Duterte orders probe into alleged DPWH corruption

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2020 08:41 AM | Updated as of Oct 27 2020 10:14 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte drives through the Candon City Bypass Road in Ilocos Sur during its inauguration on July 25, 2019. With the President were Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar. Arman Baylon, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered a task force to investigate the alleged corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways, which he and some senators earlier flagged.

Duterte had initially formed the task force to investigate the irregularities in medical state insurer PhilHealth. The panel last month recommended that charges be filed against former and current top officials.

"Iyong task force na nabuo ko... this time, we will look into every department. But upon my request, behest, to focus sa corruption sa DPWH," he said in a televised speech aired Tuesday.

(The task force that I formed, this time we look into every department. But upon my request, behest, we will focus on the corruption in DPWH.)

Duterte said he had "nothing against" DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, who he said was "one of the hardworking" officials with "many" accomplishments.

"But you know, accomplishments alone, to me, should not suffice," he said. "It is not his job to be running after crooks, but it behooves upon me to see to it na itong corruption, mahinto--kung hindi, at least maputol nang kaunti (this corruption is stopped, or if not curbed even a bit)."

The public should expect "suspension" of officials "in the coming days", said the President.

"Kung i-suspend kita, may duda ako. Hindi ako mag-suspend ng tao na walang kasalanan," he said.

(If I suspend you, I have doubts. I won't suspend a person who has no wrongdoing.)

Senators earlier flagged around P345.25-billion in lump sum lodged in the DPWH's proposed 2021 budget. Some lawmakers and officials of the department also allegedly ask for "kickbacks" from contractors that win projects from the agency.

Duterte said in last week that subordinates of Villar were to blame for alleged corruption in DPWH, citing how the official hails from a billionaire family.

"Si Villar mayaman. Sec. Villar maraming pera, 'di kailangan mangurakot. Ang problema, sa baba. Malakas pa rin hanggang ngayon. 'Yung mga projects sa baba, 'yun ang laro diyan," he said of the official.

(Villar is rich. Sec. Villar has lots of money, and doesn't need to commit corruption. The problem is in the lower ranks. It's still rampant. The projects at the bottom, that's where the game is.)

The Commission on Audit (COA) has told the DPWH to recover a total of P431.933 million from contractors of projects which exceeded allowable costs.

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Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) commissioner Greco Belgica earlier said the agency won't name lawmakers under investigation for alleged involvement in corruption at the DPWH, saying this would "compromise" the probe.

This, as Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor challenged him to reveal those involved after he earlier bared that some lawmakers were in cahoots with DPWH personnel in alleged corrupt practices.