Senators do not have any problems being covered by the investigations of the Department of Justice (DOJ)-led “mega task force” against corruption.
“OK lang ‘yon (That’s okay). At least meron pang katulong ang Ombudsman (At least someone will aid the Ombudsman in its investigation),” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Wednesday.
In a virtual forum, he said President Duterte’s order to the DOJ to probe corruption was a “welcome thing, actually”, saying the parliamentary immunity granted by the Constitution to legislators does not go beyond graft.
But “not only the Congress, but the entire government bureaucracy should be investigated,” Sotto said. He said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue should be among the agencies that should be looked into for possible irregularities.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also said that “no government official, including legislators, is above the law” and they can also be probed by the DOJ-led task force.
He, however, noted that the Ombudsman still has the primary jurisdiction over the filing of criminal charges against government officials.
He recalled that while Sen. Leila de Lima, former DOJ secretary, investigated then senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. over the pork barrel scam, it was then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales who ordered the filing of graft charges against them.
“The filing of any criminal case under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act must be approved by the Ombudsman. The DOJ cannot file cases before the Sandiganbayan,” said Drilon, a former justice secretary.
Senator Joel Villanueva also raised this, admitting that he was a “little confused” about the President’s order “because this may be redundant considering the Ombudsman already has the power to investigate any public official.”
Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, said Duterte’s directive to investigate corruption in government was “overdue,” following allegations of corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Bureau of Immigration, the BOC, as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
In his report to the nation onTuesday, Duterte ordered the DOJ to lead a multi-agency task force to investigate claims of corruption “in the entire government,” including the prosecution and filing of charges against those involved in anomalies.
Duterte’s directive is effective until the last day of his term on June 30, 2022, unless sooner lifted or revoked.