Erring Cabinet men to be held accountable — Palace

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo photo

Malacañang on Monday, January 7, assured the public that erring officials will be held accountable for their actions. This is after the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) announced that it is investigating three officials accused of irregularities.

The three officials namely Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, former Customs commissioner and now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Isidro Lapeña and National Commission on Indigenous People chairman Leonor Oralde-Quintayo were the ones identified by PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna.

According to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, there would be no sacred cows in the Duterte administration.

“You violate the law, regardless of your status — whether you’re a friend, an ally, a political adversary, a relative, a friend or a fraternity brother — it doesn’t matter. You are accountable,” said Panelo to reporters.

“We will wait for the findings. If there’s evidence, the president will act on it,” he added.

Bello, for his part, said he is not aware of any complaint or pending investigation being conducted against him by the PACC.

However, he said he is prepared to address the issue once the PACC required him to answer the allegations of corruption being thrown at him.

“Wala pa namang (There’s still no) complaint against me and they have not asked me to reply to any complaint,” Bello said, in reference to PACC.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who won on a platform of curbing corruption and crime, promised he would not tolerate even a whiff of corruption in his administration.

Case in point, Duterte has already fired several officials, including members of the cabinet accused of involvement in questionable deals and unnecessary trips, as proof he is serious about his anti-corruption drive.

While critics claimed Duterte’s crackdown is selective, saying the president’s close allies were spared and some dismissed officials were reappointed to new posts, Panelo defended him by saying the president only fires an official once there is evidence showing he committed wrongdoing.

“If you say whiff of corruption, there should be substantial grounds. The president will order an investigation. If you are accused of something, it doesn’t mean you will be dismissed immediately. The president is not like that,” Panelo said.

Malacañang said the PACC investigation against Bello, Lapeña and Quintayo is allowed to continue.

Bello and two other labor officials were accused in July last year by a local job recruiter of graft and corruption.

Amanda Araneta, president and general manager of MMML Recruitment Services Inc., threatened to file charges before the PACC and claimed she personally gave Bello an iPhone and P100,000 cash as Christmas gifts in 2016.

She also said she tried to give him an expensive bottle of perfume as well as P100,000 cash as a belated birthday gift in June 2017.

Bello, however, denied the accusations.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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