PACC: DPWH, Congress among most corrupt

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By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) led government agencies with the most number of corruption complaints, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) said on Thursday.

The PACC announced at a forum in Intramuros, Manila, on Thursday, Oct. 4, that in the first “six months” of its anti-corruption campaign, it received a total of “411” corruption reports from various individuals.

The PACC’s ranking of government agencies that received the most number of corruption reports is as follows: DPWH, Government Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCC), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Finance (DoF), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Transportation (DoTr), Department of Agriculture (DA), and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Not included in this partial list are the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the National Food Authority (NFA). But Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., in a press briefing at the Palace on Thursday, tagged the two agencies in the collusion over the missing sacks of apprehended smuggled rice in Zamboanga City.

For his part, PACC Commissioner and Spokesperson Greco Antonious Beda B. Belgica said: “I would say that Congress today is the most corrupt institution left. We have 300 demigods who play and treat money as if it is their own. Even after the Supreme Court ruling [against it], they still continue to use the pork barrel system. And in fact, they use this to hostage or blackmail the executive department.”

Mr. Belgica added that “Congress, really, should be abolished.”

Out of the said 411 corruption reports, “59 complaints are deemed verifiable — meaning, complaints that are not anonymous, and these have attached verifiable documents. Unverified reports or anonymous reports, 352 — meaning, these are reports that have yet to be verified, or reports that are outside the commission’s jurisdiction,” John Paul Raña, executive assistant of PACC Chairman Dante L. Jimenez, said in his presentation.

At the Palace, Mr. Roque said: “At 6:45 this morning, I got a text from the Executive Secretary asking me to inform the nation that the President was visibly upset with the missing 23,015 sacks of apprehended smuggled rice in Zamboanga City. The Executive Secretary asked me to tell the nation that the President has ordered an immediate and thorough investigation of this incident, and that instructions were given for both the NFA OIC (National Food Authority officer-in-charge) and Customs Commissioner to immediately place on preventive suspension individuals who may be part of this scheme.”

Asked if both Customs and NFA officials are colluding to make this happen, Mr. Roque said: “Investigation is ongoing, but I think it’s obvious because both agencies had some jurisdiction over the apprehended smuggled rice na parehong opisyales ng (who were both officials of) Customs and NFA….Probably, they have a liability for this.”

He also said Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña had advised him that “Zamboanga City District Collector Lyceo Martinez and Customs Police District Commander Filomeno Salazar” have been placed under “administrative relief” while the investigation is ongoing.

Sought for comment about Mr. Belgica’s remarks, Mr. Roque said: “Well, I don’t [agree]. All I know is that there’s a decision against the pork barrel system and that if he (Mr. Belgica) says it persists, I hope he will file charges against individuals, that’s their mandate.”

Huwag naman most corrupt (Let’s not say most corrupt). There’s corruption, ‘wag naman most corrupt. Well, as an ex-congressman, (I find) that’s unfair,” Mr. Roque also said.

Mr. Belgica said, “The pork barrel system, the legislative PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) for Congress, and executive pork barrel for executive department are lump sum discretionary funds given to politicians that (are) prone to corruption.”

As for the PACC’s list of most corrupt agencies, Mr. Roque said: “That’s the mandate of the Anti-Graft Commission and I hope they will expedite their investigation so that they can file the corresponding complaints, if warranted.”