Pampanga governor Ed Panlilio’s revelation that he was given a bagful of cash amounting to P500,000 at an official function at Malacañang is concrete proof of what we have long suspected – that corruption is endemic in the “transactional politics” being practiced by many of our public officials.

Public officials must be above suspicion and must always be forthright and transparent. Receiving cash in a bag, without documentation, is claimed as routine and normal. No amount of claims that it is “normal” will make it acceptable to the citizenry. Former Manila mayor Lito Atienza’s admission that he regularly received cash from Malacañang raises many questions. How much cash has been received by elected officials over the years? Has it all been accounted for and publicly reported?

The delay in President Arroyo’s instruction to both the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission and the Ombudsman to investigate Governor Panlilio’s revelation is disappointing. Even more of an affront to the intelligence and sensibilities of the citizens is the response of the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) 13 days after the fact, claiming responsibility for the cash giveaways. Unless the LPP can back up its claim with solid documentary evidence, the public will remain unconvinced of its supposed role in the whole sordid affair.

If President Arroyo wants public perception to turn positive, she should appoint an Independent Commission, composed of people whose reputation for integrity and independence are unquestioned, to look into the claims of the LPP, ascertain where the money actually came from, and why such a thing can occur. The results should immediately be released to the public.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council should take action and make a determination of the nature and origin of the money that was handed out in the Presidential Palace.

How the President handles this controversy will either give credence to her claims that she is serious about fighting corruption or feed into the festering feeling that corruption continues in high places.

Jose Cuisia Jr., Chairman, Coalition Against Corruption (CAC)
Vicente Paterno, National Co-Chairman, Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference (BBC)
Fr. Carmelo Diola, Coordinating Steward, Dilaab and Barug Pilipino
Ma. Aurora Tolentino, Chairperson, Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO)
Vincent Lazatin, Executive Director, Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN)
Alberto Lim, Executive Director, Makati Business Club
Benjamin Tolosa Jr., Convenor, Puwersa para sa Ganap na Demokrasya (Pugadlawin)
Gordon Alan Joseph, President, Cebu Business Club
Felipe Medalla, Chairman, Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF)
Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III, Coordinator, Action for Economic Reform (AER)
Cynthia Annie Corpin, Chairperson, PhilDHRRA
Emmanuel Areno, Coordinator, Western Visayas Network of Development NGOs (WEVNET)
Marietta Paragas, President, Cordillera Network of Development NGOs and POs (CORDNET)
Paulina Lawsin-Nayra, Coordinator, Eastern Visayas Network of Development NGOs (EVNET)
Greg Fernandez, Coordinator, Central Visayas Network of NGOs (CENVISNET)
Fr. Nono Eyule, Chairperson, Coalition for Bicol Development (CBD)

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