TWO House leaders on Thursday told Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica to shut up if he can’t identify the less than 12 lawmakers who are included in agency’s list of alleged corrupt politicians.
For the sake of fairness, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo “Pido” Garbin, Jr. underscored the importance for Belgica to name names.
While they support the anti-corruption drive of the Duterte administration, Defensor and Garbin said Belgica should be prudent in issuing a statement, especially if this would affect the integrity of congressmen and the House of Representatives as an institution.
“To my recollection, this is the second time in recent months that he has made this allegation, although he refuses to name names, saying he does not have solid evidence to file cases,” Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts, said. “If that is so, then he should just shut up. If he has evidence that can stand in court, he should file cases against the lawmakers he claims are involved in corruption.”
“To be fair to Congress, the PACC should name the less than twelve legislators allegedly involved in corruption activities alongside DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) officials. More importantly, evidence must be presented and cases must be filed,” Garbin, a lawyer and vice chairman of the House committee on justice, dared Belgica for his part.
“For one, we are all against corruption and if indeed true, then the corruption must end and those responsible must be held accountable,” Garbin stressed.
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 and to refuse 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 added.
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 (DoJ) or Office of the Ombudsman.”
Defensor said Belgica himself is admitting that the evidence he has collected is not sufficient for the filing of charges against the House members allegedly involved in corruption.
He also asserted that his agency does not have jurisdiction over lawmakers and other elective officials.
“If that is so, why talk about this issue, titillate the imagination of the public and put all House members in bad light?” he asked.
Defensor suggested that Belgica should turn over whatever formal complaints he has in his possession to the DoJ or the Ombudsman’s office, where preliminary investigations are mostly keep secret until charges are filed.
Garbin pointed out that “insinuations have no place in a democratic society.”
“If indeed the PACC have the smoking gun then they have to make it known. Insinuations without naming names and providing 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. Mahirap pag puro chismis lang. The PACC should walk the talk,” said Garbin.
For him, House Minority Leader and Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano said there is no problem if the House of Representatives will hold a congressional probe into the alleged involvement of some lawmakers to corruption.
“Motu proprio should be decided by the majority of members of the ethics committee. And in the minority, walang problema sa amin ‘yan, just in case,” Paduano said.
“But of course… ang mas pinakamaganda is somebody has to file a case to a member or members of the House with regards to issue about corruption in relation to the investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice and PACC,” Paduano stressed.
But House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said the House inquiry on its members is not worthy and is just a waste of time.
“Sa pananaw ko, knowing the institution and having been in Congress for a long time before, sometimes, it’s not that worth it if we will be investigating colleagues lalo na kung marami,” Garin explained.
“Investigating it in the House where the allegations are also pointing to colleagues, or members, or former members or other government officials… it will just be a waste of time and resources,” Garin pointed out.
In a radio interview on Wednesday, Belgica said the names of the congressmen were mentioned in complaints about irregularities involving projects of the DPWH.
“This has to be investigated formally. We need solid documents. We need probably a forensic of the projects… All of these should be substantiated so a case can be filed…All of these have to be substantiated and validated, so that the cases can stand in court,” he said.