Belgica wonât name names
Declining to take up the challenge of Rep. Mike Defensor to name congressmen involved in anomalous practices at the DPWH, Belgica acknowledged that not all lawmakers were corrupt.
The STAR/Alexis Romero, file
Belgica won’t name names
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There is no stopping the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) from investigating alleged corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but its chief, Commissioner Greco Belgica, is not naming congressmen allegedly linked to the anomalies.

Declining to take up the challenge of Rep. Mike Defensor to name congressmen involved in anomalous practices at the DPWH, Belgica acknowledged that not all lawmakers were corrupt.

“Rep. Defensor is right, not all congressmen are involved in corrupt activities. But not all are clean. That’s based on our investigations,” Belgica said.

The same challenge was raised by Senate President Vicente Sotto III yesterday in an interview with dwIZ. “Name names and show evidence,” Sotto said.

He suggested that Congress just let the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate lawmakers with alleged links to the DPWH mess, citing parliamentary courtesy. “It’s not good to see the Senate investigate the House or the House doing the same to the Senate, just in aid of legislation,” he said in Filipino.

Belgica stressed the PACC cannot turn a blind eye on anomalous practices in the DPWH involving some members of the House of Representatives.

“In the course of our investigation, there are specific cases which we received on the powers (of congressmen) to influence the choice of district engineers and to influence the choice of contractors (which) compromises the whole system to corruption,” he said.

Wielding power to influence the choice of district engineers, some congressmen tend to exert influence on them for the benefit of favored contractors, he said.

“They become beholden to these people and that exposes the system to corruption,” he said, adding the PACC filed cases against two district engineers a few years ago.

He said there would be no letup in PACC’s investigation of corruption, in line with the President’s campaign against irregularities in government.

“You know, when we probe the DPWH, we cannot turn a blind eye when we find corruption, and our jurisdiction (covers) DPWH and Congress,” he said.

“Now, as to the names… I don’t want to do blind items or make a bulletin board or noise board of our investigation,” he said.

“If I reveal the names of those we are about to investigate ahead of an actual inquiry or if we name the suspects before an actual inquiry, it would be like telling them ‘you’re being arrested’,” he said.

Since the PACC’s mandate is to investigate presidential appointees only, Belgica said they support Duterte’s call for the creation of a special task force to take the investigation deeper.

“The President already said that he would create a task force to investigate DPWH,” Belgica said.

“So it needs a different body, maybe NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) or the ombudsman to conduct the investigation,” he said.

Self-serving

Belgica also dismissed as “self serving” recommendations for the House to conduct its own probe on the DPWH.

“Based on my experience, a third party or an external auditory investigator is always the most effective investigation or will always produce the most effective/efficient investigation,” he said.

Belgica was a lead proponent of a case filed in 2013 with the Supreme Court, which would eventually rule as unconstitutional the pork barrel system.

He said that to minimize or eliminate corruption in DPWH, the secretary should be given greater powers so that nobody could influence him or her in choosing district engineers.

In daring Belgica to name names, Sotto said exposing the identities of errant officials and other individuals is a major step in any investigation of corruption, just like what was done in the initial probe on alleged anomalies in Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

He said he has been hearing allegations of corruption against lawmakers, contractors and other officials but no one has come forward with concrete evidence to file charges in court.

“Who in public works are involved? What evidence do they have? Show the evidence and let’s investigate those who should be investigated,” he said.

Meanwhile, the House committee on good government and public accountability is prepared to conduct a legislative inquiry into alleged anomalies in DPWH, according its chairman Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado.

“We are ready to tackle this issue. We are one with President Duterte in addressing this corruption issue. We have to do our part in Congress to dig deeper so we can determine how we can plug the loopholes that allow corruption in DPWH through legislative measures and oversight functions,” he told The STAR.

Alvarado, however, explained that it would require the go-signal of the House leadership under Speaker Lord Allan Velasco before their investigation in aid of legislation could push through.

“If the leadership refers the matter to our committee, then definitely we will tackle this issue. It is the leadership that decides which committee would investigate a particular issue,” he pointed out.

Alvarado said any probe on the issue would likely start next month when the House resumes session, as it is currently in recess after passing the P4.5-trillion national budget last Oct.16.

The House official revealed the plan for congressional inquiry after Duterte expressed disappointment over reports of corruption in the DPWH mostly involving project officers and contractors during a recent public address.

Defensor, chairman of the public accounts committee, earlier expressed belief that the House might not be in the proper position to investigate the matter as the PACC has accused lawmakers of involvement in DPWH irregularities.

“Now that congressmen are being implicated, I would rather that the investigation be conducted by a third party. Because we will just be accused of whitewash if we investigate our colleagues,” he explained to reporters at a virtual press briefing last Friday. – Edu Punay, Cecille Suerte-Felipe

GRECO BELGICA PACC
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