Manila: The Philippines has ranked high in a corruption risk index of defence establishments worldwide, placing near the bottom 22 per cent of countries surveyed by the UK-based watchdog Transparency International.
The Philippines was placed in “Band E,” in the spectral scale where “Band F” is considered the worse in terms of political corruption of defence establishments.
The country placed alongside Afghanistan, Cote D’Ivoire, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Setting the bar for least corrupt in defence procurement are Australia and Germany.
In its evaluation, Transparency International (TI) nevertheless cited that the Philippines is making efforts to make defence procurement transparent.
“The Philippine Congress is permitted to scrutinise defence policy and both the Senate and the House of Representatives have committees on national defence. The defence budget is available online and there have been recent examples of vigorous debates on the subject of defence policy in the Senate,” TI said.
However, it mentioned much authority seems to be concentrated on the executive branch, particularly the President.
“…Considerable power rests with the President and the de facto oversight authority of the Congress is limited. Furthermore, it has been asserted that some members of the government use their powers to influence defence policy as leverage to secure personal benefits,” the watchdog said.
The defence establishment corruption risk index released recently by the TI the first global analysis involving defence establishments worldwide.
TI said its intentions with coming out with the index is “to give governments, armed forces, civil society and citizens the tools to avoid the dangers and inefficiencies that corruption in defence brings.”
“Transparency International calls on governments to make this traditionally secretive sector, which involves large public contracts, more open. Defence establishments should increase citizens’ access to information about defence budgets and procurement. Legislators should have stronger controls and oversight of the sector, possessing the teeth and access to cut corruption down,” TI said in its website.
TI took note of efforts by the defence establishment to be more transparent. It pointed to a 2011 survey that said 50 per cent of the population believe the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be the most corrupt institution in the country’s government.
“There is, however, some evidence of openness to Civil Society Organisation (CSO) involvement in anti-corruption activities. In late 2011, a CSO was set up to function as a defence policy watchdog, though it is too early to ascertain whether the group will increase CSO involvement in defence policy oversight. Recent investigations found that officers involved in the internal audit of defence ministry expenditure were heavily implicated in widespread corruption within the armed forces,” TI said.
Likewise, the TI cited a pending measure in Congress, the Freedom of Information Bill that aims to make government transactions more transparent.
Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for his part, rejected TI’s claims that the Philippines is one of the countries whose defence sectors have very high risk of corruption.
“We have been very transparent since the time of President Benigno S. Aquino III which started in 2010. We made a lot of reforms in the bidding process to make it more transparent,” he was quoted in a government report as saying.