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DOF steps up lifestyle checks, reviews process to curb corruption

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Aligns with President Duterte’s anti-graft drive

Photo from https://www.dof.gov.ph/report-corruption/
By Alithea De Jesus

Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise during the 2016 Presidential election campaign to thwart graft and corruption and clean up the government with crooks, the Department of Finance (DOF) has been conducting rigorous lifestyle checks on its officials and employees and advocating a continuing review of processes and procedures in all its offices to further reduce opportunities for corruption, in step with President Duterte’s heightened anti-graft campaign, Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said over the weekend.

The attached agencies under the Department of Finance includes Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of the Treasury, Bureau of Local Government Finance, Insurance Commission, National Tax Research Center, Central Board of Assessment Appeals, Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency, Privatization and Management Office, and Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the statement sent to THEPHILBIZNEWS, Dominguez said that while the DOF has long been investigating allegations of dishonesty and corrupt practices in the DOF and its attached agencies, it has also been at the forefront of the government drive against “state capture,” which he described as “one of the worst forms of corruption” involving private individuals who attempt to influence policy-making and undermine the public interest for their own benefit.  

The DOF has been sharing its knowledge  about state capture  with regulators and key government officials to help identify the manipulative schemes perpetuated by “these grafters and influence peddlers” and stop them in their tracks, Dominguez said in his message of support for the President’s anti-corruption campaign.

Dominguez’s message was aired during the weekend teleradyo program of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) over radio station DZRJ.

Within the DOF, its Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) has initiated investigations against 403 officials and employees of the Department and its attached agencies since President Duterte took office in 2016, Dominguez said.

“Public officials and employees should be held to the highest standards of integrity and accountability. Rest assured, the Department of Finance will always be at the forefront of the institution of necessary reforms to achieve the President’s goals of honest and efficient governance,” Dominguez said in his message.

Created in 2003, the RIPS is mandated to detect and investigate allegations and prevent corruption in the DOF and its attached agencies such as the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and of Customs (BOC).

The anti-corruption probes of the RIPS have led to the filing of  administrative and/or criminal cases against 60 errant public officers, of which 14 have already been dismissed from the service, Dominguez said.

To further strengthen its anti-graft campaign even amid the mobility restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, Dominguez said the DOF has also launched a “Sumbong” page on its website devoted to receiving information from the public about suspected corrupt practices.

Informants may submit evidence through the “Sumbong” page  showing properties or lifestyles grossly disproportional to the pay levels of  employees of the DOF and its attached agencies.

“Beyond penalizing offending public officers, the DOF is advocating a continuing review of processes and procedures in all its offices to reduce opportunities for corrupt practices,” Dominguez said.

He said the DOF is accelerating the adoption of digital technologies within the Department and in its attached agencies to further enhance transparency and reduce the margin of discretion “that is ultimately the source of graft in the bureaucracy.”

“The Department of Finance is also at the forefront of combating one of the worst forms of corruption called State Capture. Capturers of the State operate discreetly in order to lull the ordinary Filipino into thinking that whatever project they are pushing for will ultimately redound to the benefit of the public,” Dominguez said in his radio message.  

He said these  “capturers”  are often  “enterprising private individuals who use every resource at their disposal, including the media and political figures” to “solidify control over their respective private interests.”

“They employ a carrot-and-stick approach to influence politicians. Those who willingly accept grease money are paid off while those who refuse are threatened with litigation,” Dominguez said.

“These grafters and influence peddlers play the long-game nurturing a symbiotic relationship with public officers complicit with the capturers and bartering continued political support from powerful individuals. These are done in exchange for wielding government power for a period to last beyond one presidential term,” he added.

Dominguez said these private individuals also infiltrate the government bureaucracy through their chosen appointees to regulatory bodies and implementing agencies.  

“To solidify control over their respective private interests, these capturers position their alter egos in key agencies, leading to lopsided contracts and disadvantageous transactions all to the prejudice of the Filipino people,” he said.

Earlier, Dominguez formally informed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra about the anti-corruption efforts of the DOF through its RIPS unit after President Duterte directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) late last year to head a mega task force that would investigate suspected big-time graft cases across the bureaucracy.

“In light of the memorandum of President Duterte directing the DOJ to investigate allegations of corruption in the entire bureaucracy, this Department shall be pleased to extend its assistance which your department may need,” Dominguez said in a letter to Guevarra.

The DOJ may coordinate with RIPS Executive Director Ray Gilberto Espinosa “to discuss how our respective departments can work together towards this effort,” Dominguez added in his letter.

Under Executive Order (EO) No. 259 series of 2003, the power of the Finance secretary to investigate corruption is exercised through a trusted DOF undersecretary who supervises the RIPS. 

Since assuming office, Undersecretary Bayani Agabin has been at the helm of the team assisted by Espinosa, who was previously a prosecutor at the DOJ-National Prosecution Service (DOJ-NPS).

The DOF’s Information against Corruption page can be accessed using the URL “https://www.dof.gov.ph/report-corruption/“.

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