Corruption by legislators
It was recently reported in the media that President Duterte would not name the lawmakers who are allegedly benefiting from corruption in government projects as reported to him by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission. He added that he cannot investigate members of a separate and co-equal branch of government.
It will be recalled that in 2013, the Disbursement Acceleration Program controversy – involving former president Benigno Aquino III and Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad to bribe senators and congressmen to impeach and oust former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 erupted.
It started when the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a series of reports on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) based on accounts of whistleblower Benhur Luy. The reports claimed businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and at least five senators allegedly elicited money of the PDAF. Luy is a cousin and former aide of Napoles.
The Inquirer’s reports subsequently led to an investigation on the pork-barrel scam by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Eventually, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee would have its hearings on the pork-barrel scam.
The next year the Supreme Court ruled that the DAP, along with the Pork Barrel, are unconstitutional and must be discontinued.
Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of Buklod, a national political party, claimed “in this case, it was the executive branch that investigated the legislative branch.”
He continued, “the presidential statement is very unfortunate. It is a dangerous statement of principle. If and when such principle is applied widely, corrupt judges and justices could also not be investigated and prosecuted for corrupt practices.
“Assuming that it is a proper and correct principle, then the executive branch can still investigate and prosecute those government employees in the executive branch who collaborated and cooperated with members of Congress in engaging in corrupt acts. It must. But it does not make complete sense,” he said.
Punongbayan added, “in any event, the said principle must be tested. If that principle is indeed on solid ground, then our country will not go anywhere. Moreover, the country will languish in a sea of confusion because investigating and prosecuting crimes are executive functions, not unless such executive activities are redefined in the Constitution. In this case, President Duterte might be sending the wrong signals in his anti corruption campaign”