It was on October 27, 2020 that President Rodrigo Duterte issued a memorandum to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a “mega task force” that would conduct the investigation on corruption covering the entire government. The focus should be the Department of Public Works and Highways.
In a televised national address on October 14, Duterte tagged the DPWH as an agency ridden with corruption, and no construction work begins without money changing hands. He did not provide details of the irregularities but said the problem was serious.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing thereafter that the move was an expansion of a memorandum from the President to the DOJ, dated August 7, 2020, to organize a panel to investigate allegations of corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.
“The DOJ is hereby directed to investigate allegations of corruption in the entire government. Lahat na. Kuridasito,” Duterte said, using the Visayan word for all-inclusive.
“In pursuit of this directive, the DOJ shall have the authority to decide which allegation to investigate, taking into consideration the gravity thereof and their impact on the delivery of government service,” Duterte added.
Roque said that, apart from the DOJ, the mega task force will include representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Ombudsman, Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Audit. Nothing in the directive of the President mentioned the inclusion of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).
And yet, despite Duterte’s announcement directing the DOJ to create a mega task force to investigate corruption in the entire government, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica has usurped the powers of DOJ Mega Task Force, as reported by Bulletin Today, by issuing a statement that he will conduct a lifestyle check against officials of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, (PCSO), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and DPWH, a Congressman who begged that his name be not mentioned said.
BELGICA’S OWN ACTIONS
In reaction to Belgica’s pronouncements, the said Congressman questioned Belgica’s authority to do such lifestyle checks after the President had already exclusively empowered the DOJ to do those things. Hence, the acts of Belgica is a clear usurpation of authority or power from DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra. And for that, Guevarra must investigate Belgica for committing grave misconduct and graft and corruption under Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the Congressman continued.
“Can you imagine, Belgica whose office is under the Office of the President, is capable of defying the order of the President that the DOJ Mega Task Force is now the only office empowered to investigate government corruption, and yet, Belgica in complete insoburdination, announced that he will proceed to investigate government officials and conduct lifestyle checks when such power is already vested with the DOJ Mega Task Force. There is only one purpose that Begica is doing this, that is to use his office to make a propaganda for himself that he is going after corrupt official and thereby satisfy his quest to become popular, to achieve his desperate ambition to become a senator, the Congressman added.
The Congressman challenged Belgica to reveal to the public any authority or resolution that he was authorized by the PACC Board of Commissioners to speak on their behalf, and order for lifestyle checks against the concerned officials, after the President already directed the DOJ Mega Task Force to exclusively be the body to investigate graft and corruption in the entire government.
The Congressman also took exception of a statement made by Belgica as recorded by Philippine Star that some lawmakers are conspiring with public works personnel and project contractors to commit corruption.
UNJUST ACCUSATIONS VS CONGRESSMEN
In a statement, Belgica pointed out that some lawmakers wield influence over the implementation of local projects and the movement of district engineers, and also that, the “DPWH district engineers are bullied by congressmen, and further he said,“That’s the conspiracy there – Congress, DPWH, contractors, district engineers. District engineers are small employees. If you dismiss them, fire them or move them to another post, they can’t do anything. Powerful people like a congressman really can assert influence so they can be moved to another assignment,”
The Congressman retorted, saying, Belgica is a big liar. “I challenge him to name names and produce evidence that Congeressmen are involve in corruption. Otherwise, I call him a coward and a fabricator,” the Congressman finally said.
Another Congressman, Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor, urged Belgica to name the lawmakers believed is involved in corruption within the DPWH.
Defensor, who chairs the House Committee on Public Accounts, made the remark after Belgica claimed in a radio interview that “DPWH district engineers are bullied by congressmen.”
Defensor said that if there are indeed corrupt practices being committed involving members of the House, Belgica should name these congressmen and have a thorough investigation to ascertain the accusations.
“Kasi nga napakahirap naman di ba kung ikaw ay isang kongresistaka may pamilya ka tapos mababasa, sasabihin ay may mga corruption diyan, pero hindi sinabi kung sino, eh. Kawawa naman na pati ikaw nadadamay na wala ka naman alam,” Defensor said.
On the other hand, ACT CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Yap took up the cudgels for members of the House of Representatives as he chided Belgica for accusing solons of corruption without identifying any of them.
