Insights and Analysis

In the Philippines: Fighting Corruption Most Cited Concern Among Business Leaders in Choosing Next President

March 10, 2010

By Ky D. Johnson

On February 19, the results of the ninth Enterprise Survey on Corruption in the Philippines were released to the public. As campaigning heats up in the Philippines for national elections in May, a particular finding is worth pointing out: 75 percent of business managers feel that “fighting corruption” is an important concern in choosing a presidential candidate.

For nearly a decade, the Enterprise Survey on Corruption has provided a unique snapshot of the Filipino business sector’s perspectives on corruption and good governance. Since 2000, The Asia Foundation has partnered with Social Weather Stations, the Philippines’ foremost non-profit, nongovernment data generation organization, to conduct a series of surveys to examine the attitudes and actual experiences of businesses with regard to public and private sector corruption.

This data helps the Filipino public track businesspeople’s perceptions of corruption, the perceived sincerity of government agencies in fighting corruption, and the actual business practices of the private sector. The surveys have proven to be especially important tools in raising consciousness about the costs of corruption, pointing out the need for critical reforms, and measuring the effectiveness of counter-corruption efforts. The results have also served as important indicators used by development organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, and civil society to measure progress in the fight against corruption.

In contrast to most international corruption indices, such as the most recent report by the Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. (PERC), which often survey expatriate managers or the broader general public, the Enterprise Survey focuses specifically on Filipino business managers operating in the Philippines. The survey interviews are conducted in-person and face-to-face with business managers. This round covered 550 managers from five different areas of the Philippines. The responses are based on personal experience, and therefore the data are a fairly accurate proxy for actual levels of corruption. Moreover, since many of the respondents are sampled from year to year, the responses allow for useful comparisons over time.

Among the notable findings for 2009 were:

  • 75% of business managers feel that “fighting corruption” is an important concern in choosing a presidential candidate.
  • 78% of business managers agree that passage of a law on the right to information will help to reduce corruption.
  • 19% of managers report that companies in their line of business always pay taxes honestly, and 21% report that companies in their line of business keep only one set of accounting books (both figures are nearly unchanged in the past five years).
  • A majority indicated that procedures at city/municipal government offices are understandable and transparent, especially for business permits and licensing.

The 2009 Enterprise Survey on Corruption was first presented in Metro Manila and will be subsequently presented in Cebu and Davao. The presentation was hosted by the Asian Institute of Management -Hills Governance Center (AIM-HGC) and also featured a presentation by Professor Michael Johnston of Colgate University who spoke on Syndromes of Corruption and the fight against corruption. Download the Social Weather Stations presentation or download the full results of the 2009 survey.

Ky D. Johnson is The Asia Foundation’s Deputy Country Representative in the Philippines. He can be reached at [email protected].


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