Probing over 300 congressmen will take up a lot of Duterte’s time – Roque

Published November 24, 2020, 8:57 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte might end up doing nothing else if he will conduct the investigation on alleged corrupt congressmen, a Palace official said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said apart from respecting the separation of powers among branches of government, the President deemed it prudent to let the Office of the Ombudsman probe the matter.

“Because kung siya po ang mag-iimbestiga niyan, wala na siyang magagawa – 300 plus congressmen po iyan (Because if he will be the one to investigate, he could do nothing else. There are 300 plus congressmen). Pero mayroon naman po tayong opisina that specializes on this, which is the Ombudsman (But we have an office that specializes on that which is the Ombudsman),” he said during a Palace press briefing.

“He stands by what he said ’no, that this entails separation of powers. Mas mabuti na na Ombudsman ang mag-imbestiga (It is better for the Ombudsman to investigate),” he added.

In a televised address Tuesday, the President refused to identify and investigate lawmakers allegedly asking commissions from project contractors, saying he has no jurisdiction over members of the legislature.

Duterte said he has no recourse but to pass the list of lawmakers given by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to the Office of the Ombudsman since “it is the only investigating agency that has jurisdiction over congressmen.”

“I have no business investigating congressmen. They belong to a separate organ of government, which is co-equal with the President pati ang Supreme Court… I cannot investigate congressmen. That would be an encroachment of the power of separation,” he said. “If I cannot investigate the congressmen, then I have no authority to be releasing their names that they are involved per investigation by the PACC,” Duterte added.

Roque clarified that the President’s reluctance to name the lawmakers does not mean he was trying to protect certain allies. He said the President was simply not in possession of the evidence needed to prove the allegations that some lawmakers received kickbacks in infrastructure projects in their towns.

“Ang problema po dito sa mga ebidensiya sa congressmen, ‘di umano mayroong mga proyekto na linuto ang bidding at ibinigay sa contractor na favored na nagbibigay ng porsiyento sa kanya. So parang ang dami pong mga ebidensiyang kinakailangan na hindi naman po hawak ng Presidente nang personal (The problem with the evidence on congressman, there are allegations that some projects were rigged and given to favored contractors who will give a percentage to them. So there are many evidence needed that are not in President’s possession),” Roque said.

Asked to comment on speculations the President refused to divulge the list to protect allies, Roque said: “Well, hindi po, ang tingin ko nga po is evidentiary (No, I think it’s evidentiary).”

“Because this is an issue of evidence, mas mabuting mag-imbestiga ay ang Ombudsman dahil ang hurisdiksiyon ng Ombudsman ay lahat ng tao ng gobyerno (Because this is an issue of evidence, it is better for the Ombudsman to investigate because it has jurisdiction on all government workers),” he added.

Roque also explained that the President was able to divulge the names of some government officials in his narco-list several months ago because he probably saw the evidence against them.

He also defended the President’s practice of publicly naming the government personnel implicated in corruption during his recent public addresses. He said these officials, who have either been suspended or dismissed over various offenses, belong to the executive branch. “He (The President) has control over every single person under the Executive Department,” Roque said.

Asked why President Duterte had publicly accused Senator Leila de Lima of alleged drug involvement, Roque claimed that the evidence linking her to the illegal drug trade was very strong. He claimed that 11 witnesses testified against the senator.

“So between that and iyong allegations na namili ng favored contractor, na humingi ng porsiyento, mahirap pong pruwebahan iyon ‘no. So binigay na niya iyan sa Ombudsman (So between that and the allegations that some congressmen chose a favored contractor and asked for commission, it is hard to prove that. So the President will pass it to the Ombudsman),” he said.