Manila — In support of anti-corruption initiatives of the Government of the Philippines, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners hosted a forum today aimed at promoting transparency and accountability in governance. This forum is part of the Integrity Caravan, a year-long series of activities across the country aimed at building broad-based support and strategic partnerships on anti-corruption. The caravan was launched by the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) and UNDP earlier this year.
The Women for Integrity in Governance Forum enables the key agencies spearheading the government's anti-corruption efforts to rally support from civil society and private sector organizations, and to advocate for transparency and accountability. The two participating agencies -- OMB and the Commission on Audit (COA) -- are headed by women who have demonstrated integrity in upholding the law and commitment to stamp corruption.
As part of a Presidential directive, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and CoA Chair Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan work together under the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council to uphold integrity and accountability in public service.
Joining them in the forum is UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator Rebecca Grynspan who has also been calling for the institutionalization of inclusive and participatory approaches to combating corruption globally.
She cited a UNDP-supported study -- Seeing Beyond the State: Grassroots Women's Perspectives on Corruption and Anti-Corruption -- that surveyed women in 11 communities across eight countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia. The study found that 76 percent of women surveyed think corruption has prevented them from accessing public goods and services. Corruption has diverted funds intended for schools, farm-to-market roads, hospitals and livelihoods for the poor.
Grynspan stressed "the need to expand further people's access to understandable and useable information on government budgets, expenditures and public procurement, and to increase citizen's engagement in implementation and monitoring." She also emphasized that transparency should go hand in hand with accountability, and that a mechanism should be in place to measure progress.
The United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption (UNCAC) is the recognized global mechanism to monitor progress and help hold member states accountable in resource generation, allocation and utilization to deliver on the post-2015 development agenda. Ratified by the Philippines in 2006, the UNCAC is a legally binding instrument that recognizes the importance of both preventive and punitive measures and also calls for the participation of citizens and civil society organizations in accountability processes.
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Luiza Carvalho said that the outcome of the recently-concluded periodic review process of UNCAC implementation in the Philippines presents a valuable opportunity for building wide consensus for political and policy reform to address corruption at the national and local levels. She added that UNDP has been supportive of the OMB's effort to establish a multi-stakeholder mechanism to monitor compliance of the UNCAC.
Civil society and private sector organizations such as Social Watch Philippines (SWP), who play an important oversight role in pursuing anti-corruption initiatives in the country, were also present in the forum. SWP Lead Convenor Prof. Leonor Briones has long been advocating for participatory public finance, which puts citizens' participation at the core of transparent political decision-making processes and administrative procedures. The forum was moderated by award-winning veteran investigative journalist, Malou Mangahas, who has been advocating for the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) law to ensure transparency in government processes and transactions.
The women leaders agreed that uprooting corruption is the responsibility of every citizen in society; that it is only through the engagement and commitment of all stakeholders that the Philippines may succeed in its goal of creating a society that has zero tolerance for corruption.