Lacson questions 'exemption' of Duterte allies from corruption investigations

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2020 05:35 PM | Updated as of Oct 28 2020 05:59 PM

Sen. Panfilo Lacson asks Finance Committee chairman Sen. Sonny Angara some clarificatory questions in plenary on August 20, 2020. Albert Calvelo, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday questioned President Rodrigo Duterte's renewed push against corruption, noting that the chief executive has automatically "exempted" some of his allies from wrong doing.

While Duterte announced the creation of a "mega" corruption task force, the President also said that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar were not involved in corrupt deeds in their respective agencies.

"In the same message mayroon na agad exemptions (there are already exemptions)," Lacson said in an online press conference.

"Parang doon pa lang (It seems that at that point), it already started on the wrong foot," he said.

Lacson said he is not insinuating that either Duque or Villar are involved in corruption, but noted that they should not be shielded from investigations.

"Baka effectively, without saying it, ang dating ay 'Wag niyo isama si Sec. Duque, si Sec. Villar," he said.

(In effect, without saying it, it can be construed as "Exempt Sec. Duque and Sec. Villar.)

"I'm not trying to say na 'yung 2 may kinalaman sa corruption pero... parang dapat may basis ka dapat para hindi isama," he said.

(I'm not trying to say that the 2 are involved in corruption but you need to have a basis not to include them.)

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the investigating panel may be used. Other senators, meanwhile, lauded the creation of the new task force.

"Okay 'yan kung totoo at seryoso at pati malalapit na kaalyado hindi papaboran," Pangilinan told reporters in a text message.

(That's okay if it's true and serious and if close allies will not be favored.)

"Baka mga nasa oposisyon lang ang sasampahan ng kasong gawa-gawa lang," he said. 

(There is a possibility that make-believe cases would only be filed against members of the opposition.)

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon noted that the task force is unauthorized to file cases against government officials before the Sandiganbayan.

"The filing of any criminal case under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act must be approved by the Ombudsman," he said.

ABS-CBN News has sought comment from Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque but he has yet to reply as of posting. 

Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go suggested the creation of the "mega" task force against corruption after reports of irregularities in various agencies, including the DPWH, which usually gets the second largest share of the national budget.

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