Continuously Seeking for TRUTH, Demanding Public ACCOUNTABILITY, And Pushing For Meaningful & Long-term REFORMS

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Find below the statement of the public accountability group that I belong to. This statement was written on the eve of Arroyo's state of the nation address.
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The lack of transparency in the process of appointing the new Comelec Commissioners; the Non-passage of the much needed CARP Extension with Reform Bill; the Questionable appointment of Romulo Neri as the President and CEO of the Social Security System; the Blatant withholding of information on key government transactions and issues from the public. These are only some of the recent developments bearing heavily on our unceasing search for Truth, Accountability and Reform.

The actions of Malacanang with regard to these issues remain to be disturbingly familiar. The ills and malevolence in the government that we, as a people, have long been working to stop, continue to persist. Among them:

The lack of transparency in the process of appointing the new Comelec Commissioners: Election watchdogs that are part of the civil society Comelec search committee were left to wonder what procedures and rules were followed in the nomination process and where exactly the names of the two recently appointed Comelec commissioners came from. The utter lack of transparency in the process raises more doubts on the credibility of the poll body and the electoral process.

The Non-passage of the much needed bill on the CARP Extension with Reforms: Despite the certification of the bill on CARP extension with reforms by no less than President Arroyo as urgent, the 14th congress failed to pass a law that would give hope to the millions of rural poor to have their own land. There are still close to 2 million hectares of land yet to be distributed to farmers, but without a new law, the social justice provision of the constitution on agrarian reform will remain unfulfilled.

Questionable appointment of Romulo Neri as President and CEO of the Social Security System: In spite of grave doubts on the independence and moral courage of Romulo Neri, he was still appointed as president and CEO of the SSS. This new appointment causes real concern among SSS members that their lifesavings may become hostage to narrow political ends.

Refusal to disclose information on matters affecting public interest: Consistent with its track record on such issues as Hello Garci scandal, the fertilizer scam, North Rail deal, the ZTE-NBN issue, and other government transactions, the Arroyo government has privileged secrecy by invoking executive privilege rather than upholding the constitutional right of the people to information on matters of public interest.

The ZTE-NBN controversy and other issues may appear to have dissipated but the crux of our problem remains unaddressed. Under the Arroyo regime, serious questions about utter lack of transparency and accountability, systemic corruption, and blatant abuse of power, have remained unanswered and unresolved.

Genuine reforms and the kind of good governance that the Filipino people truly deserve are being sacrificed for the sake of self-serving gains and short-term political considerations. The imperative of social justice and the call for Truth, Accountability and long-term Reforms have become even more urgent.

In the light of these recent events, we call upon all Filipinos to join us in continuously seeking for the TRUTH, demanding public ACCOUNTABILITY and pushing for long-term REFORMS. Our inaction contributes to the whole problem and it only emboldens those who are making a mockery of our democracy, institutions and of our collective human dignity.

Upon careful reflection, we hereby reiterate our calls for the following:

1. Upholding the Truth:
a. Defend the truth amidst malicious attempts to muddle it
b. Provide support to whistleblowers by offering sanctuaries and financial support
c. Call on those with knowledge to speak up on corruption and abuse of power
d. Call on the government not to hide behind the "executive privilege" on matters that gravely affect public interests
e. Establish truth centers for awareness-building, reflection and formation toward socio-political engagement

2. Promoting Accountability:
a. Investigate and indict those culpable of serious crimes
b. Monitor closely proceedings underway at the Office of the Ombudsman
c. Push for the creation of an Independent counsel to investigate and prosecute wrong-doers
d. Facilitate coordinated action among concerned citizens, lawyers groups and conscienticized civil servants to build cases leading to the conviction of those who have violated the public trust

3. Working for Meaningful and Long-term Reform
a. Give the greater number of people, especially the poor, a real stake in democracy: push for the passage of the CARP Extension with Reforms Bill (CARPER) and the strict implementation of agrarian reform and other programs for inclusive and sustainable development
b. Reform the loan procurement, BOT and other development project approval systems to ensure transparency and accountability at different stages;
c. Promote freedom of information
d. Depoliticize, further professionalize, and strengthen the capacity of the Civil Service
e. Restore trust in the electoral process: revamp the Comelec; make the selection process transparent; appoint credible individuals;
f. Modernize elections; address warlordism and dynasties; promote party-building
g. Form real communities of faith-discernment and action for the common good towards building a political culture with a social conscience

Let us all join hands and be critically engaged while remaining to be prayerfully vigilant and discerning in taking on courses of action to redeem the highly degraded integrity of our nation and to effect change toward a genuine democracy in the country.

BUSINA: Buong Bansa Sumisigaw! Tama Na! Itama Na!
July 23, 2008