Several private sector organizations on Saturday expressed their support for the Commission on Audit (COA) after President Rodrigo Duterte castigated state auditors for flagging irregularities in the Department of Health’s use of government funds.
“We, the undersigned private sector organizations, fully and wholeheartedly support the exercise by the Commission on Audit of its constitutional power, authority and duty 'to examine, audit, and settle all accounts and expenditures of funds and properties’ of the Philippine government,” the groups said in a joint statement.
“Our Constitution gives the Commission the ‘exclusive authority to define the scope and promulgate rules of its audit and examination... for the prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or unconscionable expenditures, or misuse of government funds and properties,” the groups said.
Signatories in the joint statement were the following:
- American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.
- Association of Certified Public Accountants in Public Practice
- Ateneo De Manila University
- Ateneo De Naga University
- Ateneo De Zamboanga University
- Chamber of Thrift Banks
- Filipina CEO Circle
- Financial Executives Institute of The Philippines
- Financial Executives Institute of Cebu Inc.
- FINEX Academy
- FINEX Research and Development Foundation, Inc.
- FINTECH Alliance Philippines
- Guild of Real Estate Entrepreneurs and Professionals Inc.
- Institute of Solidarity in Asia Inc.
- Integrity Initiative
- Intellectual Property Association of the Philippines
- Investment House Association of the Philippines
- Judicial Reform Initiative
- Licensing Executives Society Philippines
- Makati Business Club
- Management Association of the Philippines
- Philippines Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives
- Procurement and Supply Institute of Asia
- Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines
- Subdivision and Housing Developers Association Inc.
- Tax Management Association of the Philippines
- Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro
Duterte on Monday slammed the COA as he defended the DOH from the deficiencies found by state auditors in its 2020 audit report.
The President said it was "bulls—t" to think that the P67.3 billion set aside for the campaign against COVID-19 had been stolen.
State auditors had found, among other things, several deficiencies in the DOH utilization of P67.32 billion in COVID-19 funds.
Duterte told the COA to stop "flagging" government agencies, adding that it was tantamount to "flogging", spelling out both terms.
"Stop that flagging goddamnit. You make a report, do not flag. Do not publish it because it would condemn the agency or person that you are flagging," he said.
On Saturday, Duterte acknowledged the role of the Commission on Audit, saying the annual reports are not personal.
“I know that you have to do it. Kailangan gawin ninyo utos ng batas. Wala akong… at tsaka ‘di personal ‘yan. 'Di tayo magkakakilala,” Duterte said in a taped public address aired Saturday morning.
(You need to do it as the law requires it. I don't have... and it is not personal. We don't know each other.)
The private sector groups said the Constitution imposes upon the COA the constitutional duty “to submit an annual report” on its findings and “other reports as may be required by law.”
“It is also required by law to publish its reports, consistent with the constitutional right of our people to information on matters of public concern, and be protected from inappropriate and unlawful use of public funds and property,” the group said.
“Our Constitution expressly provides that the Commission is an independent constitutional body. It envisions the Commission to be unhampered and be above any political and other forms of undue pressure. Due respect and attention must be accorded to the Commission’s exercise of its powers and discharge of its duties under the Constitution.”
The private sector groups emphasized that it is the constitutional nature of the COA, “with the power and mandatory duty to serve as a robust check-and-balance on the power to disburse and use public funds and properties, ensure that effective controls are in place to protect government financial assets and properties, improve effectiveness and efficiency, and be a vital instrument against corruption and misuse of public funds and properties.”
“It is our solemn duty as a people to uphold at all times the independence of our Constitutional Commissions,” the groups said.
Furthermore, upholding the COA’s constitutional mandate goes beyond compliance with the law as it is an affirmation of the moral duty and social conscience that we owe to our people.
“Our Constitution, which every public official has sworn to uphold under pain of penalty, demands no less.
"In these crisis times, we should be unwavering in supporting our government agencies tasked to protect our country from graft and corruption, which will aggravate the current pandemic-driven situation of widespread hunger, unemployment, uncertainty and undue hardship and suffering of our people,” the groups said. — DVM, GMA News