DOJ-led antigraft task force to start with P1-B transactions
MANILA, Philippines — A special task force headed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to weed out corruption in government before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down will start with the investigation of transactions involving at least P1 billion in public funds, according to Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar.
“The particular transactions were not identified, just the agencies and the threshold amount. But these will be included in the investigation [to be] conducted,” Villar told reporters after members of the task force met on Friday.
Besides the minimum amount, she said the positions of the public officers being accused of wrongdoing and the gravity of the effect of the alleged irregularities on the delivery of public services would also be considered by the task force in deciding which cases would be given primary importance.
The President had promised to wipe out corruption within the first three to six months of his term, which ends in June 2022.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said representatives of various state agencies had their first meeting on Friday to discuss how to carry out the President’s order.
He said the task force would maintain an operations center at the DOJ office in Manila to “receive, filter and validate complaints and reports of corrupt activities” in the government.
“Our objectives are to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption, expedite the resolution of pending corruption cases and launch a campaign or advocacy to prevent further acts of corruption,” Guevarra said.
“The task force will create composite strike teams to focus on specific targets of [the] investigation,” he said.
Villar said members of the task force discussed its specific objectives and its structure and agreed on the “parameters for determining which allegations the task force will consider.”
She said they also agreed to “prioritize” the investigation of five agencies earlier identified by Guevarra as the most corrupt — the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Bureau of Customs, the Land Registration Authority, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which is headed by her husband.
Guevarra said the probers would also look at other agencies “where corruption significantly impacts on the delivery of government services.”
Villar’s husband, former Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar, is the secretary of the DPWH, which Duterte himself identified as one of the departments where corruption had worsened under his administration.
The President, however, had immediately absolved Public Works Secretary Villar of any whiff of corruption without conducting formal investigation.
He said the son of billionaire Manny Villar and the country’s wealthiest senator, Cynthia Villar, “already has a lot of money that he doesn’t need to steal” from the government.
But Undersecretary Villar said in an interview with ANC on Thursday that Duterte was just expressing his trust in her husband, noting that all state officials and employees were to be included in the President’s memorandum directing the government-wide corruption investigation, “which means that no one is exempt.”
Duterte won the presidency riding on his bold campaign promise to rid the country of illegal drugs and crimes, and clean the government in just the first few months of his administration.
Apparently fed up with the unabated corruption under his administration, the President had directed Guevarra to lead the task force that would investigate and prosecute corrupt public officers, a mandate specifically given by the Constitution to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Guevarra said the task force would be composed of representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, the National Prosecution Service and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
He said he would also ask the Commission on Audit, the Civil Service Commission and the Ombudsman to help in the investigation.
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.