President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate anomalies in the entire government bureaucracy and prosecute erring public servants.
“I hope all government workers, officials are listening. This is a memorandum from me, the President, to Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Department of Justice. The subject is to investigate allegations of corruption in the entire government. All,” Duterte said in a recorded speech aired Tuesday morning.
Duterte said the country was still “plagued with corruption” despite efforts to combat it, and he vowed to commit the remainder of his term to clean up the government and hold accountable those involved in irregularities.
The President authorized the Department of Justice to decide which allegations to investigate, taking into consideration their gravity and impact on the delivery of government service.
The DOJ may create as many panels as necessary and invite or direct other government bodies to assist in its investigations.
“The DOJ shall prosecute and file the appropriate charges against those involved in the anomalies,” he said.
Duterte also said he will order the suspension of officials implicated in corruption and said resignation would not save erring government officials from criminal or administrative liability.
Duterte said his directive to the Justice department would remain in effect until he leaves office on June 30, 2020, unless it is lifted or revoked sooner.
Guevarra, who led the inter-agency task force that investigated corruption in the state-owned Philippines Health Insurance Corp., said the President’s directive was “the toughest” he has received.
“I will need all the support and cooperation of the entire govt machinery to achieve this singular objective of substantially reducing corruption in government,” he said.
Given the breadth of the anti-corruption campaign, Guevarra said he would immediately set up the organizational mechanism for an expanded investigation and establish the task force’s priorities.
“It will help us a lot if government workers themselves and the people they deal with would come forward and provide us the necessary information to uncover corrupt activities and identify the perpetrator,” he said. “The new and expanded task force will take it from there.”
In his address on Tuesday, Duterte said he has ordered the DOJ-led task force to investigate allegations of corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways.
On Tuesday, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission said some congressmen were pocketing as much as 10 percent to 15 percent of the budget for anomalous infrastructure projects after influencing the awarding of these jobs to favored contractors.
PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said he will submit the agency’s initial findings on corruption at the DPWH to the President this week.
In an interview on ANC, Belgica said while the PACC was focused on the DPWH, it could not “feign blind[ness]” on things they discovered, including the alleged participation of lawmakers in the implementation of projects in their districts.
Belgica likened these cases to the pork barrel system, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Senator Christopher Go, who recommended the creation of a new task force, vowed there would be no sacred cows.
“Those liable should be held answerable…Towards the last one year and eight months of this administration, we must not hesitate in our quest to eradicate corruption,” Go said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said she supported the effort to root out corruption and said she believed Guevarra was up to the task.
Hontiveros cited the need for a collaborative effort to put a stop to anomalous practices that tend to weaken the country's institutions.
She added that Guevarra and his office have been very cooperative when her committee investigated illegal practices at the Bureau of Immigration.
Meanwhile, Construction Workers Solidarity party-list Rep. Romeo Momo Sr. said there really were some dishonest people in the DPWH.
“We in the CWS party-list still believe in the dedication and professionalism of DPWH officials and employees, and on presumption of regularity in the performance of their respective functions. It may be true, though, that there are some ‘bad eggs in the basket,’ tainting the whole institution,” he said in a statement.
He lauded Public Works Secretary Mark Villar for creating a task force to look into allegations of corruption in his own agency.
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