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MESSAGE TO OMBUDSMAN

Duterte: Probe corruption allegations vs Cabinet members

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the Ombudsman to investigate members of his Cabinet for corruption and bring charges against those who will be found to have betrayed the public trust.

The President’s move came days after a complaint was filed against Sandra Cam, a director of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and two weeks after Alexander Balutan resigned as general manager of the PCSO after being accused of corruption.

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“It’s true, there’s corruption. And I myself told the Ombudsman, ‘Investigate and file charges against my Cabinet members,’” the President said on Sunday night in Cagayan de Oro City, where he campaigned for the senatorial candidates of the ruling party PDP-Laban.

The President said he himself would file the charges against erring Cabinet members if needed.

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“I’ll file the cases myself,” he said.

The President spoke after detained Sen. Leila de Lima dared him to fire Cam, who had been accused in the Office of the Ombudsman of amassing P500 million in unexplained wealth.

De Lima also urged the President to order a “bona fide investigation” of the accusation against Cam, who she said was involved in pressuring prisoners at the national penitentiary to testify for the government in the congressional probe into trumped-up drug trading charges against her.

Cam, whom the President appointed to the PCSO in December 2017, is accused of concealing her ownership of a resort and convention center and two parcels of land at Barangay Pinamoghaan on Ticao Island, Masbate province.

The complaint was filed with the Ombudsman on March 21 by a certain Lino Espinosa Lim Jr. of Uson town in Masbate.

Undeclared

Lim accused Cam of not declaring the properties in her financial disclosures for 2017 and 2018.

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He said Cam concealed her ownership of the properties by registering them in the names of family members Purisima Martinez, Martin Cam and Marco Cam.

Malacañang, however, paid no attention to De Lima’s challenge, saying on Monday that the Palace would not duplicate the Ombudsman’s investigation.

“We will not be duplicating any investigation considering the fact that there is now a pending case with the Ombudsman,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.

In a radio interview on Monday, Cam confirmed she owned the properties, but denied they were worth P500 million.

She said she was not the sole owner of the properties, but one of the partners in a corporation that owned them.

Cam said she bought the land on which the resort and convention center stands in 1997 but did not declare the business in her 2018 financial disclosure because it was not operational at the time.

2019 disclosure

She said she would declare it in her disclosure for 2019.

Cam said she believed there were people behind Lim and that she would bring charges against him.

Other people also seemed to be behind Balutan’s departure from the PCSO.

The former military official had asked for a “fair and thorough” investigation of the accusations against him, saying he wanted to learn who were besmirching his name.

Balutan quit earlier this month for “personal reasons” after disclosing falling PCSO revenue from lottery.

Balutan said PCSO revenue from lotto dropped by 39.19 percent to just P1.59 billion in February from P2.61 billion in the same month last year.

He blamed the revenue fall on smaller lotto pots and higher ticket prices.

The government imposed a 20-percent tax on lotto winnings of more than P10,000 in 2018 and added a documentary stamp tax of P4 to ticket prices.

Resigned, not fired

After the disclosure, Malacañang announced that Balutan had been fired over “serious allegations of corruption.” Later, however, the Palace “clarified” that he had not been fired but had resigned.

The President has fired a handful of his officials on just a “whiff of corruption,” including people who had worked with him since he was mayor of Davao City.

He has said that it is difficult for him to let go of people whom he considers close to him, but also insists he will stamp out corruption in the government.

The President has been criticized for “recycling” officials who have failed to defeat corruption in their offices, including two customs bureau chiefs who have been reassigned at the peak of legislative inquiries into narcotics smuggling through the ports.

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TAGS: Alexander Balutan, corrupt Cabinet officials, Leila de Lima, Office of the Ombudsman, PCSO, Rodrigo Duterte, Sandra Cam, war on corruption
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