Malacañang on Tuesday said that the public should give Department of Public Works and Highways a chance to curb the alleged corruption in the agency, as alleged by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte recently.
Earlier, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar created a task force composed of five officials to investigate fellow executives and employees after the President again criticized the agency for corruption.
"Siguro po pangunang hakbang pa lang iyan na ginawa ng DPWH para i-address ang problema na corruption na inilabas ng ating Presidente," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“Let’s give them a chance because as far as I know, this is really one of the rare moments that we are addressing the corruption in the DPWH, which the President said is too blatant and appeared to be systematic,” he added.
Earlier, some senators claimed that around P345.25-billion in lump sum was lodged in the DPWH's proposed 2021 budget. They also accused that some lawmakers and officials of the department also allegedly ask for "kickbacks" from contractors that win projects from the agency.
During a public briefing last Monday, Duterte blamed Villar’s subordinates for the alleged corruption in DPWH.
“It reeks in the DPWH. The projects, project engineers, right-of-way, everything. The corruption is worst there. No construction starts without a prior transaction. I’m sure there is corruption there,” the President said.
Duterte, however, said he was sure Villar himself was not involved in the corruption.
"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.
(Villar is rich. Sec. Villar has lots of money, and doesn't need to commit corruption. The problem is in the lower ranks. It's still rampant. The projects at the bottom, that's where the game is.)
The Palace said that Duterte has "full trust and confidence" in Villar, whose billionaire family owns a real estate empire.
Roque said the DPWH task force created by Villar is "welcome" to submit its findings to Duterte's office. The public may also report anomalies to hotline 8888, he said.
The Commission on Audit recently asked DPWH to recover a total of P431.933 million from contractors of projects which exceeded allowable costs. It added that DPWH’s delayed and unimplemented projects now amount to P101.690 billion.
The COA said this is “contrary” to the Revised Implementing Rulesand Regulations of the Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act as well as the agreed terms and conditions set for the project contracts.