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Heidi Mendoza back at COA but Grace Tan is new chief

MANILA, Philippines—Whistle-blower Heidi Mendoza will be back with her old pals at the Commission on Audit (COA).

Not all of her past colleagues there are exactly jumping for joy, given her statements that some said had tarnished the COA’s image.

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Actually, it’s going to be women power at the COA after President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday appointed Mendoza as COA commissioner and former Finance Undersecretary Grace Pulido-Tan as COA chair, Malacañang announced Tuesday.

Tan, a lawyer and certified public accountant (CPA), will replace Reynaldo Villar, whose term as head of the COA, expired on Feb. 2, according to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang. Tan’s term will expire on Feb. 2, 2015.

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Mendoza, 48, a CPA and career COA official, will assume the post left by Commissioner Evelyn San Buenaventura and her term will end on Feb. 2, 2018.

The appointment of Mendoza to the three-member commission did not come as a surprise. Mr. Aquino earlier said he would offer her the job.

Mendoza helped prosecute retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, a former military comptroller, in his plunder case in the Sandiganbayan. She blew the whistle on how Garcia stashed away millions of military funds in his personal accounts.

It was initially a lonely fight when she testified in the Sandiganbayan. But this all changed when Garcia’s plunder case was reduced to bribery and money laundering as a result of a plea bargain deal with the Office of the Ombudsman last year.

Mendoza resurfaced in the ensuing congressional hearings that investigated the deal.

Balanced team

Carandang acknowledged that the President had considered Mendoza for COA chair.

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“But we wanted a balance of people who had proven administrative and operational experience, which Grace Tan has. And of course the investigative abilities and the proven anticorruption record of Heidi Mendoza,” he said.

Carandang said the Palace believed that Mendoza would continue the administration’s efforts at good governance as she had “proven that she is very serious about anticorruption.”

Asked where former Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, who was eyeing the COA chairmanship, will now go, Carandang said he was not aware if Romulo will be appointed to any position.

Carandang said both Tan and Mendoza were “highly-qualified.”

“They’ll be a very good team at the helm of the COA,” he said.

Career paths

Tan served as finance undersecretary from May 2003 to February 2005 under the Arroyo administration. She is presently a tax consultant and legal adviser and also serves as independent director at Asia United Bank and Rural Bank of Angeles.

Tan is also currently a professor at the University of the Philippines, teaching Mandatory Continuing Legal Education.

She served as consultant for the Senate ways and means committee in 2006 and was a commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government from October 2002 to May 2003.

A UP law graduate, she took her Master of Laws at New York University. She is a graduate of Business Administration and Accountancy at UP.

UN, ADB experience

Mendoza was a United Nations senior external auditor and professional lecturer/trainer/author. She was a program analyst of the Asian Development Bank from Oct. 1, 2010, to Jan. 21.

Her career at the COA started in 1996 as state auditor. From March 2003 to September 2004, Mendoza was financial consultant at the Transparency Group of the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff.

She was assigned to the Office of the Ombudsman in September 2004 as team leader of the COA group that investigated Garcia.

Mendoza has a Master’s degree in National Security Administration at the National Defense College of the Philippines and a Master’s in Public Administration at UP.

She is a commerce graduate, major in Accounting at Sacred Heart College in Quezon province.

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