DPWH chief forms task force to probe anomalies
MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has vowed not to forgive officials involved in corruption and has urged the public to report irregularities so that the government could act on them.
Duterte, who has been accused by his critics of applying a double standard in the crackdown against corruption, said he is ready to put in place a new “structure” to ensure that projects are free of irregularities.
“I do not forgive cases of corruption. Wala talaga. Walang areglo, wala lahat (Nothing. No compromise, no anything). No quarter given, no quarter asked,” Duterte said during a televised public address Monday night.
“Iyang sa mga project sa baba, iyon ang laro diyan (Corruption is present in the projects on the ground). So we might, maybe, place another structure there – structure to improve the integrity of the projects and puwede ninyong ma-report maski ano, basta corruption and walang patawad (You may report any corruption and there will be no mercy),” he added, but did not elaborate on the new structure that he wants established.
The President made the remark days after he described the corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as “grave.”
The statement also came as some senators are alleging that the DPWH budget for next year contains billions in lump-sum appropriations.
Duterte, however, is convinced that DPWH Secretary Mark Villar is not involved in anomalies. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Villar still has the trust of Duterte because the DPWH chief has effectively delivered infrastructure projects promised under the administration’s Build, Build, Build program.
“Secretary Villar has lots of money. He does not need to steal money. The problem is in the lower level, and it’s still serious until now,” the President said.
“Tell me the name… of the engineer. Most of the personnel of DPWH are project engineers,” he added.
Duterte also encouraged the public to report anomalies through the government hotline 8888. He also reminded agencies to publish details of projects, including interested bidders, so that the public could check their background.
Duterte has fired several officials tied to anomalies, but critics are not impressed, noting that some of the dismissed appointees were given new posts.
Villar forms task force
Villar has created a task force to probe the alleged corruption in his agency after drawing the ire of Duterte.
The Task Force against Graft and Corruption (TAG), created through Department Order 101, will investigate anomalies allegedly perpetrated by officials and employees of the DPWH, based on valid complaints.
“In line with President Duterte’s stringent policy against the commission of graft and corrupt practices by government officials and/or employees, the allegations of widespread corruption and in order to boost the efficiency and effectiveness of the department in exercising its mandate of providing quality infrastructure to the Filipino people, a Task Force against Graft and Corruption is hereby created,” Villar said in the order.
Named as TAG chairman is assistant secretary Mel John Verzosa, while vice chair is director Gliricidia Tumaliuan-ali.
Members of the TAG include director Michael Villafranca, officer-in-charge Andro Santiago and Ken Edward Sta. Rita.
Villar has given TAG the authority to create a technical working group, which will serve as secretariat and shall aid the task force in the exercise of its functions.
Upon observing due process, the TAG is mandated to recommend to the Office of the Secretary through a resolution the appropriate action to take concerning the erring DPWH official or employee.
“Perhaps, that’s the first step undertaken by the DPWH to address the problem of corruption... Let’s give them a chance because I think this is one of the rare moments where the corruption in DPWH, which the President has described as blatant and systemic, is being addressed,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday in reaction to Villar’s move.
In its 2019 annual audit report on DPWH, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged some P101 billion worth of delayed and unimplemented projects, the second straight year of violating the procurement law after some P118 billion in projects were recorded the previous year.
The COA noted that the records for 2019 covered 2,411 infrastructure projects, school buildings and farm-to-market road projects; P65.9 billion worth of projects unfinished or uncompleted within the specific contract time or required completion date; P31 billion worth of suspended projects; P1.44 billion worth of terminated projects; P3.2-billion worth of projects which have not been started at all during the year. – Richmond Mercurio, Jose Rodel Clapano