Kickbacks for solons? President gets PACC list

Published November 26, 2020, 11:09 PM

by Manila Bulletin

President Duterte has received from Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica a list of lawmakers believed involved in corruption in the implementation of public works projects by private contractors. He said he will send the list to the Ombudsman, saying it is ”the only investigating agency that has jurisdiction over congressmen.”

Congress approves the National Appropriation Law containing the budgets of all the government departments, bureaus, and agencies. But after its approval, all responsibility for the programs that are funded in the bill is supposed to devolve entirely on the implementing agency in the Executive Department.

It has long been claimed, however, that some congressmen continue their involvement in the implementation of certain public works projects by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), especially the ones they pushed for during the House deliberations on the budget bill. Some congressmen allegedly get to choose the private contractor, who then allegedly diverts part of the funding to the congressman.

Sometime ago, the Supreme Court ruled on this matter, declaring that while Congress has the sole authority to approve the budget, the involvement of congressmen and senators ceases upon the bill’s approval. The DPWH takes over and chooses the private contractor for a project, in accordance with established legal processes governing the awarding of public works contracts.

But reports persist that the old system somehow continues and the PACC has now submitted to President Duterte a list of congressmen who allegedly got to choose the contractors for projects in their districts, in collusion with public works personnel, for which they allegedly received certain amounts from the contractor.

The President said he will send the list to the Ombudsman, claiming he has no business investigating congressmen as they belong to a separate organ of government, although he has been known in the past to denounce and name some senators who went on to suffer detention while under investigation.

In support of the President’s decision against announcing any congressman’s name in the PACC list, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that in the past, the names of some judges, although they belong to still another independent branch of the government, were announced because of established evidence. In the case of the congressmen allegedly getting kickbacks from public works contractors, he said, that has yet to be determined by investigation by the Ombudsman.

We will have to leave it to the Ombudsman to act on the PACC list of congressman. He may get some leads in his investigation from Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s recent expose that some congressional districts received obviously excessive public works funds in the National Appropriation Bill now pending in the Senate.