MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday cited the personal wealth and educational background of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar in saying that he is "above corruption," following President Rodrigo Duterte's order to investigate his agency.
Duterte on Monday ordered an inter-agency task force to probe alleged anomalies in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
"Wala pong dahilan para magduda sa integridad si Presidente kay Secretary Villar, a view which I share and everyone in the Cabinet share. Unfortunately talaga, may kinalaman din talaga iyong abilidad ng tao para matukso ng korapsyon," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
(There is no reason for the President to doubt the integrity of Secretary Villar, a view which I share and everyone in the Cabinet share. Unfortunately, one's ability has to do with whether or not he could be tempted towards corruption.)
"Pero kung ganito naman talaga kayaman naman kasi iyong Secretary, at alam nating very well-educated, educated in the best universities in the world, and mayroon ding untainted record as a public servant... talaga naman pong he is beyond doubt and he is certainly above corruption in DPWH," he added.
(But if a Secretary is this rich, and we know that he is well-educated, educated in the best universities in the world, and he has an untainted record as a public servant, he is beyond doubt and he is certainly above corruption in DPWH.)
Villar's family owns a group of real estate companies.
Roque made the statement when he was asked whether or not Villar would be covered by the probe.
"The President of course will leave it to the task force, pero ang opinion po ay malinaw: wala naman pong bahid ng kahit anong korapsyon si Secretary Villar," he said.
(But his opinion is clear: there is no taint of corruption on Secretary Villar.)
Senators earlier 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 last week that subordinates of Villar were to blame for alleged corruption in DPWH, citing how the official hails from a billionaire family.
"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 of the official.
(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 game is.)
The Commission on Audit (COA) has told the DPWH to recover a total of P431.933 million from contractors of projects which exceeded allowable costs.