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Lawmakers blame political rivals for corruption link

/ 05:00 AM December 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The lawmakers whom President Rodrigo Duterte linked to supposed corrupt activities involving Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) projects in their congressional districts have blamed their political rivals for the accusations.

They said they were ready to face any investigation to clear their names which appeared on the list released by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to Mr. Duterte.

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Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato said she was “devastated” by the accusation, even as the President had said there was no hard evidence to prove their guilt.

“This has no basis and grossly unfair. I do not have any involvement in any corruption,” Sato said in a statement. “I stand by my solid track record in my more than 30 years of public service.”

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She also blamed PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica, who, she said, is a “known ally and party mate” of a political rival.

“Apparently, the only basis [of Mr. Duterte’s list] is a report compiled by [Belgica] … This politician intends to run against me in the upcoming 2022 local elections. The report made by Commissioner Belgica, which impinges on my credentials as a public servant, is clearly calculated to sow intrigues and disruption in the local politics of Occidental Mindoro,” Sato said.

Show proof

Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan challenged Belgica to show concrete proof about her supposed involvement in a road construction irregularity in her district.

“I challenge [Belgica] to come to Gumaca [town] and visit the project, if they are serious on their campaign against corruption,” Tan said in a Facebook post, referring to a road project in Quezon which was supposedly damaged during a storm before it was opened for public use.

Tan said her involvement in the Gumaca bypass project was only in the preparation of a feasibility study for purposes of funding.

“It’s shocking why I am being blamed when I am not the implementing agency but the DPWH,” she said, describing the allegation as a demolition job by her political enemies.

Isabela Rep. Alyssa Sheena Tan also denied allegations that she was involved in corruption in DPWH projects. She was accused of owning companies that have several construction projects in Isabela, and of rigging bidding.

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“There is absolutely no truth to the allegation by the PACC that I own construction companies that have been awarded with projects in my district,” Tan said in a statement.

“This truth can easily be verified by the PACC by simply checking and validating with the concerned government agencies that they surely have access to,” she said.

According to the lawmaker, she would “indulgently cooperate [with] and provide any information” to the PACC to help them with their investigation.

Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman said she was shocked to hear that she was included in the list.

“Public service has never been a money-making venture for me or my family whose good name is highly esteemed in our district,” Roman said.

“I am comforted by the fact that the President clarified that there is no verified information in this regard,” she said, adding that she would welcome any investigation “to establish the truth.”

Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza, a member of the Liberal Party, said the accusations against him were “unfair and unfounded.”“The PACC never contacted me to hear my side and to explain. I challenge the PACC to take a look of the complaint,” said Daza. “I will support any investigation on this matter and look forward to the chance to clear [my] good name.”

‘Hatchet job’

He said his political opponents and several contractors whom he asked to be investigated and later blacklisted by the DPWH could have fed the wrong information to the PACC.

Daza said he asked the DPWH to investigate seven contractors, all based in Northern Samar, in 2018 and 2019 for their alleged poor and corruption-laden projects, mostly involving school buildings.

“This is a hatchet job of my political opponents, as well as a form of retaliation of [contractors] that were blacklisted. Now, I was the one accused of corruption by sending wrong information to the PACC,” he said.

Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, one of the deputy speakers in the House of Representatives, said he had resigned from the family-owned HSO Construction Corp.

According to Oaminal, the company, which has been operating since 1988 before he entered public service in 2007, has no recent construction projects with government agencies in Misamis Occidental, including the DPWH.

“It saddens me that my name was included in the report, but I welcome and support the conduct of any investigation on the matter to clear my name,” he said.

—Reports from Maricar Cinco, Delfin Mallari Jr., Villamor Visaya Jr., Greg Refraccion, Joey Gabieta, Divisina Suson, Leah Agonoy and Julie Aurelio

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TAGS: corrupt House members, DPWH corruption, Rodrigo Duterte
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