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Solons bat for creation of an independent, unimpeachable body vs corruption

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Lawmakers on Monday called for the early passage of a bill creating a National Independent Commission Against Corruption whose members will come from non-political sectors with "untainted integrity."

House Bill 2903, authored by Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City) and brother Maximo Rodriguez Jr. (Abante Mindanao party-list), is among the many vital measures pending with the House committee on government reorganization.

"In the Philippines, anti-graft bodies were created in an effort to curb corruption. However, these anti-graft bodies lack the real independence that an anti-corruption body requires. They just become part of the already bloated and corrupt bureaucracy," the Cagayan de Oro solon said.

He said the proposed measure will create an "unimpeachable anti-corruption agency with personnel that is currently selected from the civil society and is subject to strict disciplinary codes and anti-corruption check."

"Is there a need to create another body to fight corruption? Yes, but it must have real independence and the powers to implement its mandate," he said.

"Corruption kills and adds to global insecurity and the risks of war. Corruption increases poverty, curbs freedom, undermines human rights and distorts trade," he said.

The Cagayan de Oro City lawmaker noted that the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index shows levels of perceived corruption are high in most nations of the world.

"People can tell stories about how corruption in its worst form, notably the abuse of public office for private gain, takes a daily toll on their lives," he said.

Among the vital functions and powers of the Commission are the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which covers a compelling range of issues such as international security, arms control, poverty alleviation, justice, democracy, human rights and fair trade; implementation of a national anti-corruption framework, program strategies and a corresponding action agenda of the government in consultation with government agencies, the private sector, and civil society organization; to investigate summon witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony or evidence relevant to its investigations and issue compulsory process to produce documents, books, records and such other matters, in the performance of its functions; and initiate legal action in cases where a party refuses to take oaths, give testimony or produce documents for inspection, when lawfully required.

The commission can also grant immunity to any person whose testimony or possession of documents or other evidence is necessary or convenient to determine the truth in an investigation conducted by it or under its authority; endorse for prosecution to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice, as the case may be, upon finding of a prima facie case, any matter that the Commission shall find to constitute graft and corruption committed by a public official, private group or individual; verify the observance of the ceiling on electoral expenditure and the accuracy of the election campaign accounts and assist in the investigation of palpable and massive electoral fraud, as well as monitor the actions of the different boards of canvassers during elections in coordination with the Commission on Elections.

The body can also examine the execution of public works contracts as to both tendering and results, and verify the award of public works and supply contracts and the assignment of operations by the public authorities whether the same were conducted properly and honestly; and undertake a comprehensive audit or lifestyle check on any public officer or employee.

Under the bill, the Commission shall be headed by a chairperson, assisted by three commissioners who shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines without requirement of confirmation. They shall serve on a full-time basis or shall not hold any other public office. The chairperson shall serve a term of five years and the commissioners shall serve a term of three years.

By Lilybeth G. Ison




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