Philippines improves ranking in regional corruption survey

Prinz Magtulis - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines - Ahead of the elections on Monday, the Philippines secured a fresh recognition of its anti-corruption efforts, improving its score and rank in a regional survey that gave its nod to the outgoing Aquino administration.

The country ranked 10th out of 16 countries on the latest Perceptions of Corruption in Asia, the US and Australia by global think tank Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. (PERC).

Last year, it placed 12th.

It also improved its score to 7.05 points from 7.43 the prior year. The gauging scale was 0 to 10, with 10 being the most corrupt.

"The Philippines was the only country we surveyed where there was an improvement of more than 5 percent. This is an example of how leadership can make a difference," PERC said in the report.

"President Benigno Aquino has personally maintained an image for being 'clean' and for trying to reduce the problem," it added.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima welcomed the survey results.

"Over the past six years, we have registered marked improvements across every significant indicator and international ranking. It's clear as day: President Aquino's good governance agenda has driven up this virtuous cycle," Purisima said in a statement on Friday.

The Philippines placed higher than some of its peers in Southeast Asia namely Thailand with 7.67 points at 12th place, Cambodia (7.75, 13th) and Vietnam (7.92, 14th) and Indonesia (15th, 8.0).

It also placed a notch higher than China which scored 7.65 points.

Those which were ranked higher included Malaysia (6.95, 9th) and Taiwan (6th, 6.08). The US placed fifth with 4.61, while Singapore topped the list with 1.67.

While corruption in the country remains a "serious problem," the report said Aquino's performance was enough to move the country higher in the rankings versus his two predecessors.

It also took note that presidential candidates for the May 9 polls have adopted a tone that they either continue Aquino's reforms or do better, a far cry from previous calls for change during elections.

"Mr. Aquino retains a great deal of personal popularity...," it said.

In fact, PERC credited Aquino for the Philippines' better performance than some of its neighbors.

"Countries with worse grades than the Philippines have lacked the top-level leadership that was able to convince the public of their own commitment to high ethical standards, let alone their determination to fix deep, systemic problems with corruption," the report explained.

In Malaysia, for instance, PERC noted that while it ranked higher than the Philippines, the current controversy involving its prime minister caused its score to drop by two points from previous year.

Malaysian leader Najib Razak is facing allegations he funneled money to his personal bank accounts from state company 1Malaysia Development Berhad Ltd. He denies any wrongdoing.

"To be sure every government professes its anti-corruption stance, but obvious problems have persisted for so long and new scandals arise so frequently that people doubt the political will to deal with the problem," the report said.

The survey gathered responses from face-to-face interviews of 100 respondents per country in the first quarter.

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