Corruption at DPWH ordered probed: Villar issues order amid budget cut, ouster threats

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    Villar (fourth from left) leads the inspection of a portion of the Laguna segment of CALAX. (DPWH Photo)
    Villar (fourth from left) leads the inspection of a portion of the Laguna segment of CALAX. (DPWH Photo)

    PUBLIC Works Secretary Mark Villar has ordered a thorough investigation into alleged rampant corruption at the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) following President Duterte’s statement that every project in the department involved irregularities.

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    Last week, President Duterte criticized the DPWH for alleged corruption. On Monday night, the President said there might need to establish a “structure to improve the integrity of the projects” in the DPWH as every project involved some illegal transaction.

    But the President cleared Villar of involvement in corruption, saying the secretary does not need to engage in corruption as he is already rich. Villar is one of two billionaires in the Cabinet.

    The DPWH, along with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs, topped the list of the most corrupt departments and agencies of the government, according to a recent report of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.

    Amid allegations of corruption, Sen. Panfilo Lacson also vowed to cut or realign the alleged “excessive and unjustified” amendments in the DPWH’s proposed P666-billion budget for 2021.

    At the House, an administration lawmaker urged the the National Bureau of Investigation and the Senate to conduct a probe on what President Duterte described as “grave” corruption in the DPWH. Another congressman has warned Villar he could be ousted like his party mate, former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, because of alleged inequitable distribution of infrastructure projects among congressional districts under the P4.5-trillion proposed national budget for 2020.

    In response to the allegations, Villar formed the five-man Task Force against Graft and Corruption (TAG) to investigate the alleged corruption in the department.

    In an order October 17, Villar said the said TAG will be chaired by Assistant Secretary Mel John Verzosa with Internal Audit Service Director Gliricidia Tumaliuan-Ali as vice chairwoman. The members are DPWH Human Resource and Administrative Service Director Michael Villafranca, Stakeholders Relations Service officer in charge Andro Santiago, and lawyer Ken Edward Sta. Rita.

    “The TAG shall investigate anomalies allegedly perpetrated by officials and/or employees of the Department, based on valid complaints,” Villar said in the order.

    Villar said creation of the task force is in line with Duterte’s stringent policy against graft and corrupt practices of government officials and employees, and part of efforts to rid the department of alleged widespread corruption and boost the efficiency and effectiveness of the department.

    The President on Monday said the problem lies with some project engineers and those in charge with right-of-way deals.

    “Karamihan diyan sa DPWH mga project engineers… Ang problema sa baba, malakas pa rin hanggang ngayon (ang korapsyon). Iyang sa mga project sa baba, iyon ang laro diyan (Many in the DPWH are project engineers… the problem is down the ranks, corruption is still strong. There in the projects, that is how it is played),” he said.

    Duterte urged the public to file complaints against corrupt officials. He reiterated that when it comes to corruption, he will not compromise or be forgiving.

    The President said Villar is already rich and does not need to engage in corruption.

    “Si Villar, mayaman. Secretary Villar, maraming pera iyan. Hindi niya kailangan mangurakot. Ang problema sa baba, malakas pa rin (ang korapsyon) hanggang ngayon (Villar, he’s rich. Secretary Villar, he has many money. He does not need to engage in corruption. The problem is down the ranks, corruption is still strong),” he said.