Cartoon by Roni Santiago

It is encouraging to note that the fight against graft and corruption in the Philippines is being carried out in earnest.

Recent developments indicate the anti-graft campaign has zeroed in on the so-called big fish, mostly top government officials. They include a mayor and three senators – Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile.

In another front, the government is pressing its drive against tax evaders as it filed recently charges against the president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and charges of perjury and unethical conduct against impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Corona posted recently a bail of P160,000 at Sandiganbayan for eight counts of perjury and eight counts of violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

A new high-profile case involved outgoing PMA president Leo Olarte who was charged with tax evasion by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). Olarte allegedly owes the government P2.93 million in deficiency income tax and value-added tax in 2006-2012. The complaint was filed with the Department of Justice (DoJ)

Another new tax-evasion case involved businessman Cedric Lee who was earlier accused by TV host-actor Vhong Navarro of mauling and illegally detaining him. Lee is facing a case filed by the BIR with DoJ for tax liabilities amounting to P194.47 million.

In the campaign against corruption, a case was filed recently with the Sandiganbayan against Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentabella. The case arose from an allegedly overpriced purchase of computers for P26 million. He bought the computers with his pork barrel fund when he was a congressman. He pleaded not guilty of the charge.

Also in connection with the pork barrel scam, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona Jr. has recommended that charges of plunder, direct bribery, violation of anti-graft, among others, be filed against Senators Enrile,  Estrada and Revilla for allegedly channeling their pork barrel to bogus NGOs operated by Napoles in return for hefty kickbacks.

DoJ had earlier filed similar charges against the three senators with the Ombudsman.

Latest reports from Manila stated that the Office of the Ombudsman has announced it will file plunder charges against the three senators.

We laud members of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee for recommending the filing of charges against three of their colleagues. This shows they have the country’s best interests in their heart.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also deserve a pat on the back for their courage and toughness in doing their job no matter who gets hurt.

With officials like BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, Guingona, De Lima and Morales spearheading the campaign against corruption, there is hope for a graft-free Philippines.

However, they should keep pushing the drive in a relentless fashion until all the crooks are put behind bars.


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