Findings of DPWH corruption task force may be out by next month

This undated file photo shows DPWH Secretary Mark Villar.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — The internal task force created to probe alleged anomalies in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is seen to come out with findings by next month.

“Maybe in the next month or so maybe we will have some kind of results, findings, recommendations,” Public Works Secretary Mark Villar told CNN Philippines’ “The Source” on Thursday.

Villar said the task force, which he put together after President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly slammed reports of corruption in the DPWH, is now compiling reports on the alleged wrongdoings in the agency. 

The president has already cleared Villar of any involvement in corruption, saying the son of billionaire Manny Villar does not need to engage in graft.

The Task Force Against Graft and Corruption would “investigate anomalies allegedly perpetrated by officials and/or employees of the department, based on valid complaints.”

The task force is tasked to recommend to the Office of the Secretary, through a resolution, the appropriate actions to take concerning the erring officials and/or employees. It is also directed to create a technical working group, which will serve as secretariat and will aid the task force on the exercise of its functions.

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The task force is chaired by Assistant Secretary Mel John Versoza. Director Gliricidia Tumaliuan-Ali will serve as the vice chairperson, while other members of the task force are Director Michael Villafranca, Officer-in-Charge Director Andro Santiago and lawyer Ken Edward Sta. Rita.

Villar assured the public that the task force will be independent, despite it being attached to the agency it is investigating and despite it reporting to his office.

“He’s (Versoza) shown a lot of independence and I know his character and I’m confident that he can give us results very quickly for the task force,” Villar said.

Malacañang has said that it prefers an independent body to probe the alleged anomalies in the DPWH and wants the agency to have a mechanism that will promote accountability among its officials.

Villar welcomed the input of the Palace, saying that they would accept anything that would increase transparency in the agency.

Earlier this month, Duterte said corruption in the DPWH is "grave" but absolved Villar from irregularities. Duterte, who vowed not to tolerate even a whiff of corruption under his watch, has said Villar is already rich so he does not need to steal from government funds. 

Duterte's remarks about the supposed irregularities in DPWH came as senators are questioning the alleged billions in lump-sum appropriations in the agency's proposed budget for next year. — Xave Gregorio with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico and The STAR/Alexis Romero

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