MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday read the names of current and former lawmakers who allegedly received kickbacks from the government’s public works projects.
The list was provided by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), which started the investigation in November.
He also named Public Works Department district engineers allegedly involved in the scheme.
“The public should be aware that there is no hard evidence, that’s one. That it can be translated by just reading the names that they are already guilty because presumption of innocence would lie all throughout until conviction or acquittal,” Duterte said during his weekly public address.
“Hindi ito ebidensya na ano sila. Kaya lang lumabas yung mga pangalan nila, at kailangan kong sabihin sa mga tao otherwise I’d look stupid,” he added.
(This is not an evidence that they are corrupt. But their names came up, and I have to tell the people otherwise I’d look stupid.)
Duterte earlier said he will not be reading the list in public, adding he had no authority to investigate lawmakers accused of corruption because they belonged to the legislature. He has directed PACC to submit the list to the Ombudsman.
LAWMAKERS SPEAK UP
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, one of the lawmakers included in Duterte’s list, has denied the allegations.
In a statement sent to ABS-CBN News, Ramirez-Sato said Duterte’s accusation “is without any basis” and is “grossly unfair.”
“I am not involved in any anomaly in any project. I invite the office of the President to investigate all the projects in my province. I have been in public service for a long time and has maintained my good name in honest government service,” she said.
She also said the accusations may have been politically motivated, mentioning that PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica is allegedly a party-mate of a political opponent planning to run in the 2022 elections.
“Commissioner Belgica is a known ally and party mate of a prominent incumbent official in our province of Occidental Mindoro. This politician intends to run against me in the upcoming 2022 local elections. 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 separate statement.
Former Ifugao Rep. Teodoro “Teddy” Baguilat Jr., also denied Duterte’s accusations.
In a series of tweets, Baguilat said he wouldn’t need to help sell Cordilleran produce if he indeed received kickbacks.
“Kung tumatanggap ako ng kickback noong Congressman ako, di na sana ako naghihirap tumulong magbenta ng pinunnog, honey at kape ng mga Cordilleran producers,” he tweeted.
(If I received kickbacks when I was congressman, I wouldn’t have to work hard to help sell pinunnog, honey and coffee by Cordilleran producers.)
He also lamented that he was named even when there was no evidence against him.
“Yung meron ebidensya na nag Mañanita at lumabag sa batas e promoted. Yung wala naman ebidensya na kumuha ng kickback, tinira sa primetime TV. I am aggrandized,” Baguilat added.
(Those who had evidence of having a mañanita and other violations were promoted. While some were named on primetime TV even without evidence of receiving kickbacks. I am aggrandized.)
Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza, likewise, denied the accusations, saying that it is the work of his political opponents.
“The President himself said he is not condemning anyone. PACC issued a report to him that in itself is unfair and not transparent. I never even got a chance to present my side to PACC,” he said in a statement sent to ABS-CBN News.
“I’m 100% sure this was the handiwork of my local political opponents to feed to wrong libelous info to the PACC. In fact the records will show that it’s the reverse as we have been the ones complaining of anomalous projects in my district as early as 2016 perpetrated by former elected officials and certain contractors,” he added.
He also urged Duterte and the PACC to reveal the names of the complainants, who he said are most likely the supporters of his political opponent.
Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman expressed shock at hearing her name being included in the list of lawmakers allegedly involved in corruption.
“I am shocked to hear that my name was mentioned by the President in a list of Congressmen allegedly involved in anomalies in their projects. Public service has never been a money-making venture for me or my family whose good name is highly esteemed in our District,” she tweeted.
Roman also said she is open to any investigation to prove her innocence.
“I am comforted by the fact that the President clarified that there is no verified information in this regard. 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,” she added.
Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas also expressed confidence that his name will be cleared, claiming that the PACC may have received false information from his political opponents.
“The President himself stated ‘there is no solid evidence’ and ‘mentioning of names is not an indictment’. I am certain that I will be cleared,” he said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Isabela 4th District Rep. Alyssa Sheena Tan said in a statement that the PACC had no basis for its allegations, after she was included by the body.
“There is absolutely no truth in the allegations by the PACC that I own construction companies that have been awarded with projects in my district,” she said.
“I have never owned any construction company. I do not have any shares in any construction company.”
“This truth can easily be verified with the concerned government agencies that they surely have access to,” the lawmaker added.
ABS-CBN News is withholding the names of the rest of the lawmakers and public works officials pending their statements on the issue, as well as the formal filing of charges against them.
In late October, Duterte issued a memorandum directing the Department of Justice to look into anomalies in state agencies until the end of his term in 2022.
The memo gave the DOJ the power to decide what allegations to investigate and to work with other agencies.
December 30, 2020, posted on ABS-CBN News