There is no doubt in my mind that Greco Belgica’s behavior tolls the death knell of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission but what I am worried about is that his attack on Congress might start the introduction to President Rodrigo Duterte’s slide into a lameduck as he faces the end of his term.
A mainstream television channel close to an oligarch headlined: “Lawmakers cry foul over inclusion in PACC corruption list and say they are ready to submit to probe”.
Incumbent lawmakers and a former congressman linked by President Rodrigo Duterte to alleged corruption denied the accusations, saying they are ready to face investigations to prove their innocence.
Despite admitting that there is “no hard evidence” against the lawmakers, the President read nine names included in the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission’s list of solons being probed for supposed links to anomalous projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Reading from the list, Duterte said the following lawmakers allegedly received kickbacks and implemented ghost projects, among other issues: Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez Sato, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas,
Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza, Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan, Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, Isabela Rep. Alyssa Sheena Tan, Misamis Occidental Rep.
Henry Oaminal, ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Yap, and former Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Jr.
Also named district are engineers from the Department of Public Works and Highways allegedly in cahoots with the lawmakers implicated in the illegal schemes. The President ordered their relief, and DPWH agreed to act fast.
Yap said “the PACC list is based on anonymous tips without proper vetting”, denying he rigged bids in Benguet and endorsed a DPWH district engineer to be able to control the awarding of projects.
“Bilang PACC you should be responsible. Ang ginagawa nyo, nagwi– witchhunt kayo,” he added.
He questioned the timing of PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica’s revelation of the alleged ties between lawmakers and DPWH district engineers.
He said the issue only crept up after the Belgica faced complaints from Duty Free Philippines Corporation workers before the Ombudsman in October. He added he will file a House resolution in January 2021 to probe the issue in aid of legislation.
Sato, Daza, and Vargas said the allegations may be politically-motivated.
Sato said PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica is a known ally of a politician who plans to run against her in the 2022 polls.
“The report made by Commissioner Belgica which impinges on my credentials as a public servant is clearly calculated to sow intrigues and disruption in the local politics of Occidental Mindoro,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
Vargas said, “Mukha pong napadalhan ang PACC ng maling impormasyon ng mga nakakalaban natin sa pulitika.”
Rep. Daza, meanwhile, said, “It stemmed from, what I believe, a malicious complaint filed before the PACC by my local political opponents.”
Isabela Rep. Tan and Oaminal refuted claims they own construction companies in their provinces.
“I have never owned any construction company. I do not have any shares in any construction company. This truth can easily be verified by the PACC,” Tan stated.
Oaminal said, “When I became Congressman, I sold all my shares in accordance with law. Upon verification, HSO Construction Corporation does not have any construction projects in all government agencies in Misamis Occidental, including DPWH.”
Roman standing by her family’s track record in serving their constituents in Bataan said “I am open to any investigation to establish the truth on this matter and I am sure that my honor will be vindicated. My conscience is clear.”
Baguilat said he did not receive kickbacks when he was still a congressman.
The former opposition lawmaker also accused Duterte as the one who is corrupt for refusing to release his net worth. He added that Duterte is using the PACC list as a diversionary tactic after it was revealed on the same day that his Presidential Security Group and some military personnel were jabbed with unregistered Covid-19 vaccines and breached the vaccination priority list.
“As usual, they want to divert people’s attention with their latest dud. #LumangTacticNaIyan [That’s an old tactic],” he tweeted.
Rep. Angelina Tan, who was tagged by Duterte in an “anomalous” national road project in Quezon Province, called her inclusion in the corrupt list as “malicious” and “prejudicial.” She said a portion of the ₱800-M bypass road in Gumaca, Quezon that she spearheaded in 2016 is already being used, although the road has yet to be paved.
“It holds no water due to the lack of evidence — a fact which was also pointed out by the President in the same speech,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
She did not however comment on a case filed by a municipal councilor in Quezon province alleging her hospital’s misuse of the Philhealth’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism.
InfraWatch warns of witch hunt
Meanwhile, infrastructure projects watchdog Infrawatch PH emphasized Duterte’s unvetted disclosure of lawmakers allegedly tagged in corrupt practices can diminish the government’s anti-corruption efforts as it appears to be more of a “witch hunt” on personalities rather than getting rid of systemic corruption.
In a statement, House Speaker Lord Alan Velasco said he agreed that all those named “enjoy the presumption of innocence until their conviction or acquittal, whatever the case may be.”
“Based on reports, the House members mentioned in the PACC list claimed that none of the representatives from PACC have invited them for questioning. It appears that the PACC has not made any investigation as to the veracity of the accusations against them since they belong to another branch of government, which is not within the authority of the Commission,” he added.
