Malacañang on Friday, November 3 downplayed the Philippines’ low score in terms of controlling corruption and ensuring the rule of law, as assessed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
In a statement, incoming Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque pointed out that the indicators considered by the foreign aid agency for the fiscal year 2018 were based on its methodologies in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
With an assessment based on data that are not up-to-date, Roque claimed that the Philippines’ low scores may not reflect Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s reform initiatives, such as the dismissal of corrupt officials, among others.
“We have to understand that for this year’s scorecard, the ratings in the various indicators were based on their methodologies in 2014, 2015 and 2016,” Roque said.
He added, “The findings, therefore, may not completely reflect the reform initiatives of the Duterte administration in the area of fighting corruption and good governance.”
In the MCC 2018 scorecard, the Philippines failed to meet the performance standard after scoring zero in controlling corruption and -0.01 in ensuring the rule of law. The country’s percentile ranking in the low-income group category was 50 percent.
Malacañang expressed optimism that the Washington-based poverty reduction agency would consider the Philippine government’s latest reforms to combat corruption and improve governance.
Roque emphasized that Duterte, who assumed the presidency last year, has “fired government officials from their posts, including those who were perceived to be close to him, due to reports of corruption.”
He added that the president has also “moved towards restoring people’s faith and trust in the government by making government services accessible to the public.”
Roque cited the implementation of the Freedom of Information order in the executive branch, cutting red tape and streamlining the delivery of frontline services, such as applying for business permits and licensing systems.
Hotlines, such as 8888 for public complaints and 911 for emergencies as well as government centers to receive public concerns, were also established.
Roque further pointed out that the government is likewise “serious in its revenue-collection efforts,” including running after big-time tax delinquents, such as Mighty Corporation, Sunvar Realty Development Corporation and Philippine Airlines.
“We are hopeful that the MCC Board would take into account these initiatives and see our commitment to further reforms in the areas covered by the compact assistance,” he said.
In December 2016, MCC deferred a vote on the re-selection of the Philippines, saying the organization withheld its second aid due to “significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.” The first grant, worth $434 million, was approved by the MCC in 2011.
The Philippines is among the candidate countries to receive assistance for 2018.
MCC said it will assess a country’s eligibility for the grant based on criteria, such as the country’s demonstrated commitment to just and democratic governance, economic freedom, and investments in its people.
While the Philippines scored low in controlling corruption and ensuring the rule of law, it met the performance standard in terms of democratic rights, with scores of 27 for political rights and 36 for civil liberties. It also passed in government effectiveness at 80 percent, and freedom of freedom of information at 77 percent.
In terms of economic freedom, the Philippines failed in access to credit (13 percent), gender in economy (13 percent), and business start-up (43 percent); but passed in fiscal policy (87 percent), regulatory quality (87 percent), and trade policy (67 percent). The country also garnered a good score of 1.8 in terms of inflation.
In the area of investing in its resources, the Philippines met the standards under the categories of natural resource protection (73 percent), child health (70 percent), and girls’ secondary education enrollment rate (55 percent); but scored below the standard in health expenditures (13 percent).