Aquino brings anti-graft report card to NYC

With President Obama in last year's UN meeting.

By Cristina DC Pastor

President Benigno S. Aquino III will be in New York September 18 to 20 to tout his polished credentials as a corruption fighter who shares the U.S. vision of accountability and good governance. He will then proceed to Washington D.C. September 21 to 23 to speak before a World Bank meeting.

A Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement said he was invited by U.S. President Barack Obama to the official launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in New York on September 20.

“The OGP is a new multilateral initiative to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance,” the DFA statement said. “The visit aims to enhance the country’s strategic profile by underscoring the Aquino government’s demonstrated commitment to its good governance and anti-corruption agenda.”

Aquino will keynote an OGP forum on “The Power of Open: A Global Discussion.” The Philippines is one of eight members of the OGP steering committee. The others are Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Introduced in July 12, the OGP is a multilateral initiative that seeks to promote transparency and accountability in governments. At least 35 participating countries are expected to follow a plan of action that outlines how they are “embracing” the principles in partnership with civil society.

“The selection of the Philippines as a Steering Committee member is an international acknowledgement of the Aquino administration’s demonstrated commitment to innovative practices in open governance and anti-corruption,” the DFA said. The statement said the eight steering committee members were selected based on the following criteria: Fiscal Transparency, Access to Information, Disclosures Related to Elected Officials, and Citizen Engagement.

The Aquino government announced on September 13 it will file two corruption cases against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before the end of the year. The report quoted Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as saying the cases are “airtight” and that the Aquino government’s campaign to eradicate corruption will target not just the “small guys” but especially the “principals.”

While in New York, Aquino will be conferred a Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa honorary degree by Fordham University on September 19.

“This is rather historic,” said Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. “The university had also conferred an honorary degree on his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, in 1986.”

Following a Fordham tradition, the names of over 30 world leaders conferred a degree are carved on the steps of the “Terrace of the Presidents” at Keating Hall. “Aquino’s name will be inscribed near his mother’s name,” de Leon said.

Also in New York, Aquino is scheduled to keynote the IBM Centennial Forum called “THINK: A Forum on the Future of Leadership” marking IBM’s 100th anniversary. The forum will be attended by more than 700 leaders from government, business, the academe and science from around the world.

He will also have meetings with business executives from the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce, and is scheduled to speak before Google, said de Leon.

“This is strictly a working visit primarily for business meetings,” he said.

On September 20, Aquino will speak before the Asia Society providing the Filipino American community a chance to listen to his administration’s economic agenda and accomplishments after one year in office.

It will be another “historic meeting,” said de Leon, with Aquino being the third member of his family to deliver an address before the Asia Society. His father Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino did a lecture there when the family was in exile in Boston, and Cory Aquino when she was president.

Aquino will be in Washington D.C. September 21 to speak before the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings to an audience of finance ministers and international bankers. He will be introduced by World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick.

“The lecture will center on the theme of citizen empowerment, good governance and fighting corruption as agents of poverty reduction,” said the DFA.

In D.C., he will visit with Senator Daniel Inouye, President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and chairman of the appropriations committee, to thank him for his continued support of Philippine causes.

His schedule includes a meeting with the Filipino community in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia, a region where about 110,000 FilAms live.

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