MANILA – The Commission on Audit (COA) cannot be taken out of the picture when it comes to looking into the finances of the Senate, the commission's chairman said on Thursday.
COA Chairman Grace Pulido Tan said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano can still ask a private auditing firm to look into the finances of the Senate, but he will have to shoulder the costs of its services and have the Senate as a whole approve it.
Tan added that the Constitution provides that the COA has irrevocable jurisdiction over the auditing of any government agency.
"Ang sinasabi ng Saligang Batas na hindi pwedeng magpasa ng anumang batas o resolusyon man yan, in any guise, to exempt any government agency from the jurisdiction of the COA," Tan told dzMM.
"Maski may mag-audit na private entity, hindi pa rin kami matatanggal. We still can audit and we will audit. Kasi 'di kami pwedeng ma-out ng jurisdiction dyan."
Cayetano came up with the suggestion to have the Senate's finances be independently audited after it was revealed that Enrile released some P1.6 million as additional "maintenance and other operating expenditures" (MOOE) to 18 colleagues from "savings" of the chamber in 2012, excluding Alan and Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Antonio Trillanes IV.
Enrile only released P250,000 to the four senators. Prior to this, all senators had received P600,000 in November as the first tranche of the total P2.2 million MOOE.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and later on Cayetano, questioned the distribution of funds and tagged them as "cash gifts" from Enrile.
Cayetano also said that he received information that the auditor from the COA who looks into the books of the Senate was chosen by Enrile himself.
Tan, meanwhile, cited Presidential Decree No. 1445, which says the COA will still have jurisdiction over any private auditing firm tasked to look into the finances of any government agency or institution.
"We have the resources to undertake that audit so hindi namin maibibigay ang go signal na kumuha ng private auditing firm," she said.
"Hindi natin maiaaalis 'yun. Kung gusto niya ipa-audit ang Senado, that's fine. But as I said, it will not come from the public money at ang decision kung mag e-engage nga sila ng ibang auditor will have to be made, I suppose by the Senate as a whole."
On Wednesday, the rift between Enrile and Cayetano reached new heights, with the two senators slinging personal accusations during a Senate session.