2 Duterte Cabinet members 'under investigation for corruption'
MANILA, Philippines – Two Cabinet members are being investigated by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), the body created by President Rodrigo Duterte to weed out his abusive appointees.
PACC Commissioner and Spokesperson Greco Belgica said the investigations were prompted by complaints received by their office.
"There was a complaint filed so we have to investigate. [They are] secretaries, two of them, Cabinet-rank," he said on Wednesday, August 14, during a Malacañang news briefing.
However, he emphasized that the existence of complaints does not mean the two secretaries are guilty of corruption. For this reason, he declined to name the Cabinet members.
"It's unfair to mention them and make them appear corrupt. Hindi dahil sinampahan ka ng kaso, guilty ka na po (Just because a case was filed against you doesn't mean you're already guilty)," said Belgica.
The officials, he said, have been cooperative in the PACC's probe, which he said is near completion. When the PACC wraps up its investigation, it will submit a report to the President and file a case before the Office of the Ombudsman, if it finds basis.
The complaints against the Cabinet secretaries allege "corruption" but Belgica declined to give specific details about the accusations. The complaints were filed by private persons, he added.
Tugade, Piñol volunteer for probe
Belgica lauded Cabinet members who volunteered to be investigated by the PACC and called on more Cabinet officials to repeat this "honorable" gesture.
Secretaries who took this initiative include Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and former agriculture chief and now Mindanao Development Authority chief Emmanuel Piñol.
Belgica said Tugade even asked the PACC to look at his bank accounts. His entire department had asked to be investigated.
Meanwhile, the PACC has investigated at least 3 officials for allegedly excessive foreign travels, a supposed pet peeve of the President's over which the Palace has issued a memorandum.
"Others justified their travels. One investigation is not yet done," said Belgica.
The PACC official also gave updates on their probe into Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials following Duterte's suspension of all PCSO-regulated games, except for lotto.
The suspension was due to alleged corruption by PCSO officials and gaming operators.
Some 15 officials, including former PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan, are being investigated, said Belgica.
The commission is also conducting lifestyle checks on PCSO officials, which Belgica said will be completed in "2 to 3 months."
Some 200 government officials in total will be subjected to lifestyle checks, including those from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Bureau of Internal Revenue – the 3 government agencies that have been the subject of the most number of corruption complaints filed before the PACC.
A total of 2,500 complaints have been submitted to the PACC, of which 1,000 were "acted upon," said Belgica.
Some 1,200 cases, however, presented no evidence. Belgica explained that, in instances like this, the PACC's only recourse is to ask the official being accused of corruption for comment, after which the case reaches a dead end.
To better respond to citizens' complaints on corruption and red tape, the PACC has formed a "super response team" with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and the 8888 complaint center.
ARTA is now headed by Belgica's brother, Jeremiah Belgica. – Rappler.com
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