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Bishops doubt president's plan for graft-free Philippines

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 15 Jun 2011 12:05 GMT
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BANGKOK (TrustLaw) - Bishops in the Philippines are sceptical that President Benigno Aquino III, who swept to power on a platform of fighting corruption, can rid the deeply religious country of graft, the Philippine Star reported this week.

Aquino’s vision of making the country free of corruption under his administration is “not attainable”, according to Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez.

Almost one third of the Southeast Asian nation’s population of 92 million lives below the poverty line. Experts say corruption occurs with impunity, and is a major obstacle to economic development.

The Philippines ranks 134 out of 178 countries in the 2010 Transparency International corruption perceptions index, on a par with Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Bishop Gutierrez urged President Aquino, son of the late democracy icon Corizon Aquino, to purge corrupt and incompetent government officials immediately.

"He should fire and not protect his friends if guilty of any wrongdoing. Select competent officials,” the Star quoted Gutierrez as saying

Other bishops have followed suit, with one calling the president’s promise “a tall order”.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines is a powerful political force and has played a key role in the overthrow of two presidents, including Marcos, in the past 25 years. Analysts say its support was critical for the rule of Aquino’s mother as well as his predecessor Gloria Arroyo.


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