Cabinet men not immune

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    IT was announced over the weekend that two Cabinet secretaries are the target of a thorough investigation by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), which assists President Duterte in ferreting out the corrupt and the misfits in his administration.

    According to PACC Commissioner and spokesman Greco Belgica, they were investigating the two Cabinet-level officials because of complaints received by their office, specifically from private individuals. Belgica did not mention their names in his press announcement, careful that the Cabinet members could be wrongly perceived as corrupt and wrongdoers when the PACC investigation has just started and any definitive action was still forthcoming.

    The Commission headed by Belgica has quietly done its job gathering pieces of evidence, doing some sleuthing work that proved to be more reliable and productive rather than the usual lifestyle check, and pursuing an information campaign so that the public may know that there exists in the Duterte administration a mechanism for redress of grievances of the public.

    In the past, the PACC was able to catch in the act top officials of the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Immigration while committing graft at the airport. They even documented the incident through a video that was secretly taken by either their personnel or their informants. This led to the outright firing by President Duterte of the concerned erring officials.

    The Commission, too, was instrumental in the gathering of evidence and filing of charges with the Ombudsman of key government officials such as undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, bureau directors and members of the board of various government corporations.

    For sure, with a PACC as active as this current panel, there are now officials in the top echelons of government who are unhappy with its work. This is most unfortunate, because Cabinet members are in their high-ranking positions most often thru their personal closeness to the President, something Belgica — being not a Cabinet member — does not enjoy.

    Belgica’s findings on graft and corruption in high places, although supported by documents and incontrovertible evidence, are still recommendations that are processed by the top honchos in the Palace These do not go direct to the President’s desk or attention. The risk of the well-documented charges being given the brush-off is high. Especially in the Palace where the important denizens are all close to the President, but with conflicting personal interests.

    One remedial tack that is proving to be useful for the PACC is its option to go direct to the Office of the Ombudsman to file cases against wrongdoers, however high they are in the official totem pole. With the charges filed in the Ombudsman, officials would find it hard to nonchalantly hide under the umbrella of blanket denial.

    Still, it is the President’s call if the hooligans in government especially those who sit in the Cabinet are chastised, rebuked, or fired. We may have an efficient PACC but its recommendations will come to naught without President Duterte’s backing.