Yap, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said what Belgica has done was unfair to the House of Representatives as a respected institution of government.
In a virtual press conference on Thursday, Yap told Belgica to name names and produce evidence against those he is accusing or shut up.
Yap said, as a government official, Belgica should show respect to the Lower House and its members instead of floating accusations that he has yet to back up with proof.
Yap was the second solon to caution Belgica against going to the media to make accusations even before he could file charges or investigate the allegations hurled against lawmakers.
In response, Belgica said he will identify congressmen allegedly linked to DPWH corruption that PACC is probing.
However, the information could not be made public pending investigations and the report would be made available only to Duterte, he told the Philippine Star.
The Congressman, who earlier begged not to mention his name, said the statement that Belgica made that he cannot make public the names of the congressmen he accused of corruption is merely an alibi, because he has really no names nor evidence to show. The only reason Belgica is desperately appearing for interview to the public about corruption by members of Congress, but without showing any evidence, is merely to enhance his popularity due to his ambition of becoming a senator, the Congressman reiterated.
The Congressman further said: “I bet, no matter what Belgica does to enhance his image, he will never make it even at the top 30 because people know the kind of person he is. Palaging nag eepal lang siya. He run before and was kulelat, and will always be kulelat. In fact, if ever there is someone that should be thoroughly investigated, it is Belgica who is facing various corruption charges against him with the Ombudsman. He appealed with the Ombudsman to expedite the cases filed against Belgica so that he will realize that it is not easy to accuse innocent people, in fact, it is Belgica that is guilty of corruption, the Congressman finally said.
In an interview with Alie Dizon, she said that she is the woman who filed criminal charges for corruption against Belgica with the Ombudsman. She further said Belgica always uses the PACC as his means of publicizing himself to the public despite the PACC Board of Commissioners not giving him any authority to represent them. Belgica always usurped the power of the commission and only put to shame the other commissioners because Belgica makes pronouncements that are always out of this world. Also, Belgica is not a not a lawyer and not conversant with his work. Being a lawyer is a qualification to being a member of PACC Board of Commissioners should not have been hired by the President, but it seemed he was fortunate that he has friends in high places, thus he was hired Dizon said finally.
DUTY FREE PH, DENR AND DPWH
Another person that Sovereignph interviewed is one of the employees of Duty Free Philippines Corporation who filed criminal and administrative case against Belgica. The employee who begged not to be identified for fear of reprisal, said they filed a case against Belgica for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest to the service, gross inexcusable negligence and graft and corruption under Sec 3(e), (b) (f) and (k) of Republic Act No. 3019.
The Duty Free Philippines employee said Belgica sold them out to respondent Vico Angala. After Belgica got all the evidence from them, he made it appear that he will report corruption at Duty Free Philippines to the Duterte. However, that was only for show, because when he became friends with the respondent Angala, Belgica dropped the whistleblowers at Duty Free Philippines like a hot potato. And by befriending the respondent, Belgica allegedly benefited financially, which is the reason why graft and corruption was pressed against him by them, the employee said.
Lastly, from impeccable and reliable source from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as well as the DPWH, it was reported that Belgica harassed and pressured officials of both departments using his position as PACC Commissioner.
According to our sources, it was stated that a certain company, Verdant, owned by a certain Ms. Nuesca who was represented by a law firm owned by Greco Belgica’s brother Jeremiah, Verdant approached certain DENR officials to ask for the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) as a requirement to become a big time quarry operator in Zambales.
While the ECC issuance was still pending and since Verdant cannot wait, they went to the DPWH and pressured officials there to issue a quarry permit. Having failed to get what she wanted, with the prodding of Jeremiah Belgica, Greco Belgica intercede and summoned officials the DENR and DPWH officials with ranks of undersecretary, assistant secretary and director, respectively, and attempted to made them understand that if they will act favorably to the application of Verdant, he will not conduct an his investigation on them.
Upon learning this, complainant Alie Dizon, who spoke to Sovereignph, denounced the alleged harassment and manipulation of Greco Belgica as plain conflict of interest using his position as Commissioner of PACC to allegedly pressure other government officials to satisfy the needs of his brother’s client, Verdant, resulting to his commission of the crime of graft and corruption. JONATHAN ARACELI FOR SOVEREIGNPH