Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima bewailed Mr. Duterte’s continuing attacks on the Commission on Audit (COA), which she believes is an obvious strategy to divert attention from his own administration’s irregularities and deficiencies in the utilization of anti-COVID funds amounting to tens of billions of pesos.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, made the statement after Duterte asked “who audits COA” during a taped speech aired last August 26.
“For someone who almost always makes it a point to remind everyone that he is a lawyer, and therefore knows the law (which is not always the case), Duterte most often than not only reveals his ignorance of the law,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 1134.
“Who audits the COA? The Constitution itself provides that constitutional bodies and commissions that enjoy fiscal autonomy, viz, the Civil Service Commission, the COMELEC, the Ombudsman, the Judiciary, and of course, the COA, are different from executive agencies of the government in that they are only subject to reporting on a post-audit basis,” she added.
In his speech, Duterte even promised to audit the Commission on Audit (COA) and other government agencies should he be elected as vice president, claiming that he is a “victim” of COA’s audit reports.
It may be recalled that COA recently flagged several irregularities involving different government agencies, including the Department of Health (DOH) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
De Lima reminded Duterte that the COA is not treated like any ordinary department of the Executive branch and is subjected only to post-audit.
“In short, it is not treated to the same audit scrutiny as the Executive Department simply because the bulk of the annual budget is spent by the latter, while it is only fiscal autonomy that protects the former from attacks by the political branches of government, like what Duterte is now doing to COA,” she said.
If Duterte has any beef with this constitutional set-up, De Lima maintained that his problem lies with the Constitution, stressing that he simply has no respect for the republican and democratic form of constitutional government set up in the 1987 Constitution.
“What Duterte is not saying of course is that his question is in fact another attack on COA, after his administration has supposedly proved the absence of irregularities mentioned in the COA reports in the Senate and House hearings on the 42 billion transfer of DOH funds to the DBM’s Procurement Service without any supporting MOA,” she said.
“That his officials have purportedly come through scot clean in the Congressional hearings is in itself doubtful, as the hearings raised more questions than answers. That is just Duterte patting himself on the back, because no one else will,” she added.
Ultimately, De Lima said that everything boils down to the fact that Duterte is not interested in transparency or accountability because he is only interested in managing the political fall-out from his underlings’ incompetence and corruption.
“He is prepared to demolish institutions and destroy personalities just to get his way. This is the Duterte brand of leadership,” she said.
“It definitely does not inspire confidence in the survival of our institutions when they attempt to work within and live up to their constitutional mandates. In order to survive, they just have to follow the whims and caprices of Duterte as the all mighty lord and leader,” she added. (30)