'We cannot feign blindness': PACC says some congressmen pocketing kickbacks from DPWH corruption

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2020 11:28 AM

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica appears before the Senate Committee of the Whole hybrid hearing Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, on the alleged irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth). Belgica said the PACC has a long list of individuals currently under investigation in connection with the PhilHealth mess. Henzberg Austria, Senate PRIB/File

MANILA – Some congressmen are allegedly pocketing as much as 10 to 15 percent of the budget of anomalous infrastructure projects after influencing the award of these projects to favored contractors, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission said Tuesday. 

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said he will submit to President Rodrigo Duterte this week the agency's initial findings on alleged corruption in DPWH. 

“To finish [the investigation], that will be a long time but we will submit our initial report this week. However, as to the list [of those involved], let me make a clarification that we don’t submit lists, we submit reports to the President,” he told ANC “Matters of Fact”.

“And our investigation is geared towards DPWH. However, in investigating DPWH, we cannot feign blind[ness] on the things that we discover and that includes alleged participation of lawmakers in the implementation of the projects in their districts,” he added.

Belgica likened the case to the pork barrel system, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.

“This is a similar case because the powers of the lawmakers in influencing the choice of district engineers and contractors within their districts exposes the entire system to corruption,” he said.

Belgica said the PACC had received a lot of reports, which was “growing by the day,” about congressmen allegedly in cahoots with DPWH personnel and contractors to commit corruption.

According to their preliminary investigation, congressmen allegedly get 10 to 15 percent per project, which is normally given in advance.

"It's the same story all over Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. It's just percentage that differs. Okay, this is how it works. Allegedly the congressman or legislator already has a choice contractor. Then this contractor will present himself to the district engineer. [The] district engineer will get a confirmation from congressman in different ways. Then the choice contractor will be accommodated," Belgica said.

The contractors also have their own “little syndicates” where they will choose for themselves who will get the project, he added. At least 5 percent will be set aside, which will be equally distributed to the losing bidders.

"Probably, around 50 percent or less will go to projects. That's why we see substandard, incomplete projects because of that system," the PACC commissioner said.

Another form of corruption that the PACC is investigating in DPWH is the “mining and dredging permits and clearances for sale,” he added.

Senators earlier flagged around P345.25-billion in lump sum insertions in the DPWH's proposed 2021 budget, with lawmakers and officials of the department said to be asking for "kickbacks" from contractors that win projects from the agency. 

The President, who earlier spoke about alleged corruption at the DPWH, said he planned to create a separate task force to stamp out alleged corruption in the agency.

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