Double jail term for Philippine government officials convicted of corruption?

Manila: Tougher laws are needed to shame and discourage government officials from misusing public funds or their position for personal gain, a leading senator said.

The combative Senator Teofisto Guingona had slammed existing laws for being too weak as to encourage government officials to risk corrupt practices for profit.

“Stronger laws are needed to match the gravity of crimes committed by government officials such as stealing people’s money,” Guingona told Gulf News, adding that the Blue Ribbon Committee he heads has been urging fellow senators to pass two bills that he filed last year to amend existing laws that guide government purchases and prevent graft practices.

Reforms

“It is now the right time to pass Senate Bill 1086 to amend the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Senate Bill No 76 to amend the Government Procurement Reform Act,” Guingona said.

One of his proposed amendments to the anti-graft law calls for the imprisonment of convicted officials for between 12 to 20 years. Guingona added that the current anti-graft law prescribes short jail terms for convicted officials: from six years and a month to 15 years.

“The light sentence is almost a come-on for serial corruption,” Guingona said.

Meanwhile, a proposed amendment of an existing law on government purchases calls for the punishment of any official who recommends, approves, and awards a contract to a fake, dummy, or illegal bidder, said Guingona, referring to a bidder who is not financially, legally, and technically capable of undertaking a government project.

The proposed bill also calls for NGOs that receive government funds for government-led projects to submit their books to the government-run Commission on Audit.

“Although they are not with the government, when they are granted government money, they should comply with the implementing rules and regulations of the existing Government Reform Act,” Guingona said.

As of now, there is no law that compels NGOs that receive government money to undergo a government audit, Guingona added.

These recommendations were made by the Senate blue ribbon committee following revelations that there are growing numbers of senators and congressmen who have approved the release of their respective priority development accelerated fund (PDAF) to non-existing projects to be undertaken by non-functioning non-government organisations, Guingona said.

Three opposition senators and several opposition congressmen were initially charged before the Ombudsman for allegedly misusing development funds that the government allots to them annually.

A private businesswoman, Janet Lim Napoles who allegedly lured lawmakers to participate in the alleged scam through her non-functioning NGOs, was included in the complaint filed by the justice department before the Ombudsman.

The government has lost P10 million (Dh833.3 million) due to these activities — now called pork barrel scam — from 2011 to 2010, investigators said.

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