Duterte softens stance on alleged corrupt solons: All presumed innocent
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte clarified on Monday that his naming House members linked to corruption was not a pronouncement of a guilty verdict, but that he merely read names that popped up in a list.
Duterte repeatedly made this clarification during his televised pre-recorded briefing before announcing the names of lawmakers accused of corruption, saying that the presumption of innocence follows in these cases.
The President in the past used his briefings to give updates on the government’s COVID-19 response to mention officials either suspended or dismissed — an assurance to the public that his administration remained committed to fighting corruption.
Now that lawmakers were being accused, he said he had to share the information with the people as it was their right.
“The problem is I said I will let the public know who are corrupt. But I want to say this: Not that I’m afraid of, not that I do not want any quarrel with them. So be it if that would be the result of this. What I intend to do now… is the public should be aware that there is no hard evidence. That’s one,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“That it cannot be translated by just reading the names, that they are already guilty because presumption of innocence would lie all throughout until conviction or acquittal. This is not evidence that they are… It’s just that their names came out. And I need to tell the people or else I’ll look stupid,” he added.
According to the chief executive, the names were laid out because some people heeded his call to report corruption in the government anonymously.
“In my exasperation, actually with corruption, I mentioned that those who know something about corruption [should report it]. No need to give your name if you’re afraid. Just give the names of the government officials. The problem, as I said to the members of the Congress, I do not want a quarrel with you. We’re independent of each other,” Duterte said.
“This is not really my work. This is the work of people who maybe obeyed my guarantee that they would be protected so long as they give us the… What reached me here now, Congress. So I told them much as I would like to avoid a bad blood with you… This is in obedience maybe to my call to people who know of corruption,” he added.
Duterte dropped eight names — seven of whom are incumbent lawmakers and are part of the majority and are supportive of him.
The incumbent House members are:
- Occidental Mindoro Rep. Jospehine Ramirez-Sato
- Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas
- Misamis Occidental 2nd District Rep. Henry Oaminal
- Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza
- Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina Helen Tan
- ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap
- Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman
Meanwhile, former Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat — a member of the opposition Liberal Party (LP) — was also mentioned by Duterte. Sato appears to be an LP member, although she is with the majority.
In recent months, Duterte mentioned the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in his addresses like roll calls, out of frustration with corruption issues.
PhilHealth is facing a myriad of corruption allegations from overspending, widespread corruption, and the anomalous advances of COVID-19 funds The BI is reeling from the so-called pastillas scheme under which payoffs are given to Immigration officials in exchange for a smooth entry into the Philippines.
This was not the time Duterte mentioned the names of officials accused of corruption. In 2019, before the midterm elections, he read names of officials linked to the illegal drug trade to dissuade voters from electing them again.
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