MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday criticized alleged anomalies in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but cleared its chief, Secretary Mark Villar, of any involvement in illegal activities.
This, after senators flagged around P345.25-billion in lump sum lodged in the DPWH's proposed 2021 budget. Some lawmakers and officials of the department also allegedly ask for "kickbacks" from contractors that win projects from the agency.
Duterte said in a public briefing that subordinates of Villar are the ones to blame for alleged corruption in DPWH.
"Si Villar mayaman. Sec. Villar maraming pera, 'di kailangan mangurakot. Ang problema, sa baba. Malakas pa rin hanggang ngayon. 'Yung mga projects sa baba, 'yun ang laro diyan," he said.
(Villar is rich. Sec. Villar has lots of money, and doesn't need to commit corruption. The problem is in the lower ranks. It's still rampant. The projects at the bottom, that's where the play is.)
Malacañang last week said Duterte has "full trust and confidence" in Villar, whose billionaire family owns a real estate empire.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier flagged the DPWH's P67-billion allocation for the construction of multi-purpose buildings next year, when the government is still expected to prioritize projects that would help the country recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.
The DPWH is asking for a P667.32-billion budget in 2021, one of the biggest among executive departments, as the government seeks to resume its massive infrastructure program to generate jobs during the global pandemic.