Public Accountability: The Philippine Experience
Under a democracy such as in the Philippines, the people’s fundamental faith in the integrity of political institutions is what holds the system together even under the most difficult times. The present situation in the Philippines is a test of this principle. Whether or not the test is passed with success is a matter yet to be seen. However, at this stage, what could be gainfully learned from present experience is the knowledge that people’s trust seems to lie on the existence of ethics and accountability mechanisms and infrastructure. As shown and proven with quite a measure of success by many studies, ethics and accountability are keys not only to effective government but also to effective governance. The following discussions deal with some of the infrastructures and initiatives in the Philippines.
The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines provides the basis of ethical and accountable behavior in the public sector. Section 1 of Article XI states that: Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. This provision requires every public official and employee to exhibit and live certain values while in government service. In addition, the State has been mandated by the Constitution to “maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption”. In 1989, the Philippine legislature passed Republic Act No. 6713, a law embodying the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. The Code spells out in fine detail the do’s and don’ts for government officials and employees in and out of the workplace. These do’s and don’ts are encapsulated in the eight norms of conduct to be observed by all government officials and employees. These norms or standards are: • Commitment to public interest
• Justness and sincerity
• Political neutrality
• Responsiveness to the public
• Nationalism and patriotism
• Commitment to democracy
• Simple living
The Code, likewise, introduced some reforms in the administrative systems like giving heads of agencies the responsibility of ensuring there is a value development program for their employees; continuing studies on work systems and procedures with the end in view of improving the delivery if public services; and, mandating the designation of a resident Ombudsman in every department, office and agency. Incentives and rewards system has also been put in place. Another comprehensive law passed to address and curb the commission of malfeasance in government is Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. In Section 1 of this law, it states that: It is the policy of the Philippine Government, in line with the principle that a public office is a public trust, to repress certain acts of public officer and private persons alike which constitute graft and corrupt practices which may lead thereto. This law specifies eleven (1 1) instances of corrupt practices in addition to acts or omissions already penalized by existing laws.
The legal infrastructure that prescribes ethical conduct of; public servants is reinforced by political commitment. This political commitment, while difficult to benchmark, has been demonstrated by some policy pronouncements. Quite significant are the ten-point action agenda of the present Administration and the Medium-Term Development Plan (2000 2004) or Angat Pinoy 2004 which embody the framework for the country’s socioeconomic development. The agenda and the MTDP place the implementation of a sustained training and orientation program on anti-graft and corrupt practices and laws,...
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