BY WENDELL VIGILIA and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
THE chief of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), Greco Belgica, has earned the ire of members of the House of Representatives after saying that about 12 congressmen are involved in corruption in the Department of Works and Highways (DPWH), saying he is tarnishing the image of the chamber.
Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor, chair of the House committee on public accounts, said since Belgica refuses to name names and file charges against the alleged corrupt congressmen, he should just “put up or shut up.”
Defensor said if Belgica could not identify the congressmen, “why talk about this issue, titillate the imagination of the public and put all House members in bad light?”
Belgica on Wednesday said about a dozen members of the House have asked commissions from contractors of government projects implemented in their districts, with some demanding as high as 15 percent of the project cost.
His statement came after President Duterte said he has received from the PACC a list of alleged corrupt congressmen but could not investigate them as they belong to a co-equal branch of government. Duterte did not name the alleged corrupt lawmakers.
Belgica also refused to name them on Wednesday. Yesterday, he maintained the agency’s probe is focused on alleged anomalous projects of the DPWH, and is not aimed at any lawmaker.
Asked about Defensor’s call to put up or shut up, Belgica said: “PACC’s investigation is directed towards DPWH anomalous transactions and projects. Media’s issues are directed towards congressmen. For the nth and last time, PACC is not investigating any member of Congress. We can not do it under our EO.”
He also said the PACC also could not furnish the House the names of the alleged corrupt congressmen because the agency is investigating only anomalous transactions and projects at the DPWH and not the lawmakers.
Defensor told Belgica anew to identify the erring legislators so they can defend themselves, and just file cases “if he has evidence that can stand in court,” or just turn over whatever formal complaints he has to the Department of Justice or the Office of the Ombudsman “where preliminary investigations are mostly keep secret until charges are filed.”
Defensor said it is unfair to all congressmen and the House of Representatives as an institution for Belgica to allege that some lawmakers are engaged in corrupt activities while refusing to name them and file charges.
“If he cannot support what he is saying, then what is his purpose? To taint all House members and their institution and put them under a cloud of suspicion? We have been trying to improve the image of the House and he is tarnishing it,” he said.
He pointed out that Belgica’s job “is not to engage in trial by publicity but to gather evidence and build cases against corrupt officials and file them before the proper forum like the Department of Justice or Office of the Ombudsman.”
Defensor noted it was the second time in months that Belgica accused congressmen of wrongdoing. Belgica has said congressmen were involved in anomalous infrastructure projects.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin dared Belgica to identify the lawmakers and “more importantly, evidence must be presented and cases must be filed.”
“For one, we are all against corruption and if indeed true, then the corruption must end and those responsible must be held accountable. More importantly, insinuations have no place in a democratic society,” he said. “If indeed the PACC have the smoking gun, then they have to make it known.”
He said insinuations without evidence “would merely cast doubt on the integrity of congress in the sphere of public opinion.”
“This is not healthy for Congress as an institution. Nothing will happen if it’s all rumors. The PACC should walk the walk,” Garbin said.