Villar creates task force to probe alleged corruption within DPWH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 20) — Public Works Secretary Mark Villar has created a task force to probe reportedly rampant corruption in the agency, days after President Rodrigo Duterte's repeated rants.

Villar issued on Monday a department order forming a Task Force Against Graft and Corruption (TAG), made up by five officials to probe fellow executives and employees within the Department of Public Works and Highways.

"The TAG shall investigate anomalies allegedly perpetrated by officials and/or employees of the department, based on valid complaints," Villar said.

The President again shamed DPWH for rampant corruption in the agency in his public address last night, similar to his rants a week ago. However, he personally cleared Villar from any wrongdoing, saying the billionaire official was rich enough not to resort to corruption.

RELATED: COA flags ₱432M in excess costs for DPWH projects

Duterte earlier claimed that no DPWH project starts without an illegal transaction, as he implicated project engineers and those in charge with right-of-way deals.

​Some netizens questioned Villar's move, saying it was counter-intuitive to assign agency officials to investigate and clean up their own ranks.

However, Malacañang wants the public to give the task force a chance.

"Siguro po paunang hakbang lang iyan na ginawa ng DPWH para nga i-address iyong problema ng korapsiyon na nilabas ng ating Presidente. Pagbigyan naman po natin sila," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Tuesday briefing.

"Let’s give them a chance dahil sa aking pagkakaalam, talagang this is one of the rare moments na ina-address natin ang korapsiyon diyan sa DPWH na ang sabi nga ni Presidente ay lantaran at parang systemic."

[Translation: This is probably just the first response of the DPWH to address the problem of corruption which the President has verbalized. Let's give them some leeway. Let's give them a chance because as far as I know, this is one of the rare moments where we are addressing corruption in the agency, which the President described as rampant and seemingly systemic.]

The Cabinet official said the task force will also "boost efficiency and effectiveness" of DPWH in providing quality infrastructure, as it is one of the lead agencies implementing the "Build, Build, Build" program.

The task force is chaired by Assistant Secretary Mel John Verzosa, who heads the agency's Legal Services and Special Concerns unit.

Internal Audit Service Director Gliricidia Tumaliuan-Ali will serve as vice-chair. Other members of the task force are Human Resource and Administrative Service Director Michael Villafranca, Officer-in-Charge Director, Stakeholders Relations Service Andro Santiago, and lawyer Ken Edward Sta. Rita, who is OIC of the agency's goods and services procurement division.

The task force is ordered to follow due process in its investigation and is expected to recommend appropriate actions regarding the erring officials and employees discovered to have taken part in illegal acts.

The body is also authorized to form a technical working group that will serve as its secretariat.

Some lawmakers have also questioned provisions under the ₱667-billion budget of DPWH next year, including unequal provisions for districts, lump sum funds, and repeated projects from the 2020 spending plan.

READ: Villar denies lump sums in 2021 DPWH budget

​A separate task force composed of inter-agency Cabinet members probed PhilHealth for various irregularities and fraud, which resulted in the filing of cases against top agency officials.