Duterte not naming corrupt lawmakers as evidence still lacking – Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte is not publicly naming alleged corrupt lawmakers as such statements need heaps of evidence not in his possession, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

"I think it's evidentiary. Sinabi naman po yan ni Presidente na because this is an issue of evidence, mas mabuti mag-imbestiga ay ang Ombudsman," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during a virtual briefing, adding that the office covers all members of the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches.

[Translation: The President has already said it's better for the Ombudsman to investigate this matter since this is an issue of evidence.]

Duterte earlier said Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission chief Greco Belgica provided him a list of congressmen allegedly asking contractors for commissions.

"Andami pong mga ebidensyang kinakailangan na hindi naman po hawak ng Presidente nang personal, unlike yung mga ebidensya na tumanggap ng suhol ang isang huwes na talagang madali namang ma-establish yan ng evidence," he added.

[Translation: This needs a lot of evidence which isn't even in the hands of the President, unlike when a judge accepts a bribe, which can easily be established by evidence.]

Duterte said he cannot probe the said lawmakers, citing separation of powers.

However, the President has tagged opposition senators to several controversies in the past. For instance, he accused Senator Leila de Lima of financing her 2016 campaign using funds from the illegal drug trade. The staunch critic of Duterte has been detained for three years while undergoing trial for drug-related charges that she said are based on fabricated evidence.

Roque defended Duterte's allegations against the senator, noting the evidence showing her involvement with the said trade is very strong.

"So 11 witnesses testified against her, noh," he said. "So between that and yung allegations na namili ng favored contractor, humingi ng porsyento, mahirap pong pruwebahan yun, noh, so binigay na niya yan sa Ombudsman."

[Translation: Between that and allegations of (lawmakers) choosing a favored contractor or asking for commissions, the latter is more difficult to prove, so he (Duterte) gave such cases to the Ombudsman.]

De Lima has insisted on her innocence. She said she first earned Duterte's ire when as head of the Commission on Human Rights, she investigated the then Davao city mayor in 2009 for his alleged links to the Davao Death Squad. She said she further angered him when as senator she sought an investigation into alleged extrajudicial executions committed under Duterte's bloody war on drugs.

The Duterte administration has consistently touted its crackdown on corruption, with the President recently boasting hundreds of government officials and employees have been booted out due to graft and corruption.

Duterte is known for reading out loud names of sacked employees, which Roque reiterated is being done only when there's a decision on the administrative aspect of their cases.