PACC to give ‘corrupt’ lawmakers’ list to Duterte

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
PACC to give �corrupt� lawmakers� list to Duterte
PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said they would submit the report to the President, which would include the list of congressmen tagged in the anomaly, once the list is completed.
pia.gov.ph / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) will identify the congressmen allegedly involved in corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), but only to President Duterte.

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said they would submit the report to the President, which would include the list of congressmen tagged in the anomaly, once the list is completed.

“Our report will be submitted to the President and the appropriate agency for appropriate actions to be taken. That’s the only mandate and authority of PACC,” Belgica told The STAR over the weekend.

Belgica said they could not divulge the information to Congress or the public.

“As much as I want to put it out in public, the PACC doesn’t have the authority to do that. And if we do that, it would jeopardize our investigation. It’s like catching the culprit even before the investigation is finished,” he said.

He clarified that the PACC has no jurisdiction over congressmen, and the commission’s probe initially focused on DPWH officials, especially presidential appointees.

“But we cannot close our eyes to what we come across through the investigation,” Belgica pointed out.

He recalled that the PACC had submitted its report to the DPWH on two district engineers caught on camera engaged in a corrupt act, and the officials were immediately dismissed by Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

Belgica also reiterated that only “some congressmen” were involved in the anomaly, based on information gathered by the PACC.

“Not all congressmen are involved in DPWH corruption since party-list representatives have no districts. Our basis in saying that some members of Congress are involved in DPWH corruption is the reports that we have received from contractors themselves,” he explained in a statement.

The PACC official clarified that he did not intend to attack the House as an institution, citing the “excellent performance and efforts of legislators.”

“It is wake-up call in an attempt to finally eradicate the systemic corruption involving DPWH and some legislators thru policies that will ensure compliance with laws and existing rules and regulations,” he said.

Belgica also pointed out that the involvement of congressmen in DPWH project is an “open secret.”

“It is an open secret that some legislators are exercising powers to influence the choice of DEs (district engineers) and contractors in their respective legislative districts. This is the reason why DEs and contractors are beholden to some legislators. The power of congressmen to identify, influence and recommend the appointment of DEs and contractors in their respective legislative districts is similar to their power to identify NGOs which, according to the Supreme Court in the case of Belgica vs. Executive Secretary, may expose the whole system to corruption,” he added.

Sen. Bong Go said he will recommend to Duterte the creation of an inter-agency task force as part of ongoing efforts to stop corruption in the government.

He said the President was exasperated by the corruption, and for the government to correctly address the pandemic “it is important to remove the ‘bad eggs.’”

Go said the proposed task force might be modeled after the previous task force created to investigate PhilHealth.

The proposed task force’s scope, however, should cover all government agencies and should be allowed to operate until Duterte ends his term in 2022.

Go narrated that he recently discussed the matter with the President who gave directives to intensify further the campaign against corruption and put an end to the continuing existence of anomalous practices plaguing the bureaucracy.

Noting that the administration wants to leave a legacy of change, Go emphasized that Duterte enjoys overwhelmingly high approval ratings because Filipinos see the sincerity and seriousness of his leadership to improve public service by putting an end to corruption, criminality and illegal drugs.

Ready to investigate

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is ready to investigate the DPWH corruption bared by Duterte.

The committee on good government and public accountability is prepared to conduct a legislative inquiry on the matter, 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 said.

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,” the ranking congressman pointed out.

If the probe will push through, Alvarado said it would most 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.

He said the plan for congressional inquiry was considered after Duterte expressed during a recent public address his disappointment over reports of corruption in the DPWH, mostly involving project officers and contractors.

Duterte indicated how money changes hands even before the start of a project and bared that payment of bribes is still being practiced in the awarding of contracts or implementation of projects.

The President said there is massive corruption in the DPWH but did not elaborate. He also cleared Villar, saying he cannot be corrupt because he comes from a wealthy family and therefore does not need money.

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