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Ex-COA exec snaps back at Duterte

Former Commission on Audit (COA) commissioner Heidi Mendoza has called out President Rodrigo Duterte for belittling the agency created by the Constitution to safeguard public coffers and encouraging local officials to ignore its anticorruption mandate.

She also snapped at the President for saying, at the goading of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, that COA employees should be “pushed down the stairs.”

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“We are a constitutional commission and not one of the past honorable Presidents of our land has called on another institution, subject under our authority, to defy our rules,” Mendoza said in a Facebook post.

She admitted, though, that some of the COA rules might be outdated or impractical.

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“Give us respect for we deserve it,” said Mendoza, who now audits the United Nations as undersecretary general for Internal Oversight Services.

“Government exists not only because of efficiency but also because of dignity,” she added.

Mendoza was appointed COA commissioner in March 2011 by then-President Benigno Aquino III. She served as officer in charge on Feb. 3, 2015, after the retirement of the agency’s chair, Grace Pulido-Tan.

The COA is now headed by Michael Aguinaldo whom Aquino appointed on March 24, 2015.

On Sunday, the President expressed disdain at accountability measures being imposed by the COA to curb wasteful and improper spending during times of disaster.

He dismissed the agency’s powers and ridiculed its regulations as just a “shit of a circular.”

The President did not mention that under Article IX-D, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, the COA has “exclusive authority” to “promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.”

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Cash advance limit

His rant came after Marcos, eldest child of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, complained about the P15,000 limit being imposed by the COA on requests for cash advances to buy food.

The President took Marcos’ side, saying: “Who’s from the COA here? Push him down the stairs so he won’t report anymore.”

“Why believe in that COA? You know, you just do it by circular and they expect everybody to obey. Circulars — what care do I have?” he exclaimed.

Marcos clapped her hands, saying: “Yes, yes, yes!”

Disaster audit rules

But Mendoza said the COA had already issued a Disaster Audit Guide that was supposed to take effect in times of “storms or any kind of disaster.”

In another post addressed to “those who want to push [people] down the stairs,” she explained that during the onslaught of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” in 2009, the COA raised to P500,000 the cap on food purchases that did not require public bidding.

Mendoza added that the COA and the Department of Social Welfare and Development had agreed to some revisions in the rules for the proper and swift assistance to those in need.

“I’m ready to be pushed down the stairs because I’m formerly a COAn. But, with my explanation, you be the judge on who should roll not just down the stairs,” she said.

Marcos grievances

The COA has attested to the irregularities of the Ilocos Norte government’s misuse of cash advances from tobacco tax proceeds to purchase vehicles and fund other contracts that were not related to improving the plight of farmers.

The agency’s findings also led to controversies casting doubt on the Duterte administration’s anticorruption efforts, to the point that Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo resigned after the COA reported that her department bought advertising time in a low-rated television program produced by her brother.

Amid the President’s criticism of the COA, Malacañang said it was studying possible reforms on procurement processes in government.

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TAGS: COA, Commission On Audit, Heidi Mendoza, Imee Marcos, Rodrigo Duterte
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