By Corina Oliquino

MANILA — Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica said they will identify congressmen allegedly involved in corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), make a completed list and submit a report only to President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a report by The Philippine Star, Belgica said they could not release the information to Congress or the public.

 “Our report will be submitted to the President and the appropriate agency for appropriate actions to be taken. That’s the only mandate and authority of PACC,” Belgica said.

“As much as I want to put it out in public, the PACC doesn’t have the authority to do that. And if we do that, it would jeopardize our investigation. It’s like catching the culprit even before the investigation is finished,” he added.

House Public Accounts committee Chairman Mike Defensor urged Belgica to name lawmakers involved in the alleged DPWH anomaly but the presidential appointee declined as he acknowledged that not all lawmakers were corrupt.

“Rep. Defensor is right, not all congressmen are involved in corrupt activities. But not all are clean. That’s based on our investigations,” Belgica said.

“Now, as to the names… I don’t want to do blind items or make a bulletin board or noise board of our investigation,” he said.

“If I reveal the names of those we are about to investigate ahead of an actual inquiry or if we name the suspects before an actual inquiry, it would be like telling them ‘you’re being arrested’,” Belgica said.

On October 24, Senate President Vicente Sotto III in an interview with dwIZ put up the same challenge against Belgica as he suggested that it is parliamentary courtesy for the Congress to allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate lawmakers with alleged links to the DPWH mess.

“Name names and show evidence,” Sotto said.

“It’s not good to see the Senate investigate the House or the House doing the same to the Senate, just in aid of legislation,” he added.

Belgica insisted that the PACC’s mandate is to probe presidential appointees only but they support President Duterte’s call for the creation of a special task force to take the investigation deeper.

“The President already said that he would create a task force to investigate DPWH,” Belgica said.

“So, it needs a different body, maybe NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) or the ombudsman to conduct the investigation,” he said.

He also dismissed as “self-serving” suggestions for the House of Representatives to conduct its own probe on the DPWH issue.

“Based on my experience, a third party or an external auditory investigator is always the most effective investigation or will always produce the most effective/efficient investigation,” he said.

Open secret

In another report by The Philippine Star, Belgica pointed out that the involvement of some congressmen in DPWH projects is an open secret.

“It is an open secret that some legislators are exercising powers to influence the choice of DEs (district engineers) and contractors in their respective legislative districts. This is the reason why DEs and contractors are beholden to some legislators. The power of congressmen to identify, influence and recommend the appointment of DEs and contractors in their respective legislative districts is similar to their power to identify NGOs which, according to the Supreme Court in the case of Belgica vs. Executive Secretary, may expose the whole system to corruption,” Belgica said.

Belgica also clarified their investigation into DPWH did not intend to attack the House of Representatives as an institution.

“It is wake-up call in an attempt to finally eradicate the systemic corruption involving DPWH and some legislators through policies that will ensure compliance with laws and existing rules and regulations,” he said.

“But we cannot close our eyes to what we come across through the investigation,” he pointed out, recalling the PACC’s submitted report to the DPWH on two district engineers, immediately dismissed by Sec. Mark Villar, caught on camera engaging in corruption in 2018 by facilitating illegal transactions worth ₱4 million and ₱10 million.

In another report by CNN Philippines, Belgica said Villar should be the sole authority in the appointment of engineers and contractors for government projects and to centralize operations to monitor all 250 districts across the country.

President Duterte, on the other hand, believes the problem in DPWH is in the lower ranks.

“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,” Duterte said during the weekly Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases briefing last October 19.

In the past weeks, the DPWH faced issues related to the include overpricing and delayed implementation of some of its infrastructure projects in 2019 flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) along with its multi-billion-peso lump appropriations in the proposed 2021 budget.