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Anti-corruption body ‘finalizing’ report on Bello graft probe

15 December 2018

Jimenez (with mic) speaking at the media conference. 

By Vir B. Lumicao

An anti-graft body that reports directly to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says it is finalizing its report on an investigation of graft charges against Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

A member of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission said in a media conference at the Consulate on Dec. 14 that the outcome of the probe will be “a triumph of justice” and “will be fair.”

PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna said the collegial body had done two fact-finding inquiries.

“We have conducted two and we are finalizing our report to the president. Whatever it is, it will be the President who will have the final say. But rest assured that that case will be a triumph of justice and it will be fair because we will accord the subject due process,” Luna said.

But he made it clear that what the PACC is preparing only a preliminary report and that it will be submitted to President Duterte in early 2019.

“If the President orders us to conduct further investigation, then we will do so, unless he issues an order and… you know that in corruption cases, a whiff of corruption is enough to get an official fired or caused to resign,” said Luna.

“We are not saying that he’s guilty or not, because that is confidential. But rest assured that justice will be done not only to the complainant but to the subject and all those implicated.”

Monalie Dizon, secretary-general of Kilusang Pagbabago National Movement for Change, a pro-Duterte group, filed a complaint-affidavit at the PACC on Jul 12 accusing Bello and his undersecretary, Dominador Say, of conspiracy to commit administrative and criminal offenses.

Dizon said the alleged illegal activities began after Bello signed in June 2017 Administrative Order 241 divesting the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration of its power to issue and renew licenses for employment agencies.

The order, signed in June last year, also required that all processed applications be sent to Bello’s office “for approval or denial.”

Luna said the PACC has already endorsed a graft case against Say to the Ombudsman, about an alleged pay-off to Say by a former recruitment agency owner, Azzizzah Salim.

Jimenez himself presented Salim to Duterte so she could reveal the alleged extortion by Say.

“It’s now with the Ombudsman and it will undergo the necessary processing. If it merits criminal investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman will do the same dahil wala kaming criminal jurisdiction. Ang amin pong trabaho ay administrative in nature,” Luna said.

Dizon’s complaint included Bello and Say’s alleged extortion of P6.8 million from Salim, in exchange for the reversal of a DOLE decision revoking her agency’s license.

Bello has denied Dizon’s allegation, and claimed Salim had asked him to clarify to Duterte that she did not include the labor chief in her complaint.

Bello said he told Salim he had no power to do that but accompanied her to see Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea so she could make the clarification.

The PACC team, led by Chairman Dante Jimenez and included executive director Eduardo Bringas and executive assistant Jong Sorro, stopped by Hong Kong after a trip to China to introduce the commission to mainland authorities.

The team brought with them a video presentation about the PACC and the actions it has taken against allegedly corrupt government employees.

Jimenez said the PACC was expressly created by Duterte on Oct 4, 2017 to spearhead the President’s anti-corruption drive in government.

He said that out of about 100 complaints against government officials, 56 cases have already been filed with the Ombudsman, including those against regional officers of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Bicol for allegedly anomalous projects.

Luna said the PACC has no jurisdiction over non-presidential appointees and those who are below salary Grade 26 (or Director II level). But, in certain instances, he said, the commission would refer complaints against these type of government employees to the Ombudsman, he said.

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