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Velasco, Romualdez take cudgels up for accused solons

Lord Allan Velasco and Martin Romualdez
Lord Allan Velasco and Martin Romualdez

THE House of Representatives, under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, is calling for due process and thorough investigation before making public the names of lawmakers allegedly involved in corruption.

Velasco and Romualdez issued separate statements on the reported naming of solons allegedly linked to corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

While the two House leaders expressed full support for the administration’s campaign against graft and corruption, they said the issue should be brought to the proper forum and the House members given the chance to explain themselves.

“We agree with the President that the public officials implicated in corruption enjoy the presumption of innocence until their conviction or acquittal, whatever the case may be.

“It is important that the concerned officials be given the chance to respond to the allegations of corrupt practices. Due process dictates that a thorough investigation be conducted to determine whether there is probable cause or evidence to support the charges against them,” Velasco added.

Pursuant to due process, the Speaker said, the matter should be brought before the Ombudsman, since the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has jurisdiction only over officials in the Executive Branch and not members of the legislature.

Weeks ago, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed the names of solons allegedly involved in corrupt practices as submitted by the PACC. They are Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato; Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas; Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal; Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza; Quezon province Rep. Angelina Helen Tan; ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap; Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman and Former Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat.

For his part, Romualdez said it is now the duty of the DOJ to give the legislators named in the PACC list the proper forum to face their accusers and defend themselves.

“We are hopeful that the DoJ will double-check and assess thoroughly the list submitted by the PACC to President Duterte, to verify which of these charges have basis and which are mere products of the imaginative minds of rival politicians,” Romualdez said.

“We do not wish that the President’s war against corruption get sidetracked by polluted sources who are engaged in local partisan politics,” he added.

‘Fake claims’

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza slammed former Speaker and Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for making unsubstantiated claims against the present House leadership in relation to corruption allegations.

Atienza branded as “fake claims” Cayetano’s accusation that the House leadership blocked the supposed plan by his allies, Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor and Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, to probe corruption allegations against some House members.

The House leadership has replaced Defensor and Sy-Alvarado as chairmen of the Committees on Public Accounts and on Good Government and Public Accountability, respectively.

“Cayetano is trying so hard to stay relevant even to the point of spreading fake news,” Atienza said.

According to Atienza, Cayetano’s claim runs counter to the statement made by Defensor last month when he criticized PACC chief Greco Belgica for announcing that less than a dozen congressmen were included in the PACC’s list of government officials allegedly involved in corruption within DPWH.

Defensor challenged Belgica to file cases against lawmakers being linked to corrupt activities in DPWH projects if he has evidence or shut up.