In the first part of this series, we mentioned instances when the Belgica family triad appears to be taking advantage of the Duterte’s administration by having themselves all employed with the government. The notorious Greco is PACC Commissioner.
The father, Butch, has been appointed as Presidential Adviser for Religious Affairs under the Office of the President. The other son, Jeremiah is appointed as head of Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA).
All of them dependent financially from government, and according to informed sources, using these positions to enrich themselves.
Is it true that Greco Belgica has acquired several luxury vehicles all placed in another person’s name but are parked at his garage? Is it true that Greco also traveled to Japan on a junket with his whole family in tow?
Whistleblowers are claiming the modus of the Belgica triad is to conduct investigation on hapless government officials purportedly accused of wrongdoing on a complaint filed by anonymous persons.
Greco then summons the culprit and later, endorses his brother Jeremiah’s law Office as defender and handle the case of the accused. Then both Belgicas asks the hapless official to pay as fees by charging P1, 000 for every page of pleadings or counter affidavit prepared by Jeremiah.
Very smooth operators indeed!
At one instance, the law office claimed it has refunded its obnoxious fees, which by itself is a prima facie admission that the fees were charged in the first place.
There are those who squirm in the mention of the father Butch’s past criminal ways. From his own autobiography he said “In prison, I got into more trouble as I fought for survival in the company of hardened and much older criminals.
Indicted for 24 cases ranging from physical injuries to murder, I accumulated a maximum sentence of 60 years of imprisonment.”
If that is not enough, he also admitted “I was then one of the youngest gangleaders in the prison and my influence extended to the underworld beyond prison confines.” This narrative echoes recent modus of drug lords who despite incarceration were controlling crime syndicates in the outside underworld that is a threat to the next generations.
Further, the military may want to know what Butch meant by “At 23, I was a committed communist spearheading a leftist organization.”
While he was released in 1976 through a pardon extended by presidential clemency, a subtle arrogance is traceable “that he became a changed man, not because prison life reformed him because the Lord Jesus Christ found him and transformed him.”
My simple understanding of pardon is that it removes criminal liability but it does not extinguish the facts of the crime.
Now that President Duterte has crossed the rubicon maligning legislators through action while denying it in words, Congress should summon this self- styled evangelist to account for what religious advices he has given the President Duterte. Maybe the Catholic Church, and other religions too, can learn from on how God directly communicates with him and from whatever wisdom he shares the Palace.
While doing that, Congress might as well also investigate why it seems that Bong Go, who is considered as the President’s alter-ego is also perceived intimate with the Belgicas and continues to condone their shenanigans. It’s about time that Bong Go realizes that his influence is being squandered by the unscrupulous family triad.
Through its oversight powers in aid of legislation, Congress must also ask Greco Belgica who holds a civilian office, why he publicly tots a gun on many occasions and as a photograph coming from his very office shows, had a gun drawn inside an office, while already amply accompanied by law enforcers notably the National Bureau of Investigation.
By the way, does the PACC and its commissioners have police powers?
Congress should summon Greco Belgica, Dante Jimenez and Lawrence Chung of PACC to shed light on their accountability and performance as an anti- corruption body. They should reveal to Congress how many cases of so-called corrupt officials have been resolved and recommended for prosecution like those against Silvestre Bello III, Alfonso Cusi and Francisco Duque III.
The administrative case I myself filed with the PACC against Secretary Bello et al has been languishing there for over a year now.
There is also the case of Isidro Lapeña formerly of Bureau of Customs, now with TESDA. And what about the case of Junn Magno of PNR.
Congress should investigate also the cases filed by Duty Free Philippines against Belgica for corruption.
Belgica’s constant raid of govt officials using soldiers, the National Bureau of Ivestigation and other government law enforcers as optics to back him up is a clear violation of his mandate as PACC Commissioner pursuant to the Executive Order creating the Commission.
Greco Belgica has also acted on his own without sanction from the Commission. Such acts are in violation of the mandated collegiality of PACC action over cases filed before it.
People are also asking what are PACC-ARTA “joint raids” all about? Is this some sort of family privilege franchised only to the Belgicas by the President?
Definitely the Belgica triad will be one of the major issues levelled against the Duterte administration in the coming 2022 elections, with wagonfuls of cases and evidences unacted upon in a Commission facing its death knell.
If the president continues to ignore PACC’s lapses in his campaign against corruption, the same might quicken his becoming a lameduck or an official often seen as having less influence with other politicians due to the limited time left in office.