PERCEPTION of corruption in the country has worsened, with the Philippine score inching lower to 34 in 2017 based on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International.

The survey results, released on February 21, also showed that the Philippines was among the "worst regional offenders" in Asia Pacific in terms of the level of threat to journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even staff of law enforcement or watchdog agencies.

Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, noted that "countries with the least protection for press and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption."

In Asia Pacific, the "worst offenders are the Philippines, India and Maldives.

"These countries score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths. In the last six years, 15 journalists working on corruption stories in these countries were murdered, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)," the group stated.

The Philippines, with a score of 34, ranked 111th among 180 countries covered in the survey in 2017.

The index uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is the highest level of perceived corruption and 100 is very clean.

The country's score declined from 35 in 2015 and 2016, and was a bit worse than 38 in 2014. The 2017 score was equivalent to the 2012 score.

Read: Full report on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 by Transparency International

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. admitted that addressing corruption cannot be done "overnight" but stressed that the current administration is exerting efforts to curb any misconduct in government.

"We have to underscore that corruption is a problem that cannot be solved overnight. Thus, we are taking the results of Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, which shows our 111th (out of 180) ranking, seriously," Roque said in a statement.

Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte is fulfilling his pledge of zero-tolerance policy towards corruption under his term.

He added that Duterte made a firm action on stamping out corruption by creating a Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and creating a citizens' complaint hotline, among others.

"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte likewise gave a stern warning to government officials and employees that he would not tolerate corruption during his watch. The Chief Executive fired many government officials, including members of the Cabinet, once he heard even a whiff of corruption," he said.

"Fighting corruption needs everyone’s cooperation. The government cannot do it alone. Citizens must be vigilant and report corruption," the Palace official added.

On the Philippines being included among the "worst offenders" in terms of upholding press freedom, Roque denied that the government deprives journalists of their right to exercise press freedom.

He emphasized that Duterte even created the Presidential Task Force on Media Security to ensure the protection of media practitioners.

He added that all murder cases involving journalists during the Duterte administration have already been solved.

"There is no truth that we have fewer press freedom. Our media are still able to broadcast and print or publish what they want – fake news included. Filipinos are free to air their grievances with the President even declaring an unprecedented Day of Protest," he said. (Ruth Abbey Gita/SunStar Philippines)