Duterte targeting Commission on Audit because it finds anomalies in government

January 10, 2019 - 8:17 PM
Duterte speaking to barangay chiefs
Speaking to barangay chiefs in Pasay City on Tuesday, Duterte blasted the Commission on Audit (COA) for supposedly hampering the implementation of some state projects. (PPD/Toto Lozano)

President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the Commission on Audit prompted a recall at the times the state auditor has detected anomalies in transactions under his administration.

The chief executive said in a speech at Pasay City that he would “torture” and “kidnap” officers of COA for reportedly causing the delay of government projects, among others. He said:

“Ah p***** i** ’yang COA na ’yan, letse. Kasi ’yang COA, every time, may mali talaga. Ano ba itong COA na ito? So, mag-kidnap tayo ng taga-COA, ilagay natin, i-torture natin dito. T*****a.”

Duterte claimed that officials of the agency would debate with higher government officials rather than follow orders. He also added that COA has the tendency to find fault in government projects.

While his statement was slammed by the Commission on Human Rights and some lawmakers, the Palace reiterated its usual explanation that Duterte was only joking.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the chief executive was “chiding” COA for supposedly implementing “stringent protocols that go against the letter and intent of the law.”

Duterte’s words were not lost to some Filipinos who recounted the times the state auditor has found anomalies under his administration, including the time he was still a Davao City mayor.

COA is mandated to examine, audit and settle all accounts and expenditures of the funds and properties of the government. It is tasked to ensure that the taxpayers’ money are well-spent and not involved in anomalous transactions.

Duterte administration vs. COA 

COA in May 2018 found the Department of Tourism had placed advertisements worth P60 million on a television program hosted by Ben and Erwin Tulfo for People’s Television Network, Inc.

The state auditor flagged the concerned parties for “conflict of interest” since then-Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo is a sister of the Tulfos.

The case underwent a Senate hearing and an investigation led by the Ombudsman. In the middle of the probe, Teo resigned from her position following a meeting with Duterte.

COA also discovered in July 2018 that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) gave cash grants, loans, allowances and gold rings to its officials and employees worth P346 million.

The facade of PAGCOR’s main building. (The STAR/File photo)

PAGCOR was accused of giving away excessive gifts that went beyond the amount allowed by Philippine law.

The state auditor in the same month reported that officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office had also violated procurement laws when it disbursed P38.8 million for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in 2017.

Former Tourism Promotions Board Chief Cesar Montano, who is a Duterte appointee, was similarly flagged by COA for his excessive spending on foreign trips. He spent P2.76 million for traveling in Asia, Europe, Australia and North America.

COA also called out the National Housing Authority after it discovered anomalous transactions in relation to the housing projects for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

The local government of Davao City, home town of the Dutertes, was additionally investigated by the state auditor for spending almost P1 billion on the hiring of supposed contractual employees.

When Duterte was still the mayor of Davao, he was similarly accused of hiring 11,000 “ghost employees” that caused him to be probed by the Ombudsman for plunder. The charges were dropped on November 2017.