Lawmakers and public works personnel linked to alleged anomalous infrastructure projects should “shape up” since the “good days are over,” according to a Palace official.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after insisting there was nothing unfair and malicious when President Duterte bared the names of lawmakers included in the list of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).
Eight incumbent lawmakers and one former legislator have been identified by the President for alleged irregularities, including supposedly taking kickbacks from project contractors. Duterte immediately clarified that there was no hard evidence yet to prove the allegations against the lawmakers.
“Alam ninyo ang Presidente, hindi po iyan nagpapaliguy-ligoy. Binanggit nga niya iyong mga pangalan ng kongresista. Hindi pa sila nagkakasala, kaya imbestigahan pa. Pero ang mensahe sa mga kongresista at sa mga DPWH, shape up, dahil the good days are over. (The President doesn’t beat around the bush. He mentioned the names of the congressmen. They have not been proven guilty and are still being investigated. But the message to the congressmen and those at the DPWH is to shape up because the good days are over),” Roque said during a televised press briefing.
He noted that the President plans to implement a revamp of the DPWH district engineers to help combat corruption. He claimed this was the first time in local history that a President “dared to touch this institutional source of corruption.”
Apart from the lawmakers, the President identified several DPWH district engineers allegedly involved in corruption and ordered their immediate relief from their posts. He also disclosed plans to reorganize the district engineers assigned across the country.
In the same news conference Tuesday, Roque denied that lawmakers identified by the President were placed on trial by publicity. He said the President made clear the lawmakers are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“There was nothing unfair, there was nothing malicious kasi inulit-ulit po ni Presidente, hindi pa naman po sila proven guilty at hindi po namili ang Presidente. Kung ano lang iyong ini-report sa kanya ng PACC, iyon lang po ang isinapubliko ng ating Presidente. (The President repeatedly said they are not yet proven guilty. The President did not pick the names. He only made public what was reported to him by the PACC),” he said.
The President, in his remarks Monday, said the public should not take the PACC list as “gospel truth.” Duterte however defended the release of the names, saying the people has the right to access information.
Duterte previously refused to identify and investigate the politicians linked to the alleged anomalous public works projects, saying he has no jurisdiction over the co-equal branch of government. He left to the Office of the Ombudsman to pursue any investigation on the matter.
Asked about the President’s change of mind, Roque explained that Duterte decided to reveal the names as part of “freedom of information.”
“It is not a trial by publicity dahil nilinaw po ni Presidente – they have the presumption of innocence and these are people who are being investigated,” he said.
He also took a swipe at journalists critical of the President for either withholding the names or revealing them. “You can’t please everyone, pero sinabi na nga ni Presidente, freedom of information, it was officially received by his office then he can reveal it to the public,” he said.
On former Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr.’s claim that the President’s release of the names was meant to divert public attention from the controversial vaccination of his close-in security team, Roque told the former lawmaker to just answer the allegations hurled against him.
“Siya po ang nagda-diversionary tactic. Sagutin na lang po former Congressman Baguilat at narito po tayo sa Cordillera ngayon ‘no so sagutin ninyo lang po kung hindi totoo na nanghihingi kayo ng tongpats. Sabihin ninyo po ‘no. Pero huwag na po natin palitan pa ang issue (He’s the one making diversionary tactic. Former Congressman Baguilat should just answer, now that we’re in Cordillera now, if it’s true he asked for kickbacks. Just say it. But don’t change the issue),” he said.