[Delivered at the Heroes Hall, Malacañan Palace on February 21, 2012]
Doctor Robert Klitgaard; Doctor Edilberto de Jesus; Cabinet members present; fellow workers in government; ladies and gentlemen:
From the beginning of our campaign, I have maintained that the job of the President is composed of three things. The first is the efficient allocation of resources—that as a country with a sizable debt and limited resources, we must be able to utilize those resources to the maximum benefit of our people. The second is to make certain that, as we walk the path to progress, no one is left behind. I believe it is the government’s job to promote inclusive growth, and to create as many opportunities as possible for our people to bridge the gap between rich and poor.
And the third is the bedrock on which the first two are built: The idea that by curbing corruption we can reduce poverty. Or, in simpler terms, the idea that tens of millions of Filipinos voted for in the May 2010 elections which is our slogan, Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. This is the blueprint for all our efforts known as our Social Contract with the Filipino people. This is the core strategy for changing the status quo.
But strategy is different from tactics; the long term vision is different from the day-to-day grind—the small, progressive steps we must take to achieve that vision. While I am proud of what we have achieved on the anti-corruption front so far, today we are here to refine our tactical efforts even further. We have to do this because while those who want to preserve the old status quo may be down, they are certainly not out; and they will not go away quietly. They will try to blur the issues. They will try to attempt to roll back reform. And they will continue using the vast resources they have accumulated through the years to resist the people’s efforts to hold them accountable.
What the people ultimately demand of us is that we continue our reforms, that we fight harder than our opponents, so that we truly create a new status quo: where taxpayers can look forward to a government that delivers—a status quo where the government builds bridges and roads that actually exist; where Filipinos who work hard are rewarded justly; where the judiciary can freely live up to the spirit of the law; and where public servants truly regard the people as their bosses.
And the bottom line here is our people. We want our students to have proper bridges to cross so they can walk on proper roads to get to real schools that will give them quality, world-class education. We want to put an end to ghost bridges leading to ghost schools, populated by ghost teachers. We also want our farmers, for example, to be assured of a fair price for their produce in the market, and thereby have an incentive to produce. We want our judiciary to dispense justice blindly, as they should.
And perhaps this explains our fight to restore integrity to the judiciary, which has made headlines everywhere. No one should doubt that our justice system is a major battleground for reform. In the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom released by the Heritage Foundation, it shows that while the Philippines has made progress in terms of fighting corruption, the problem of judicial inefficiency and susceptibility to outside pressures, remains a serious concern. We cannot sustainably fight corruption unless we reintroduce a sense of accountability—a sense that, if you commit a crime, you will be punished. If certain elements are still able to prevent Gloria Arroyo, for example, from being held accountable, then it makes a mockery of all of our anti-corruption efforts.
We want to send a stern yet simple message: Justice evades no one. There are no exceptions in our campaign against corruption. It shouldn’t matter if you are a former President or in the lowest ranks of public service. If you are dishonest, then you must be held to account.
What we are doing can actually be summed up in a few words: We are giving this country back to its people. We are giving them a government that knows that it is ultimately accountable to them.
Those of you here, especially Doctor Klitgaard, are a significant part of this, and I thank you all for being here. We need to strengthen what is working, and to rectify what is not. And we need to make sure that those in the margins receive the tangible benefits of good governance, even as we remain relentless in our pursuit of reform.
Doctor Klitgaard has famously said that corruption equals monopoly of power, plus official discretion, minus accountability. Accountability is the people’s domain. This is why the plan aims not just to bring daylight into every nook and cranny in government, but also to open the halls of power to the people. We must make sure that they are engaged, and that they understand that power truly rests in their hands.
I am hopeful that, through the ideas we share and generate today, we can build even more on our successes. Let us take this opportunity to learn from each other and ultimately fulfill the dream we share with our people: that of a Philippines free from the grip of corruption—free to prosper under the broad light of day. Rest assured, if we stay true to our peoples’ cherished idea of honest, transparent governance, then, surely, more progress awaits us in the future.
And before I end, may I just share with you that in the next few days, we will be coming up with the fruits of our fight against corruption. We will make everybody aware of very tangible gains that we’ve already made especially in the economic sphere. I’m sorry if I cannot give you more details today. I promised the Communications group that I will await their finessing the message [laughter], and that will break out the message more conretely and at the appropriate time. But, can I just say, and to whet your appetites a bit, that when I was going through this—these achievments that we have all collectively done—it was enough to give me a glow that lasted until I saw Secretary Abad this morning. [Laughter] And I assure you once you are made aware of this news, you will feel doubly strengthened and heartened to continue this fight that we are embarking on.
Thank you all, and may we all have a productive workshop today.