Duterte to create own task force to investigate DPWH corruption

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar

By Fernan Angeles

TWO days after Secretary Mark Villar announced the creation of an in-house task force to look into alleged corruption in his agency, President Rodrigo Duterte announced he is all set to form a separate task force to rid anomalies in the graft-riddled Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Villar earlier this week created a task force made up of five DPWH officials to probe fellow executives and employees after Duterte on Monday night took another swipe at the agency.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque hinted at “doubt” if the DPWH task force will succeed “because it’s the same people investigating one another.”

“We would prefer an independent body, but for now let’s face it, in an organization, you need a mechanism for internal accountability. Police [have] it, I don’t see any reason why the DPWH shouldn’t have one. That is why we say it’s a step towards the right direction,” Roque said in a television interview.

“But this initial step is without prejudice to whatever the President may order in the near future. It’s not inconceivable that another task force for the DPWH may be formed by the President in the same way that he formed one for the PhilHealth,” he added.

The task force which the President hinted on forming would be the second probe team that’ll create in less than three months. He earlier formed a task force led by the justice department to investigate corruption at PhilHealth. The panel last month recommended that charges be filed against former and current top officials.

The possible creation of a separate task force for DPWH “depends on how this task force will operate—if it’s credible, if it can hold individuals accountable for their acts,” Roque said.

Malacañang nonetheless expects Villar’s task force to submit its initial findings on Tuesday, added Roque who further said: “But of course, having said that, we have full faith and trust and confidence in Secretary Villar.”

Senators earlier flagged around P345.25-billion in lump sum lodged in the DPWH’s proposed 2021 budget. Some lawmakers and officials of the department also allegedly ask for “kickbacks” from contractors that win projects from the agency.

Duterte said in Monday’s public briefing that subordinates of Villar were to blame for alleged corruption in DPWH, citing how the official hails from a billionaire family.

“Si Villar mayaman. Sec. Villar maraming pera, ‘di kailangan mangurakot. Ang problema, sa baba. Malakas pa rin hanggang ngayon. ‘Yung mga projects sa baba, ‘yun ang laro diyan,” he said of the official.

The Commission on Audit (COA) has told the DPWH to recover a total of P431.933 million from contractors of projects which exceeded allowable costs.

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