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Aquino names Heidi Mendoza as COA commissioner

UPDATED 4:50 p.m. - President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has appointed Heidi Mendoza, the whistle-blower on military corruption, as a commissioner of the Commission on Audit (COA). Aquino also appointed former Finance undersecretary Ma Gracia Pulido Tan as the new chairman of the COA. Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said Mendoza will be taking the post vacated by Evelyn San Buenaventura. On the other hand, Pulido-Tan, a lawyer, will be replacing COA chairman Reynaldo Villar. Mendoza will be serving until February 2, 2018 while Pulido-Tan, until February 2, 2015. Tan, lawyer and CPA Asked what made Tan more qualified than Mendoza to head COA, Carandang said aside from being a lawyer, Tan is also a certified public accountant. “She fits the bill and she’s already had a government experience," he said. He said the President wants to have a mix of people who, first of all, were in sync with his administration’s vision for good governance and had a mix of administrative, operational and investigative skills. “Both of these two have (these qualities) so we think that they are highly qualified and they’ll make a very good team at the helm of COA," Carandang said. He said Aquino considered Mendoza for COA chairman post “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 anti-corruption record of Heidi Mendoza. So all of those factors when into the mix." Tan, prior to her appointment as COA chairman, was a tax consultant and legal adviser. She is also an independent director of the Asia United Bank and Rural Bank of Angeles. She was a Finance undersecretary handling the revenue operations group from May 2003 to February 2005. She also served as a commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government from October 2002 to May 2003. He said the President expects Tan and Mendoza to carry out the duties of COA in the proper manner and “we believe they have qualifications to serve their posts." Anti-corruption Carandang believed that Mendoza’s appointment to COA will boost the administration’s drive against corruption. “I think Ms Mendoza, as we’ve seen, has proven that she is very serious about anti- corruption and we believe that she will continue the efforts for good governance," he said. Asked if Mendoza could still testify in congressional hearings with regards to the plea bargaining agreement with former military comptroller Maj. Gen, Carlos Garcia, Carandang said he is not sure. Mendoza had followed the money trail of transactions by former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, who is facing a P303-million plunder suit at the Sandiganbayan. She resigned from her job at the Asian Development Bank to prepare for her testimony against Garcia. She appeared at several congressional hearings on the alleged corruption in the military. Mendoza also hogged the headlines when she accused his former colleagues in the Commission on Audit of being “politicized." “We have to ask the lawyers whether she would be able to or not. I don’t know if there are anymore hearings anyway in the Senate. We’ll have to ask for an opinion on that from the lawyers," he said. Mendoza was a career officer at the COA. Her curriculum vitae stated that she started as an auditing aide III with the performance audit office of COA in 1984. “She rose from the ranks due to her consistent dedication to duty even at the risk of her own life. In 2002, she worked for the issuance of a cease and desist order which saved the government from at least P188 million worth of fraudulent transactions and eventual filing of a criminal case and the defeat of a politician during an elections," the document stated. “She also headed the Garcia plunder case financial investigation in 2004," it further stated. At a forum in San Juan City in February this year, Mendoza said COA needs more “independence" so that it can better perform its role of looking into books of accounts of various government agencies. “I look towards that day na ang ipagtatanggol na budget ng COA ay hindi politicized (when COA will defend a budget that is not politicized)," she said. — – VVP, GMA News