President Rodrigo R. Duterte (File photo)

MANILA – There will be no sacred cow in the fight against corruption in government, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated on Wednesday.

Amid his intensified crackdown on rogue government officials and employees, Duterte renewed his vow that he has zero tolerance for corruption.

“Sabi ko, wala talaga akong sasantuhin dito basta corruption, basta corrupt (I said there will be no sacred cows in my fight against corruption. If you are corrupt, you will not be tolerated),” Duterte said in a speech during the celebration of the 69th founding anniversary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Quezon City.

“’Pag pumunta sa akin iyang tao na iyan at mag-complain, sorry, I will call you sa opisina ko… Tawagan kita sa opisina ko at doon tayo sa opisina ko mag-usap (If someone goes to my office and make a complaint against you, sorry, I will call you to my office. I will summon you to my office and we will talk there),” he added.

The President’s statement came following the release of Jan. 24 article published by American business magazine Forbes, which alleged that the Philippines is becoming a “more corrupt and less democratic state under President Rodrigo Duterte.”

The article, written by Panos Mourdoukoutas, reported that corruption and political oppression in the Philippines stay “intact,” supposedly preventing the country from “developing modern infrastructure, attracting foreign capital, lowering unemployment, sustain(ing) economic growth, and escap(ing) poverty.”

Contrary to the report, Duterte said there is a need to stop corruption in government, adding that getting rid of erring public workers would improve the Philippine economy.

“If we can do away with corruption, in about 10 years time, we will really jump, parang (perhaps, we will have) a better economic situation. Pero kung may corruption, ah wala (But if corruption continues, there will be no progress),” the Chief Executive said.

On Sunday, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) chair Dante Jimenez told the Philippine News Agency that there was no truth to Forbes’ report that the Philippines is turning into a “more corrupt” state, stressing that Duterte’s anti-corruption drive has so far become “very successful.”

Jimenez, however, admitted that addressing corruption in government remains a challenge due to the “slow” justice system in the country.

Duterte, in his latest speech, said that some government agencies such as the bureaus of Customs and Internal Revenue, serve as a gateway to corruption.

“I told you na yung corruption diyan sa (that the corruption there in) Customs, BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), they’re just pittance to the corruption being done upstairs in the highest echelons of government. Totoo talaga. So iyan ang masakit sa akin (That’s the truth. And it pains me),” he said.

The President also said some workers in the government forged several agreements with private firms that are detrimental to the country.

He cited the concession agreements with water firms Manila Water and Maynilad, which were respectively owned by Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan, as among the deals that could be disadvantageous to the government.

Duterte also took note of the state-run Light Rail Transit (LRT) Authority’s existing contract with the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC), which is a consortium of the Ayala-led AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Pangilinan-owned Metro Pacific Investments Corp., and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) Pte. Ltd.

The President also learned about the low payment of property developer Ayala Land Inc. to the University of the Philippines (UP) for the rental of Technohub property in Diliman, Quezon City.

“Itong corruption sa gobyerno, iyan talaga ang problema (The corruption in government is really a problem),” he said.

“I know the dimension of how it was done. It’s not merely in the water sector. It’s in the LRT and some lands that were leased to them,” Duterte added. (PNA)