Sunday, July 29, 2007

Philippines: judiciary world's 8th most corrupt, says report

RP 8th most corrupt, says report

AN INTERNATIONAL group has ranked the Philippines as the eighth most corrupt country in the world—down from ninth last year—in a study that covered 163 countries.
In its Global Corruption Report 2007, Transparency International also ranked Haiti as the world’s most corrupt country while Finland, Iceland and New Zealand tied in first place as the world’s least corrupt.
The group ranked Singapore as the third least corrupt county next to Denmark. Iceland was the least corrupt last year followed by Finland and New Zealand.
The Global Corruption Report 2007 focused on corruption in judicial systems.
Transparency says a corrupt judiciary erodes the international community’s ability to prosecute transnational crime and inhibits access to justice and redress for human rights violations. Corruption also undermines economic growth by damaging the trust of the investment community and impedes efforts to reduce poverty.
“Corrupt courts deny victims and the accused the basic human right to a fair and impartial trial, sometimes even to a trial at all,” group chairman Huguette Labelle said.
“It is tempting to simply point an accusing finger at judges. The influence of a corrupt judge can be huge… But judicial corruption can extend to all players in the game. Court officials may seek bribes for services that should be free; lawyers may charge additional ‘fees’ to expedite or delay cases, direct clients to judges known to take bribes, collude with judges to lose a case, or even act as intermediaries for bribe-paying. Clerks may purposely lose certain files. Prosecutors may drop certain cases for a price.”
The report categorizes judicial corruption into two: political interference in the judicial process by the Legislative or Executive branch, and bribery.
The group’s latest global survey of attitudes toward corruption reveals that at least one in 10 households had to pay a bribe to get access to justice in more than 25 countries. In a further 20 countries, more than three in 10 households reported that bribery was involved in securing access to justice or a “fair” outcome in court.
Transparency says petty bribery and political influence in the judiciary erodes social cohesion in a society where there is one system for the rich and another for the poor.
“If money and influence are the basis of justice, the poor cannot compete,” said Akere Muna, the group’s vice chairman and president of the Pan African Lawyers’ Union.
“Bribery not only makes justice unaffordable; it ruins the capacity of the justice system to fight against corruption and to serve as a beacon of independence and accountability,” Muna said. Eileen A. Mencias

Editorials: Corruption as ‘two-way traffic’

DISTRICT Customs Collector Ricardo Belmonte complaining about the Bureau of Customs being considered the most corrupt government agency by respondents in a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey is expected.
This is because, in the final analysis, surveys like this are mostly perception, the contrary view of SWS’ Mahar Mangahas notwithstanding.
That survey reflected partly the experiences of businessmen-respondents and partly their perception; it was not a product of actual probe into government corruption.
To be fair to Belmonte, it is possible the customs bureau is not the most corrupt, although it would also be wrong to claim that particular government agency is clean.
But while the SWS survey on corruption in government is partly perception, it veered away from the usual one-sidedness of other similar undertakings, those that put too much stress on the bureaucracy and less on the other contributory factors.
Common sense tells us that corrupt government employees are able to do their thing because there are clients who oblige them or are forced to play along.
Or simply put corruption is a many-sided act.
Smuggling, for example, does not start with the corrupt customs officials but with the smugglers, who are businessmen.
And the net is wide: the act could not be consummated and kept secret without law enforcers getting paid to look the other way, other businessmen knowing about it but keeping silent, and even media people hiding it from public view for a fee.
Survey or no survey, the public knows that only few businessmen follow basic honest practices, whether in issuing receipts which was one of the SWS survey’s findings, but more so in greasing the palms of corrupt government officials.
And this dishonesty extends even to the less powerful sectors of society.
Acting Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Virginia Palanca-Santiago is therefore correct in pointing out that fighting corruption is a “two-way traffic” that involves not just the government but also the public.
The problem is that no effective mechanism has been instituted to attend to the usually hidden aspect of the corruption process: the corrupt elements in the private sector.

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