MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello on Tuesday said he will seek the ouster of an anti-corruption commissioner for alleged abuse of authority in an investigation against him and 2 other Cabinet members.
Bello said he did not receive a copy of any complaint against him and only learned of the investigation in news reports after it was announced by Commissioner Manuelito Luna of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).
"Under the executive order creating the PACC, iyung pag-iimbestiga should be discreet in fairness to the respondents. Inuunahan naman niya (Luna)," Bello told radio DZMM.
(The investigation should be discreet in fairness to respondents. He is preempting it.)
"That is why I'm going to ask the President to dismiss him from office for grave abuse of authority," he added.
Bello also said he should have been informed about the complaint's basis and who lodged it.
"Kung mag-iimbestiga ka, mag-imbestiga ka hindi sa diyaryo o sa TV... Bigyan naman ako ng pagkakataon na sumagot," he said.
(If you are going to investigate, don't do it through newspapers or the television. I should be given a chance to answer.)
Aside from Bello, PACC is also investigating former Bureau of Customs Commissioner and now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Isidro Lapeña, and National Commission on Indigenous People Chairman Leonor Oralde-Quintayo.
The probe was prompted by complaints filed last year, Luna told reporters, but declined to give other details.
Bello in 2018 was accused by 2 businesswomen of
extorting some P6.8 million from employment agencies and accepting gifts. He denied the allegations.
Lapeña meanwhile came under fire after billions worth of shabu slipped past Customs inspections.
In a separate DZMM interview, Luna said the PACC, just like the Office of the Ombudsman, is mandated by an Executive Order to issue regular updates on pending cases "so that the war on corruption will be successful."
"If you will not disclose some information to the public e sabihin ng mga kababyan natin na may itinatago tayo (they will think that we are hiding something)," he said.
Luna also said that even before his announcement, the merits of the case against Bello was already "public knowledge" following the latter's press conferences, where he denied any corrupt activity.
The PACC, he added, has not made any premature conclusion against Bello.
"We are not saying that the allegations against him are true, pero pwede namin s'yang bigyan ng pagkakataon [na sumagot] because we exercise due process sa aming commission," he said.
(We can give him a chance to answer because we exercise due process in our commission.)
"He has nothing to worry about regarding this case, wala po kaming ikino-conclude against him."
(We have not made any conclusion against him.)
Malacañang will not interfere with the PACC probe, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said, adding that there are no "sacred cows" in government.
"If there’s evidence, then the President will act on it," Panelo told reporters last Monday.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has known Bello since law school, has vowed to fire officials on the slightest "whiff of corruption."