EDITORIAL - Investigating congressmen

EDITORIAL - Investigating congressmen

(The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2020 - 12:00am

As a special commission formed to go after corrupt officials linked nearly a dozen congressmen to alleged anomalies in the Department of Public Works and Highways, President Duterte said he would not name the lawmakers and his office would not investigate members of an independent and a co-equal branch of government.

But the President, who has publicly named mayors and other public officials linked to the illegal drug trade, is allowing the Department of Justice to conduct the probe. The DOJ has said it would forge ahead with an investigation of the congressmen together with the DPWH officials and private contractors linked to questionable transactions in the department.

Commissioner Greco Belgica of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission said the congressmen’s names cropped up in the course of the PACC’s investigation of reports that commissions and kickbacks were being collected by certain lawmakers from contractors that they picked to carry out their pet projects under the DPWH.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, for his part, has said 11 show-cause orders have been issued to several DPWH officials and personnel in connection with questionable contracts. Villar has formed a task force against graft and corruption in the department that has long been tagged in surveys as one of the most corrupt government agencies.

It is not the first time that congressmen, who earmark pet projects for DPWH implementation, have been linked to anomalies in the department. Previously there have been reports that even contractors that did not meet the criteria of the department were forced on the DPWH. At least one contractor was debarred by the World Bank from road projects that it co-funded due to what the WB said was collusion in bidding.

Bypassing the qualifying criteria for contractors has been partly blamed for substandard road construction, repair and maintenance in certain areas. For honest people in the DPWH to stop the irregularities including those attributed to lawmakers, the department personnel will need the full backing of the Chief Executive.

The President recently said he would give priority to the fight against corruption until the end of his term. He is urging the public to text 8888 for anonymous tips on corruption in government. The anti-corruption body of his office has given him not just a tip but a report on suspected irregularities in the DPWH. Members of Congress are not exempt from laws against corruption and unethical conduct. The PACC report must be pursued and the allegations properly resolved.

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