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‘Duterte threat means state auditors doing a good job’

President Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks on state auditors mean that the Commission on Audit (COA) has “effectively and truthfully carried out” its duty, said former COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, now undersecretary general for the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight.

Months after telling a governor to push a COA auditor down the stairs for the agency’s “stupid circulars,” the President now wants to kidnap and torture COA auditors.

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The President made the threat against state auditors at the Barangay Summit on Peace and Order in Pasay City on Tuesday night.

In a social media post on Wednesday, Mendoza compared auditors with “actors who are antagonists in the movies” and who have to be effective for viewers to hate the characters being portrayed.

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But she said auditors didn’t intend to interfere in government affairs, slow down transactions and hinder opportunities to earn revenue.

“Our role is to give chance to make the use of the country’s money more proper, better and more orderly in a way that is accountable and open to criticism by every citizen or people who care,” said Mendoza, who had testified in congressional hearings in the country about corruption in the military.

The President criticized the COA for slowing down the bureaucracy with its audit circulars, which he said would result in his orders not being carried out.

“One thing. I’ve been serving long in government. To slow down the bureacracy … you order the chief of office, who … would be more knowledgeable than you,” he said.

The chief of office, the President said, would tell him that the directive could not be carried out because it would run counter to circulars or directives of the COA or the Civil Service Commission.

“Ah, COA, that son of a bitch. The COA finds something wrong every time. What is this COA?” he complained.

‘Just making people laugh’

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The President added, drawing laughter from his audience: “Let’s kidnap someone from the COA, bring him here, and torture him here.”

The President said he resented the COA for making it hard to navigate through the bureaucracy and for slowing it down with its audit circulars.

The Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday reminded the President that torture and kidnapping were unlawful acts, even if said as a joke.

Malacañang said the President was not serious about his latest controversial statement on the COA.

Joke on Filipinos

“It’s so obvious that (the President) was just making people laugh regarding the Commission on Audit,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

But for Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, the President’s latest verbal assault on the state auditors showed his “unabashed disdain for accountability, and checks and balance.”

“The joke will be on all of us Filipinos if we don’t call him out on this as well as his misogyny and attacks against democratic institutions,” Villarin said.

The COA did not respond to the President’s statements.

“We have no comment on the matter,” its Public Information Office said in reply to the Inquirer’s request for comment on  the President’s latest threat of  violence.

‘Who’s from COA here?’

The President first attacked state auditors in remarks made in Laoag City on Sept. 16 last year after he heard Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos’ complaints against COA rules on cash advances to purchase materials for rebuilding homes after a typhoon.

The President told local officials to defy the audit agency’s “stupid circulars.”

“Who’s from COA here? Push him down the stairs so he won’t report anymore,” he then said, berating the commission for contributing nothing to national development.

The President said he didn’t care about COA circulars since these were not laws.

Reacting to the President’s statement, COA Chair Michael Aguinaldo on Oct. 1 quipped: “I just told the auditors, avoid the stairs.”

It was the COA that exposed the alleged conflict of interest in the advertising transactions entered into by former Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo with state-run People’s Television Network.

The commission also reported the Davao City government’s continued failure to clean up its payroll of questionable contractual employees for the past three years since COA uncovered dubious hiring practices. —With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Marlon Ramos and Melvin Gascon

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TAGS: COA, Commission On Audit, Duterte's attacks on COA, Heidi Mendoza, Rodrigo Duterte
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