Duterte refuses to name lawmakers linked to corruption
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has refused to name lawmakers who allegedly demand kickbacks from project contractors, saying he has no jurisdiction over them since they belong to another branch of government.
“If I cannot investigate the congressmen, then I have no authority to be releasing their names, that they are involved, per investigation by the [Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC)],” Mr. Duterte said in a televised address from Davao City on Monday evening.
In previous years, however, the President had no qualms about publicizing the names of government officials on his “drug list.” He also accused Sen. Leila de Lima, a member of the legislative branch, of colluding with drug lords.
In his public addresses over the past few weeks, Mr. Duterte also announced the names of government employees, some from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, who were allegedly involved in graft and corruption.
On Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President did not name the lawmakers because he did not have proof they received money from favored contractors of government projects.
According to Mr. Duterte, he was informed by PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica that the agency had a list of congressmen who demanded commissions from contractors.
Belgica left it to him to decide whether or not to make the names public, he added.
“You know, let’s go to political law. I have no business investigating congressmen. They belong to a separate organ of government, which is coequal with the President and the Supreme Court,” the President said.
Forward list to Ombudsman
He added that his only recourse would be to forward the list to the Office of the Ombudsman—“the only investigating agency that has jurisdiction over congressmen, not me. I cannot investigate congressmen.”
Mr. Duterte also stressed that he did not want other offices releasing the names on the list independently although he insisted that he was not trying to wash his hands of the matter or covering up for anybody.
Roque defended the President, saying the accusation against the lawmakers was difficult to prove.
“So it seems this needs a lot of evidence that the President does not personally have. Unlike the evidence about a judge receiving bribes, which is easy to establish,” he said.
Roque pointed out that other government employees identified by Mr. Duterte belonged to the executive department, which was under his jurisdiction.
De Lima, however, was having none of the President’s claim about the separation of powers between coequal branches of government, pointing out in a series of tweets that the National Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice had filed charges against Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., former Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and “about a dozen” House members over the pork barrel scam.
“Please review your political law,” she said.
De Lima rejected Mr. Duterte’s reason that he could not prosecute legislators because he had “no authority” over them.
—With a report from Melvin Gascon
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