Posted in: Press Releases- May 14, 2014 No Comments

[Delivered by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda at the ADB Headquarters, Mandaluyong City, on May 12, 2014]

I am honored to speak on behalf of the President today. Allow me to share with you his message for this occasion:

When we campaigned in 2010 with the promise of curbing corruption, we did so not because it was popular, but because it was the necessary and the right thing to do. We did so because we were determined to do right by our people, correct the mistakes of the past, and, by so doing, empower our countrymen to realize the aspirations they hold for themselves and for our nation. When we said, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”—where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty—we meant business.

This is, why from the very first day we entered office, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work, knowing full well that much had to be done to dismantle the mechanisms of transactionalism and patronage, and in turn fortify the foundations of integrity and accountability—the principles we celebrate in this gathering.

What I said in the past holds true to this day: we came to office not wanting to get on a merry-go-round that went round and round, only to bequeath to the next leaders the same set of problems, or to leave our people in a worse state than when we took over the reins of power.Bearing this in mind, we reformed the way we prepared and managed the budget, with the end view of not only making it more transparent, but one that truly empowers and serves. We likewise committed ourselves to leveling the playing field for those who truly wish to invest in us and in our people. We went after those who held office under questionable circumstances, and appointed men and women of integrity to key posts—one of whom is our ever-committed Ombudsman.

The result: We now are on a steady march towards making possible that which was once impossible—revitalizing a whole society towards fully realizing the potential of our nation. For the first time in a very long while, confidence in our economy is at a sustained high. Proof of this is the most recent upgrade, which we received from Standard & Poor’s, which placed us one notch above the minimum investment grade status; this, on top of being marked investment grade status by the other two major credit ratings agencies.

A sincere commitment to integrity is what enabled us to finally push needed reform in our Bureau of Customs, an agency considered to be corrupt and compromised. And I am told that, because of the changes instituted, the bureau’s cash collection has reached 86.5 billion pesos for the first quarter of this year, which is 26% higher than the collections for the same period in 2013. Their month-on-month cash, meanwhile, is perhaps more impressive, as it has improved from an average of 4.76% for the period of January to October 2013, to 23.9% for the period of November 2013 to January 2014. Let me also add: Under our Department of Finance’s Revenue Integrity Protection Service program, and Run After Tax Evader and Run After The Smugglers programs, a total of 479 cases have been filed to collect what should rightfully be for the people. This has resulted in an annual average increase of 40 billion pesos in tax collections from 2010-2013—funds that we have directed towards improving the services rendered by government.

Then, of course, we have agencies like our Department of Public Works and Highways, which, under the steady and reliable leadership of Secretary Babes Singson, has shed its identity as a den of corruption and is now an agency that exemplifies professionalism and efficiency. The strategy for DPWH was clear: put in place the right people who execute the right projects with the right quality, at the right cost, and right-on-time. And we all know that we have done the right thing because DPWH, to date, has saved about 24 billion pesos, which can be used towards accelerating even more infrastructure development.

Just as we are determined to properly manage and use government’s resources to improve their well-being, we are also hard at work to engage our citizenry in the process of governance.

As President, I’ve always believed that for a strategy to succeed, it must not only be well planned out but must also involve and engage everyone. This is the idea behind the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process, a bottom-up budgeting initiative that treats communities and local government units not as mere idle beneficiaries but as partners in identifying the projects that will ultimately redound to their development. Another important initiative we have launched is Open Data Philippines, which together with the Official Gazette online, seeks to provide our people with up-to-date, comprehensible, and relevant data and information—data and information that impresses upon them that they have a paramount stake in the workings of their government, and that government seeks to engage them in building the nation. And in the coming months, more innovations will be seen with Open Data Philippines as its datasets are expanded and features improved.

All these efforts are part of a long list of reforms that we have implemented in keeping with our promise to our Bosses, the Filipino people. This, I believe, is what it means to tread the straight path: To serve with integrity and to bear in mind the interest of the vast majority. What we have done in such a short amount of time did not come about because we chose what was easy or what was necessarily popular. Often times, it entailed making difficult choices—choices which we knew, though unpopular or unconventional, would set the proper foundation for us to achieve higher goals. But throughout, we made decisions with integrity and a firm resolve to empower our people to the best of our ability. We humbly submit that much has yet to be done; that there are those by the wayside who are determined to stall us as we move forward—those who stand to gain from maintaining a crooked status quo. As leaders, civil servants, and representatives of our people, we were called to provide solutions—and not be the perpetuators of the problem. It is incumbent, therefore, upon all of us to remain committed to upholding their welfare. It is by so doing that we ensure that the gains we enjoy at present will redound to the benefit of future generations of Filipinos.

It is clear: Integrity has served as the bedrock of our determination to jumpstart a virtuous cycle of trust in our institutions and belief in our collective capability—and thus pursue meaningful change throughout the government and society. Integrity has made it possible for us to invite those who were once the opposing end of the table to dialogue with us, find consensus, and advance an agenda of peace. Integrity is what guides us along the straight path, and I believe it will continue to illumine our journey as we work harder to make permanent the positive transformation we see today.

Thank you, and good day.


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