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The Asia Foundation Convenes Stakeholders to Discuss and Plan Anti-Corruption Efforts in the Philippines

December 21, 2021 — Marking this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day is a new initiative to explore ways to scale up anticorruption efforts in the Philippine law enforcement sector. The Asia Foundation conducted a virtual discussion on December 13, “Anti-Corruption in Philippine Law Enforcement: A Forum Webinar,” with support from the U.S. Embassy’s Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) in Manila and participants from various agencies.  

“Law enforcement agencies in the Philippines are key partners in addressing corruption in government offices. There are effective programs and internal mechanisms for corruption prevention and education in law enforcement agencies, and we would like to highlight these. We see a potential in boosting and scaling up anticorruption efforts in the law enforcement sector,” says Sam Chittick, country representative of The Asia Foundation in the Philippines. 

The one-day forum examined issues, gaps, and measures to fight corruption within the Philippine law enforcement sector. A presentation of a rapid assessment study undertaken from November to December 2021 further informed the plenary and breakout discussions. Insights from the survey and key takeaways from the forum will be presented in a report that may inform the Foundation of future action points. 

Fifty-five participants from twenty-two law enforcement and related agencies attended the forum. Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, the keynote speaker, framed key corruption and law enforcement issues for the day’s discussion. Other resource speakers include Attorney Kirbee Tibayan, national program officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Attorney Michael Tiu, Jr., research consultant for The Asia Foundation.  

Mr. Chittick said that various channels should be envisaged to thresh out issues in corruption and trigger reflections –both from a sectoral perspective and on the level of the individual agencies– as to how key actors can optimize current mechanisms, seek inspiration from local and international best practices, and draw actionable steps to strengthen the fight against corruption in the law enforcement sector. 

“Combatting corruption enhances stability, augments the rule of law, supports human rights and democracy, amongst many benefits. Corruption is best addressed when countries share a common vision and a strong commitment to taking effective steps to prevent and prosecute corruption,” said Kelia Cummins, director of the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. Ms. Cummins also referred to the U.S. Strategy on Countering corruption, highlighting the importance of interagency cooperation in anticorruption. 

“Credibility is vital to the success of any interest to rid ourselves of corruption. To have any hope of effectively combatting corruption and initiating a culture of outrage at the same, the key officials of government, we ourselves, must endeavor to be models of integrity, competence, and dedication. An effective campaign for good governance to be sustainable must consist of periodic checks to ensure that persons in positions of authority consistently exhibit good leadership by example,” said Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang. 

“We must make a conscious move towards inculcating a corruption-free culture in our agencies by instilling a sense of outrage at its occurrence, rather than acceptance of the same. In this connection, we must ensure that there are tougher mechanisms for the reporting and filing of complaints that do not place the burden on the whistleblower,” she added. 

Atty. Kirbee Tibayan of the UNODC added that a sectoral approach in combating corruption is a good way forward: “A law enforcement integrity network can be an efficient tool for facilitating cooperation in combating corruption, strengthening peer learning exchange between law enforcement authorities, and cultivating a culture intolerant of corruption.” 

In her video message on behalf of the U.S. Embassy, Charges d’Affaires Heather Variava reaffirms their commitment to working with partner countries, including the Philippines, to uphold international norms, develop best practices, and strengthen government institutions to promote good governance, transparency, and accountability. 

Integrity standards and anticorruption mechanisms are widely embedded in Philippine laws. There are also oversight institutions, tribunals, and procedures that ensure anticorruption measures are enforced, such as the Sandiganbayan, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Commission on Audit. 

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Working through its offices in 18 countries and informed by deep local expertise and six decades of experience, the Foundation addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation. 

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Related locations: Philippines
Related programs: Good Governance

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