News SONA 2018 Promise Tracker

SONA 2018 PROMISE TRACKER: Corruption and governance

Ridding the government of corrupt officials remains one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s noteworthy promises since taking office.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, he compared corruption to a “leech” that “bleeds the government of funds programmed for its infrastructure and other social development projects.”

Reports show that in just three years, Duterte has fired some 151 government officials and employees for various reasons. VERA Files recorded at least 19 this year who were sacked or had resigned following allegations of corruption.

While the President appears to be making good on his promise to replace corrupt public servants, none has had his or her day in court. In fact, he has reappointed, and even promoted, at least three resigned officials — all implicated in graft and corruption cases — to other agencies, casting doubt on his vow to run after errant politicians.

VERA Files Fact Check tracks the promises Duterte made on corruption and good governance in his previous SONAs.

PROMISE: Get rid of graft and corruption in the government

“Time and again, I have stressed that corruption must stop. Corruption is like a leech that it bleeds the government of funds programmed for its infrastructure and other social development projects…we run after those who steal the people’s money…” (SONA 2018)

“I will never tolerate corruption in my administration, not even a whiff of it. Let the dismissal of several high-ranking officials — whom I myself appointed — serve as a warning to all that I will never back down on my commitment to cleanse this government and corporation.” (SONA 2017)

“…[T]hose who betrayed the people’s trust shall not go unpunished and they will have their day in Court. And if the evidence warrants, they will have their day of reckoning too.” (SONA 2016)

In progress

Since his last SONA, the President has fired at least 11 officials, while at least eight have resigned — all on corruption allegations.

Among those Duterte has sacked are:

  • Food and Drug Administration Director General Nela Charade Puno
  • Government Service Insurance System President and General Manager Jesus Clint Aranas
  • Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Ronald Flores, and
  • OPAPP Assistant Secretary Yeshter Donn Bacay.

He has also fired “all members of the board and management of Nayong Pilipino (Foundation),” and two Department of Agriculture officials, whom he did not name.

Last month, Duterte also asked officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, or Philhealth, to resign amid reports that a clinic has been filing “ghost” claims to the agency for dialysis treatments.

In March, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office General Manager Alexander Balutan quit his post, also due to allegations of corruption.

Most recently, eleven days before his fourth SONA, Duterte announced his plans to dismiss at least 64 Bureau of Customs employees amid reports of corruption within the agency.

On the other hand, at least four public officials have yet to face their “day of reckoning.”

In 2017, a few other Customs officials — former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, deputy commissioner Gerardo Gambala, and Import Assessment Services director Milo Maestrecampo — were linked to a P6.4-billion shabu smuggling case, prompting them to resign.

The same year, the three made their way back to public office, with Duterte reappointing Faeldon as deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense; Gambala as a director in the Office of Transportation Security; and Maestrecampo as assistant director general in the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

The Office of the Ombudsman recommended the filing of administrative and criminal cases against them in May 2018. As of July 2019, however, no such cases have been filed.

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Jose Calida faced graft raps last year at the Ombudsman for allegedly violating Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and

RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Offices and Employees for being a major stockholder of security services provider Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc., which has bagged several government contracts.

Calida has dismissed these complaints, explaining he already resigned as president and chairman of his family-owned agency when he was appointed solicitor general.

Last year, then-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales confirmed that the anti-graft court launched an investigation on Calida.

PROMISE: Implement the Ease of Doing Business Act

“While we run after those who steal the people’s money, we are also enhancing the government’s delivery of frontline services. I thank Congress for the swift passage of the Ease of Doing Business [Act]… I hereby direct all local government units – makinig sana kayo – and government agencies to faithfully implement this law and simply simplify the process.

I particularly call the attention of the agencies with the [most] number of red tape-related reports from the public, make your services truly customer-friendly. Our people deserve efficient, effective, and responsive government services.” (SONA 2018)


Key officials finally ratified on July 17 the implementing rules and regulations of RA 11302 or the Ease of Doing Business Act, a year after Duterte signed it into law.

The law, which seeks to improve the country’s business climate and attract more local and foreign investors, amends RA 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007.

It provides a two-strike policy and holds government employees and officials administratively and criminally liable for committing such violations as: failure to deliver service within the recommended processing time on application; refusal to accept applications or requests for permits with complete requirements without due cause; and imposition of additional requirements or costs other than those listed in the Citizen’s Charter.

According to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, the Philippines placed 124th out of 190 economies — 11 notches lower than its rank last year — due to high business registration costs and difficulties in getting credit, among others.


Daily Tribune, “More heads to roll,” April 8, 2019

Manila Bulletin, “Duterte to sack another official next week,” April 4, 2019

Tempo, “Another gov’t official set to be fired,” April 4, 2019

On Graft and Corruption

On Ease of Doing Business

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)