MANILA, Feb 25 — Philippine President Benigno Aquino used the 25th anniversary of the people power revolution that drove dictator Ferdinand Marcos into exile by calling for an end to graft in one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
Aquino said the restoration of democracy in the Southeast Asian country had been betrayed by corrupt officials who amassed massive wealth at the expense of the nation.
Successive governments in the Philippines have vowed to crack down on corruption, and nothing has come of it. While Aquino did not offer any specifics, he has in the last eight months reviewed government deals and cancelled dubious contracts.
“If government’s coffers were not raided, the Filipinos could have enjoyed growth and prosperity,” Aquino said at the Manila highway where a million people gathered 25 years to topple Marcos and install Aquino’s mother, Corazon, as president.
“Democracy will be strengthened if people start believing in their government, especially if they will join to denounce the corrupt system,” said Aquino, whose father, an opposition leader in the Marcos era, was assassinated in 1983.
The Philippines has fallen behind its neighbours on measures such as governance and control of corruption, and investors have largely bypassed the country, hindering growth and development.
The Philippines ranks 134th out of 178 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and Asian Development Bank figures show it is the only Southeast Asian country to record an increase in the absolute number of poor people since 1990.
“It’s only through good governance and stopping corruption that we can liberate our nation from poverty,” Aquino said, echoing the main theme of his election campaign last year, calling on the people to preserve the gains of a people power revolt.
Aquino unveiled a monument to the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, who called Filipinos onto the streets to support a small group of soldiers who mutinied in 1986, setting up the four-day uprising that forced Marcos, his family and cronies to flee aboard US military helicopters.
Analysts say the revolt inspired similar mass protests across the globe, resulting in regime changes, including Eastern Europe, Indonesia and even the Arab world this year.
But while Marcos may have left in disgrace after 20 years in power, dying in exile in 1989, his family has since returned to the Philippines where they remain wealthy and influential.
His widow, Imelda, infamous for her extensive collection of shoes, unsuccessfully ran in the 1992 presidential elections. She won a seat in the lower house of Congress last year.
Son and namesake Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr is a national senator, and eldest daughter Imee is governor of northern Ilocos Norte, a Marcos bailiwick.
While in power, the Marcoses amassed an estimated US$10 billion in cash, property, stocks, art works and jewellery, but efforts to recover them have not succeeded. — Reuters