Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission differs with Ombudsman on lifestyle checks
This file photo from 2018 shows Samuel Martires, now ombudsman.
Screengrab from Supreme Court
Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission differs with Ombudsman on lifestyle checks
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 28, 2020 - 7:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — The anti-corruption body that President Rodrigo Duterte created in 2017 to investigate then-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales differs with her successor on conducting lifestyle checks on government officials.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires disclosed recently that he has stopped the conduct of lifestyle checks on officials, citing what he described as the unclear provisions of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Martires argued that a government official's lifestyle does not necessarily reflect his income. He has also claimed that lifestyle checks and wealth declarations have become sources of extortion.

But Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica maintained that lifestyle checks could help determine the existence of corruption.

"Of course, the Ombudsman can speak for himself... it is a constitutional body so I would not want to touch that. But we in PACC, we believe that lifestyle check is important in at least in determining, in preventing corruption in government," Belgica said at a press briefing.

Belgica said PACC's stand would not pose problems since its reports are submitted to the Office of the President, not to the ombudsman. He noted that the PACC was created to help the president investigate and recommend appropriate actions against officials that fall under salary grade 26 and presidential appointees.

READ: Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission created

"Upon the instruction of the president, we can investigate AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) personnel. We may conduct lifestyle check and fact-finding inquiries," the PACC official said.

The body, Belgica added, may also seek the support of the National Bureau of Investigation, the PNP, and other law enforcement agencies and has the power to recommend preventive suspensions, administer oaths, and to issue subpoenas.

PACC probing 40 PhilHealth officials

Belgica said the PACC is continuously probing the alleged massive corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) even if the multiagency task force formed to look into the issue had submitted its initial findings.

He said among the issues being investigated are the purchase of an alleged overpriced COVID-19 testing package, the supposedly overpriced information technology projects, and the alleged common stock investment scam.

Belgica said the PACC has received a copy of a Commission on Audit memorandum dated March 23, 2017 which stated that P865,927,169 out of the P1 billion initial investments being managed by an external fund manager were invested in common stocks as of December 31, 2016. Such an investment is contrary to the PhilHealth charter, which limits the investments that can be made to preferred stocks, Belgica added.

Preferred stocks are those that earn regular dividends and investors in preferred shares are paid dividends before investors in common shares.

Belgica said there have been allegations that the income from these investments is being divided among the members of the PhilHealth board and executive committee while reflecting in their financial statement that the investments have "zero interest earnings" at the end of the investment period.

The anti-corruption body is also looking into the possible involvement of some 40 PhilHealth officials in irregularities.

"We have, I think, around 40 (PhilHealth officials), as I checked last week, 40 names being investigated by PACC, including regional officials, executive and board of directors," Belgica said.  

"It's one part to expose; it's another part to file cases and really prepare file cases. There will be affidavits and you have to gather evidence that will stand in court... We will be filing cases to the Ombudsman in person," he added.

Belgica said PACC officials would discuss whether they could file at least one case against those involved in the stock investment scam within the next two months.

"We want to get the right document in place before we submit it to the Ombudsman," the PACC official added.

OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN PRESIDENTIAL ANTI CORRUPTION COMMISSION SAMUEL MARTIRES STATEMENTS OF ASSETS LIABILITIES AND NET WORTH
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