Monday, October 26, 2020

Philippines: P700 billion lost yearly due to corruption

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The Philippines is losing around P700 billion, or around 20 percent of the country’s total budget appropriation, yearly, due to corruption, an official said.

Deputy Ombudsman Cyril Ramos said the Philippines ranked the 6th most corrupt among Asia Pacific countries.

“We need to keep reminding ourselves how destructive corruption is, especially for developing countries like ours,” he said during the National Police Commission’s summit on crime prevention Thursday.

The figure is equivalent to some 1.4 million housing for the poor, medical assistance for around 7 million Filipinos, or a rice buffer stock that can last for more than a year, he added.

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“With that amount, no Filipino would get hungry.” he said.

The summit, attended by officials of government agencies and various community sectors, seeks to improve crime situation through effective strategies on how to combat criminality including crimes of corruption.

Napolcom vice chairman and executive officer Rogelio Casurao said the results of the summit will help rationalize the framework for crime prevention for the next three years of the Duterte administration.

“The ultimate goal is peace and order thru intensifying anti-crime initiatives,” he said.

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Casurao said illegal drugs, robbery, and theft are still the top crimes in the country, while lack of cooperation and coordination among state agencies, limited resources and funds, and lack of prosecutors to handle cases remain to be top problems of the country’s judicial system.

Atty. Raul Villanueva, deputy court administrator of the Supreme Court, said around 85 percent of cases in the country are criminal in nature, and the judiciary’s “continuous trial guidelines” and “plea bargaining framework” have helped in reducing the number of cases.

Related: Sanctions loom if Philippines fails money laundering law review

The continuous trial guidelines are adjustments to the timeline of judicial process, such as: plea bargaining is now held prior to arraignment, pre-trial and arraignment takes place on the same day, and mediation takes place only after pre-trial has been terminated.

Courts are also mandated to conduct trial hearings both in the morning and afternoon.

In the plea bargaining framework, such as in drug cases, offenders may plead guilty in exchange for a lesser offense or a lighter penalty.

But Villanueva clarified that the courts are strict in allowing plea bargaining in drug cases especially if the offender has a relapse of drug abuse, has been charged many times, and if evidence of guilt is strong.

“In these cases, Supreme Court said courts should not allow plea bargaining,” he said.

Villanueva added that the Supreme Court is also about to pilot test in the next two years a video conference mechanism between the courts and high risk inmates.

It is set to be tested between Davao City Hall of Justice and Davao City Jail, New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa, and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The policy recommendations that will be formulated in the summit will be given to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval.

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