By Catherine S Valente /Manila Times
Two members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet and at least 200 other government officials are being investigated for alleged corruption, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) said yesterday.
PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica vowed to show “no-mercy” in the commission’s campaign to curb corruption.
Belgica said the investigations were prompted by complaints received by the commission early this year.
“Complaints have been filed so we are duty bound to investigate. They are secretaries, two of them, cabinet rank,” he said in a news briefing in Malacanang.
But he declined to identify the cabinet officials, emphasising that the existence of complaints does not mean the two secretaries are guilty of corruption.
“The investigation doesn’t mean they’re already guilty. So it’s unfair to mention them and make them appear corrupt…Just because a case was filed against you doesn’t mean you’re already guilty,” Belgica said.
He added the concerned officials were accused of violating Republic Act 3019 or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act” in February.
“It’s not bribery,” the PACC official said, without giving other details.
The officials have been co-operative with the PACC’s probe, which he said was nearing completion.
He said the findings would be submitted to President Duterte and the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Our investigation cannot be revealed to the public until it has been submitted to the president. The president decides on it and then it can be opened to the public,” Belgica told reporters.
He said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has offered to be placed under lifestyle check, and expressed hope other cabinet officials would do the same.
“He offered to be the first. He offered to open his bank accounts. King Arthur is really different,” he said.
Belgica added that it would also be “honourable” for other cabinet members and officials in the executive branch to volunteer to undergo a lifestyle check.
“I’m not forcing them; it’s their choice. If they do that, that will be honourable,” he said.
“It’s good if everyone will volunteer so we will have moral ascendancy in governance,” Belgica added.
Aside from the two cabinet secretaries, 200 government officials will also be subjected to lifestyle checks, including those from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways and Bureau of Internal Revenue.
The three government agencies, Belgica said, have been the subject of the most number of corruption complaints filed before the PACC.
“Let it be known that we will show no mercy against corrupt officials. We will file cases, we will make them go through the process,” he said.
“At the same time, we will recognise and acknowledge offices and agencies that are really working very hard and meeting the target of the president for us to give a better/comfortable life for our people,” he added.
Meanwhile, Belgica said a total of 2,500 complaints have been submitted to the PACC, of which 1,000 were “acted upon.”
Some 1,200 cases, however, presented no evidence, he added.
“We are evidence-based… If the officer denies it and we don’t have evidence, then case is closed,” Belgica said.
To better respond to citizens’ complaints on corruption and red tape, the PACC has formed a “super response team” with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and the 8888 complaint centre.
The ARTA is headed by Belgica’s brother, Jeremiah Belgica.
“We have all now come together to receive reports against corruption, red tape and to address the concerns and hold accountable erring officials,” Belgica said.
“So with ARTA, the agencies and people that do not respond will be investigated and if evidence warrant, cases will be filed against them. This is a co-ordination meeting that we did with the PNP (Philippine National Police) that I will discuss in a while,” he added.
The PACC, created by the president in 2017, is authorised to conduct an investigation on alleged corruption involving officials in the executive branch.
It can recommend the filing of complaints against officials before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Belgica also vowed to complete its “lifestyle check” on former and current officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) by November.
Some 15 top officials of the PCSO were being investigated, including 10 named by the president, who flagged alleged “massive corruption” in the agency.
“Two to three months (we will complete the lifestyle check); PCSO probe will be finished first,” Belgica said.
Among those being investigated, he added, were former PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan and incumbent board member Sandra Cam.
Board members were included in the probe because they supposedly created policies that allowed corruption to thrive in the agency.
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