Anti-graft council created amid probe on state corruption

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) on Friday formed a new inter-agency task force to bring its campaign against graft and corruption to the lowest level of the government, as the administration faces questions over allegedly anomalous deals.  

More than 40 agencies under the Executive branch signed a memorandum of agreement to form the National Anti-Corruption Coordinating Council, which will institutionalize anti-corruption committees (ACCs) in all levels of government. 

The new inter-agency task force was created to quicken the detection of irregularities in all levels of government, PACC Chairman Greco B. Belgica said at the project’s virtual lunch.  

“Bawat opisina, hanggang sa barangay, merong PACC na lumalaban at itinatag na institusyon para labanan ang korapsyon,” Mr. Belgica said. “We have not seen this in any government.” 

The creation of the new anti-graft body, which will be chaired by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, comes after senators launched an inquiry into the government’s procurement of overpriced medical goods from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. Executives of the subsidiary of Taiwan-based Pharmally International have been linked to various crimes. 

In a taped message, the President pledged his support for the PACC’s anti-corruption efforts. 

“The fight against corruption allows us to serve the public with utmost excellence and integrity as well as regain the trust and faith of our people in our institutions,” said Mr. Duterte, who has slammed senators for investigating the government’s pandemic spending. 

“Let us work together to fully realize our dream of a corruption-free Philippines,” he added. 

In March 2017, the President was introduced by his former economic adviser, Michael Yang, to executives of Pharmally International. 

The initiative “amplifies the effort of the Duterte administration in fighting graft and corruption,” Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go said at the virtual launch.  

Mr. Go, the President’s long-time friend, has been linked to former Budget official Lloyd Christopher Lao, who signed most of the deals with Pharmally. 

The new anti-corruption council is “nothing but a konseho de abswelto (acquittal council) of government, given the unending high-level controversies surrounding the administration,” InfraWatchPH convenor Terry L. Ridon said in a Facebook Messenger chat. 

“It is nothing more than a PR play seeking to douse cold water on the public’s mounting anger over allegations of overpricing and profiteering during the current pandemic,” Mr. Ridon said. 

“Had they truly been serious about corruption, this should have been launched years ago, and more importantly, the overpricing in the pandemic response would not have slipped under the nose of PACC,” he added.  

‘COMPLEMENTARY’ 

Mr. Belgica said the new anti-graft council complements the Department of Justice (DoJ)-led Task Force Against Corruption.  

“It will be complementary because the DoJ-led task force also meets office, also meets people and is more investigative than what we are doing today which is preventive as well as educative,” he said. 

The future anti-graft committees would also complement the functions of the Commission on Audit’s resident auditors, he added. 

The Philippines slipped two spots in a global corruption index released by Transparency International in January.  

Widespread corruption has weakened many countries’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, it said. 

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