Lawmakers question âexceptionsâ to govât-wide corruption probe
President Rodrigo Duterte reads a report on COVID-19 during a briefing at the Malacañan Palace on Feb. 3, 2020.
Presidential Photo/Toto Lozano
Lawmakers question ‘exceptions’ to gov’t-wide corruption probe
( - October 29, 2020 - 11:05am

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers questioned why some officials have been absolved by President Rodrigo Duterte from any involvement in corruption even before the anti-corruption task force he recently formed begins its investigation into irregularities in the entire government.

“It’s a good move,” Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said in Filipino an interview on Wednesday. “But in the same announcement, there are already exceptions. It’s like the message is don’t include them because they’re not involved. Right there, it’s like it already started on the wrong foot.”

Lacson said everyone in government should be subject to the task force’s probe, but it seems that Duterte exempted Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar from the investigation.

“It’s like he’s saying don’t include Secretary Duque or Villar,” Lacson said. “How would the effort to curb corruption succeed if at the outset there are already people who cannot be touched?”

Sacred cows

For House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list), the government-wide corruption probe would hardly amount to anything due to Duterte’s penchant for absolving his people.

“If sacred cows and patronage politics remain in the Duterte administration then no amount of corruption drive will succeed. They are all bound to fail,” Zarate said in a statement on Thursday.

Duterte, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, does have a tendency to absolve his officials from wrongdoing and has even reassigned, retained and promoted those who face corruption allegations.

For example, Duterte himself claimed that corruption runs rampant in the public works department, but he stated that Villar, who heads the agency, is not involved in any of this.

Duterte also repeatedly defended Duque from corruption claims, even in the face of multiple allegations of anomalies hounding the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., which the health secretary chairs.

When senators called for an investigation into the multiple government contracts bagged by the security firm of Solicitor General Jose Calida’s family, Duterte also stood up for the government’s top lawyer and stood pat on not firing him.

Duterte, meanwhile, reappointed Nicanor Faeldon to the Office of Civil Defense after he resigned as customs chief following the multi-billion peso China shabu shipment controversy.

The president’s former social media manager, Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña, was fired from the Social Security System for allegedly proposing costly projects, but was later reappointed to the Department of Tourism as an undersecretary. — Xave Gregorio

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