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Duterte orders probe of agencies for corruption

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Screenshot via RTVMalacanang/YouTube

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday ordered the Justice department to probe all agencies for corruption, in line with his campaign against anomalies in the government.

In a televised speech, Mr. Duterte read a memo for Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra asking him to investigate “the entire government” until 2022.

“In pursuit of this directive, the Department of Justice (DoJ) shall have the authority to decide which allegation to investigate, taking into consideration the gravity thereof and their impact on the delivery of government service,” he said.

He added that the Justice department could create separate task forces for the probe.

“Apart from my usual responsibilities as secretary of Justice, this new assignment is the toughest I have ever received from the President,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters in a Viber group message.

“Considering the breadth of this anti-corruption campaign, I will immediately focus on the organizational setup and mechanism that will carry out the President’s directive till the end of his term, as well as the order of priorities,” he said.

In his speech, Mr. Duterte flagged former officials from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), adding that their resignation does not absolve them of the charges.

Mr. Duterte, whom critics have faulted for failing to disclose his net worth despite his vow of transparency, earlier ordered the DoJ to form a task force that investigated corruption at PhilHealth.

The panel headed by Mr. Guevarra later sought criminal and administrative charges against some officials.

The President also ordered the DoJ to investigate the Agriculture and Public Works departments.

His spokesman Harry L. Roque on Tuesday said Mr. Duterte has the power to order the probes even if the law already mandates the Office of the Ombudsman and Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to investigate state anomalies.

The separate probe of PhilHealth showed how effective this was, he added. “The more government people are focused on the issue, the better.”

KICKBACKS
Corrupt lawmakers allegedly involved in corruption at the Public Works department get as much as a 15% cut for every infrastructure project, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

“Legislators will get 10-15% per project,” he said, citing reports received by the agency. “Normally it’s advanced. It varies per project but that’s the basic minimum.”

District contractors and engineers also get kickbacks, he added.

“The choice contractor will be accommodated and the contractors themselves will have their own little syndicates among themselves,” he said.

Mr. Belgica said only half of the fund goes to the infrastructure project, resulting in substandard work.

“We’re investigating the entire DPWH,” he said. “We spoke to all district engineers so we’re building up the report right now. As to exactly how many, as of now, the numbers have been growing by the day.”

Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar said he has formed a task force that will probe the allegations.

The investigation will cover all engineers regardless of their ranks, he told GMA News, adding that they won’t favor anybody.

“This is definitely not for show,” he said in Filipino. “I am results-oriented. When I have tasks, I’ll make sure there are results.”

Speaker Lord Allan Q. Velasco said a large-scale investigation of alleged corruption in the entire government was needed since a House probe would be “self-serving.”

“While we are saddened that some congressmen and the institution have been dragged into this controversy, we welcome such a probe by any government agency, as an investigation by the House would be self-serving and would only create a cloud of doubt,” he said in a statement.

He assured Mr. Duterte that the House of Representatives leadership agrees with his desire “to rid the bureaucracy of corrupt officials and employees in the remainder of his term.”

Meanwhile, Party-list Rep. Romeo S. Momo, Sr. said the House should wait for the results of the Public Works department’s own probe before conducting its own inquiry.

“Similar to what several congressmen had already stated, Mr. Belgica should name names if he truly has the smoking gun on alleged corrupt practices undertaken by legislators and DPWH officials,” InfraWatch PH Convenor Terry L. Ridon said in a Messenger chat.

He noted that not a single legislator had been identified up to now since the allegation was flagged by the PACC.

“Without evidence, this is an affront to Congress itself, as the PACC has prejudged its own pending investigation by making still unfounded, still unevidenced statements,” he added.

InfraWatch PH earlier urged the government to create an independent task force to probe the anomalies at the agency.

Mr. Guevarra said he might form several “strike forces” that will simultaneously “attack” various corruption-laden agencies. 

The Justice chief urged tipsters to come forward and provide information on corrupt state activities.

“The new and expanded anti-corruption task force will take it from there,” he said.

Mr. Duterte in a speech aired Tuesday ordered the Justice department to probe corruption allegations “in the entire government.”

The President has previously tasked Mr. Guevarra to form a panel to probe the anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) early this month filed graft complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against former PhilHealth chief Ricardo C. Morales and eight other officials. — Gillian M. Cortez, Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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