that she does not tolerate corruption.


If the leaders are clean, pressure is exerted on their followers by their example to be clean in their dealings also.

If the followers see that their leaders are corrupt, they are encouraged to follow the bad example of the lives of the latter.

People basically honest

I do not wish to end this talk on that sour note. Let me, therefore, say that our people are basically honest.

You go to the countryside and you will find people who will take you to their homes, share with you their meager meals, and smile their way through the adversities of life.

People who are dishonest wont do the things our simple folks do.

A recent poll survey shows that as a people, we are the happiest among the peoples, at least, of Southeast Asia.

May I, then, end with a happy note: Welcome to the Senate of my country, welcome to the land of the happiest people in this part of the globe.

Thank you for your kind indulgence.

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