Officials claim failing control of corruption, rule of law scores based on outdated info
The government believes the Philippines remains eligible for a fresh Millennium Challenge compact despite failing to meet several standards in a scorecard used to determine whether a country should receive aid from the United States.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, in a statement, said there were “inherent time lags” with regard to data used for indicators where the country received failing scores, particularly in terms of control of corruption and rule of law.
“The data on which the ‘control of corruption’ indicator was based and released in September 2017 primarily covers the events of 2016,” he said.
The Finance department noted that the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), the agency that administers the aid, uses information from independent third-party sources for the scorecards.
Dominguez said that in the Philippines’ case, the control of corruption and rule of law scores “were based on an aggregation of quantitative assessments and perception surveys that were collected by the World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators in conjunction with the Brookings Institution based on information for the events of 2016.”
“We have been informed that we are at the median level in these two indicators, which we believe we can improve as we work together with the MCC to enlighten them about our effective efforts to weed out corruption in the Philippine bureaucracy,” he added.
Newly-appointed Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque echoed Dominguez’s claims of outdated data, saying on Friday that the MCC’s “findings … may not completely reflect the reform initiatives of the Duterte administration…”.
The MCC scorecard released on Thursday gave the Philippines below-standard scores in eight out of 20 indicators. Reports focused on the rule of law and control of corruption as the MCC last December deferred a vote on a new grant “subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties”.
The country was previously awarded a five-year, $434-million package that expired in May last year.
The Philippines was again listed as a candidate country in August — meaning the aid agency would reopen discussions — and Dominguez in September said the government was preparing a list of projects for possible funding.
“The scorecards are only one of the factors that the MCC Board takes into consideration when making reselection decisions. We are confident that the Board will take into consideration relevant information and recent data on our very deliberate efforts to improve the ‘control of corruption and adherence to the ‘rule of law,’ indicators,” he said following the release of the MCC scorecard.
“The Philippines remains firmly committed to the rule of law and strictly adheres to due process. The President has also made clear that his platform of government will be based on zero tolerance for corruption in government,” Dominguez said in the statement.
“In its first year in office, the Duterte Administration has actually been relentless in the campaign against corruption in government,” he added.
He noted that the government had cleansed Bureau of Corrections in just weeks after assuming office by replacing its prison guards with elite personnel from the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, and last month issued an executive order creating the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate administrative cases involving presidential appointees.
The administration also set up the 8888 Citizens Complaint Hotline in October last year to receive complaints against corruption and inefficiencies in government, among other measures.
Dominguez said a continued partnership with the MCC could “contribute to making progress in terms of maintaining the country’s growth momentum, improving competitiveness, institutionalizing good governance, and moving closer to our shared objective of inclusive growth.”
“The Philippines remains one of the largest recipients of US assistance in Asia. The US values the partnership of the Philippines on shared interests, especially in countering violent extremism, and in promoting stability across the region,” he noted.
Funds provided under the first MCC compact were used for tax collection reforms at the Bureau of Internal Revenue, 4,000 community development programs under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services or KALAHI-CIDSS, and the construction of 137 miles of roads and 61 bridges in Samar.