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Philippines' Duterte orders graft probe across state agencies

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MANILA (Reuters) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he had ordered the justice ministry to launch a sweeping investigation into graft across all government agencies, conceding that his country continued to be “plagued with corruption.”

In 2016, Duterte won the presidency campaigning on a promise to fight corruption, crime and illegal drugs.

But his administration has been dogged by scandals and allegations of graft and cover-ups in state agencies ranging from prisons, the state insurer, immigration, airports and customs, to police and the drugs enforcement agency, few of which led to convictions or high-profile resignations.

Duterte on Tuesday issued a memorandum directing the justice department to look into anomalies at state agencies until the end of his term in 2022. It gives the department the power to decide what allegations to investigate and to work with other agencies.

“This country continues to be plagued with corruption,” Duterte said in a televised national address. “Up to now, it is not weakening, it is getting stronger,” he said, vowing to focus his remaining term on fighting corruption.

The Philippines fell 14 notches to 113th spot among 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index last year.

Duterte is not eligible for re-election, but fulfilling his campaign pledge on corruption could help the chances of his chosen successor in the 2022 elections.

The justice secretary vowed on Tuesday that his department would work with other government agencies on investigations.

“It will help us a lot if government workers themselves and the people they deal with would come forward and provide us the necessary information to uncover corrupt activities and identify the perpetrators,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters.

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