Duterte slams DPWH corruption, but still trusts Villar
In his recorded televised address Wednesday night, President Duterte said he had been hearing reports of corruption in DPWH and urged the public to report them through hotline 8888 and file complaints.
Boy Santos, file

Duterte slams DPWH corruption, but still trusts Villar

Christina Mendez, Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte’s trust and confidence in Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar remain despite the Chief Executive’s expressing disappointment over reports of corruption in the DPWH mostly involving project officers and contractors.

In his recorded televised address Wednesday night, Duterte said he had been hearing reports of corruption in DPWH and urged the public to report them through hotline 8888 and file complaints.

“The contractors…  The first whiff… they will ask you once they smell…. This is prevalent at the DPWH where project engineers and all, on road right-of-way, there is massive corruption,” the President said.

Duterte indicated how money changes hands even before the start of a project. “No construction starts without it,” he said.

He said payment of bribes is still being practiced in the awarding of contracts or implementation of projects. He did not elaborate.

“If Congress would want really to know, the projects at the DPWH really have some leeway for that… I do not know who… There are so many officials lined up in the bureaucratic maze so I am not privy to that, even in medicine (procurement) and all,” Duterte said.

Villar, a son of former Senate president Manny Villar and Sen. Cynthia Villar, still has the trust of Duterte because he has effectively delivered infrastructure projects promised under the administration’s Build, Build, Build program, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

“(The President) has full trust and confidence on Sec. Villar because he is able to deliver despite reports of corruption at the DPWH. It helps that the family of Sec. Villar is richer than the DPWH,” Roque said.

By citing corruption in the DPWH, Duterte was just highlighting the challenges he has to hurdle in his remaining two years in office, Roque said. The President has committed to focus on fighting corruption in all departments of government, especially the DPWH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth, he added.

Roque said the President might form a different body to tackle corruption in the DPWH but right now, he is working on eradicating corruption in PhilHealth.

The President stressed, meanwhile, that there is no letup in his fight against drugs, even threatening to kill more in the name of his top campaign promise.

“My battle now is against drugs. The policy remains. I haven’t changed a thing.  As long as you are destroying my country, the Philippines, I will kill you,” he said in the vernacular.

He again emphasized his disdain for human rights advocates who get in the way of his bloody campaign against illegal drugs. He warned these advocates not to push their luck.

Duterte said engaging in drugs is like committing suicide. “You asked for it, it’s like committing suicide. If you commit suicide, why will I be charged for it?” he said.

“If you get shot by the police or the military, why will I be blamed if you want to commit suicide? You went into drugs. That is suicide. Right? It is that simple.”

Cuts or realignment

As Congress deliberates in special session to examine and refine budgets of different departments, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he is planning to propose a cut or realignment of what he called excessive and unjustified “amendments” to the national expenditures program (NEP) in the 2021 national budget program “illegally” made by the DPWH.

Lacson said it’s an open secret that commissions or kickbacks have become the rule rather than the exception in the implementation of public works projects involving not only some corrupt DPWH officials but some legislators as well.

“Fact is, contractors openly talk behind the backs of these officials, changing the definition of mabait (good) and maginoo (gentleman) in the process: officials from the executive and legislative branches who ask for ‘only’ 10 percent are mabait, maginoong kausap (nice, gentle to del with) and those who demand 20 to 30 percent are matakaw (glutton) while those who demand advance payments and renege on their word are balasubas (rapacious) and mandurugas (greedy),” Lacson said.

“That being said, if no substantial adjustments are made once the final version of the 2021 GAB is transmitted to the Senate, hopefully, next week as promised by the new Speaker, I intend to propose during our plenary debates to cut or realign the excessive and unjustified ‘NEP amendments’ that the DPWH illegally made,” he added.

He lauded the President’s “timely” raising of corruption issue in the DPWH.

“Although unwittingly, I had provided the sordid details of such misuse and abuse of the DPWH funds at the Senate finance committee hearing on the DPWH’s proposed budget earlier on Wednesday,” he said.

He pointed out that the “mangled” version of DPWH’s late submission suspiciously contained a pattern of decreased budgets for national projects and increased budgets for local projects. He said he found this highly questionable as such submission should have only detailed the lump sums in the NEP that Malacañang submitted to Congress last Aug. 25, and should not include amendments to what was originally submitted.

“What I noticed as a pattern – that’s why I ask if there were some interventions from some legislators – in general, we saw the local projects balloon and what was reduced was the national projects,” Lacson said at the hearing attended by Villar. Lacson said he has identified a total of P70 billion in the budget allocated for “multipurpose buildings” across the country.

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