Guevarra forms core group for 'mega task force' vs corruption
This file photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The STAR/Rudy Santos, File
Guevarra forms core group for 'mega task force' vs corruption
Kristine Joy Patag ( - October 28, 2020 - 10:16am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:30 p.m.)  — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday met with the chiefs of the National Prosecution Service and National Bureau of Investigation that form the core group of the task force created to conduct probe into the "entire government" for corruption.

In a statement late Tuesday night, the Department of Justice said Guevarra met with Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento and National Bureau of Investigation Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor to organize the new task force.

The DOJ added that Guevarra, Malcontento and Distor discussed "methods of securing information regarding incidences of corruptions in government, and possible approaches for the conduct of the investigations of allegations of corruption — taking into consideration the gravity of the allegations and its impact on the delivery of government services."

"It was agreed during the said meeting that the Core Group constituted for the Task Force to investigate allegations of corruption in the [Philippine Health Insurance Corp.] will be the same Core Group for the Task Force to investigate allegations of corruption in the entire government," the DOJ said.

In a separate interview with DZBB on Wednesday morning, Guevarra said they will focus on national agencies under the executive department. He added they will target offices prone to corruption such as the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue, as well as the Land Registration Authority.

The DOJ chief also mentioned the ongoing investigations into PhilHealth and the Bureau of Immigration.

Same members as ‘Task Force PhilHealth’

Guevarra previously led the task force that looked into corruption allegations into the state insurer. The NBI has since filed complaints against former and incumbent PhilHealth officers before the Office of the Ombudsman after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the findings.

The following agencies were part of “Task Force PhilHealth” and will again handle the probe into the entire government: NBI, NPS, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Special Assistant of the President, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Meanwhile, the DOJ said they will invite the Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Ombudsman to work with the task force, with due consideration to their independence as constitutional bodies.

Asked if the task force’s function would duplicate the mandate of the NBI and the Ombudsman, Guevarra told reporters: “Maybe the president believes that a composite team swarming on a focused target will be more effective.”

“Although the brunt of the work will fall on the shoulders of the DOJ and its investigative arm (NBI), we expect active support from other agencies with investigative powers to carry out their specific mandates, such as the AMLC and PACC,” he added.

The Ombudsman, an anti-corruption body, has motu propio powers or can launch criminal and administrative investigations into alleged anomalies in the government.

During Task Force PhilHealth’s work, Guevarra explained that the Ombudsman as well as the COA and CSC attended the panel’s meetings upon invitation “for the purpose of pursuing their own independent investigations/audit.”

Media, citizen reports to be considered

Guevarra also told DZBB that the task force will set up a secretariat for citizens to report alleged corruption.

"Our secretariat will receive all kinds of complaints, and they will sort them. They will evaluate them and prioritize which should be given immediate attention of the task force," Guevarra said in Filipino.

But the task force will also launch its own investigations into supposed corrupt activities. Guevarra said they will consider COA reports and even investigative reports of the media.

The DOJ chief also said they will coordinate with Congress on legislative inquries that lawmakers are conduct into anomalies. "We will pick from what they would uncover and that will be the basis of the task force to start its work," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte tapped Guevarra to lead a task force against corruption in the “entire government,” a task that the justice secretary admitted is the “toughest” assignment that the president has given him.

The president's order will remain in effect until June 30, 2022 or when he steps down from office.

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