PACC: Keep legislators out of DPWH appointments
MANILA, Philippines — The power of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) secretary to appoint district engineers should be strengthened to ensure the loyalty of those officials lie only on him and not on congressmen who use their power to influence the choice of district engineers and the choice of contractors for public works projects.
“Because of that power, they have the influence or they were able to assert their choice of district engineer in their districts or which contractors should win. These people become beholden to them and that exposes the system to corruption,” Commissioner Greco Belgica of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) said at an online press briefing on Saturday.
Belgica also declined Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor’s challenge for him to identify the lawmakers involved in these activities.
“I don’t want to do blind items or make a bulletin board or noise board of our investigation. If I reveal who we are investigating or who are our suspects before our inquiry, it would be as if I had telegraphed who would be arrested, and that will compromise the investigation,” he said.
The PACC’s reports will be submitted to the President, to appropriate agencies that will pursue the investigation, and to the courts, he said.
An agency like the National Bureau of Investigation or Office of the Ombudsman should be involved in the probe, he added.
In seeking to strengthen the DPWH secretary’s power, Belgica said the public works chief should be free from influence when appointing district engineers.
“In this way, the district engineers would be afraid of no one else but him,” he said, adding that the public works secretary could also be called out when a district engineer is investigated.
Belgica said the PACC was working with other government agencies to push the investigations further and to share information it has received.
“We have long been investigating the DPWH, and as I’ve said, you know in investigating, we could not play blind and close our eyes to what we see. That’s why our reports would be submitted to the President and the proper agency, and are not meant to be feasted on or made into blind items,” he said.
He also said he had completed his fact-finding into specific cases involving the DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and had submitted this to the commission for formal investigation.
The commission would tackle this and come up with recommendations for the President, he said.
President Duterte earlier said corruption in the DPWH was grave, and no construction activities began without money changing hands.
But he cleared Public Works Secretary Mark Villar of involvement in the irregularities, saying the latter was so wealthy that he would not need to steal from public coffers.
Villar’s father, real estate tycoon and former Senate President Manuel Villar, is the richest Filipino on the Forbes’ list of billionaires for this year, with an estimated net worth of $5.7 billion, or close to P280 billion.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.