PHILIPPINES - The pork barrel scam pushed more Filipinos to consider corruption as one of the most urgent concerns in September, an issue that has dragged down the Aquino administration's performance, results of a Pulse Asia survey showed.
The number of Filipinos who said fighting corruption was an urgent national issue jumped 17 percentage points to 48 per cent.
The nationwide survey, conducted from Sept. 14 to 27, asked 1,200 adult Filipinos in face-to-face interviews to choose the most urgent from a list of 10 national issues provided by Pulse Asia and rate the Aquino administration's performance on these.
Pulse Asia said that between June and September, the level of public concern on corruption was heightened by the scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a lump-sum fund, or pork barrel, that finances pet projects of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
An Inquirer series on the P10-billion pork scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles started on July 12.
The series said senators and House members pocketed tens of millions of pesos in kickbacks of the supposed cost of projects funded by their PDAF.
Based on statements of former employees of Napoles, the National Bureau of Investigation filed last month plunder and malversation charges against Napoles, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile and 34 others.
"The public saw how billions of pesos in pork barrel was wasted when the money could have been used for education. This explains the high level of urgency," said Earl Parreño, a member of the board of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
Results of the Pulse Asia survey showed that 47 per cent of the respondents expressed approval of administration efforts to curb corruption, while 27 per cent said they disapproved, resulting in a net approval rating (approval minus disapproval) of plus 20.
Compared with the survey in March, the approval score on this issue was down 12 percentage points, while the disapproval score was up 16 percentage points.
"The administration succeeded in communicating its anticorruption policy. The problem is in the implementation of this policy. This is where the administration's efforts are wanting," Parreño said.
The heads of the agencies implementing government projects including local government executives are key, he said, adding that these officials should perform based on the anticorruption policy of the administration.
There is also a need to strengthen and straighten out the Commission on Audit, which is tasked with examining the efficiency of government operations, Parreño added.
Findings of the Pulse survey released earlier found that 67 per cent believed that corrupt practices during the Arroyo administration involving the PDAF continued under the Aquino administration.
Forty-five per cent said the pork barrel should be scrapped and the implementation of projects and programs should be left to government agencies.
The survey also showed that the pork barrel controversy appeared to have an adverse effect on the approval ratings of Senate President Franklin Drilon and of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.