MANILA— Activists on Friday trooped to the Commission on Audit's (COA) offices in Quezon City to bring flowers and a letter of gratitude to state auditors and other staff members for their reports on government agencies.
The COA this month released several reports on how government agencies used public funds last year and flagged several questionable purchases or transactions, most especially that of the health department's handling of P67 billion in pandemic response funds.
Akbayan Party-list First Nominee Percival Cendaña described COA's officials and employees as “truth heroes” for holding government officials accountable through their audit reports.
“Narito tayo ngayon kasi gusto nating iparamdam, ipakita ang suporta ng taumbayan sa mga kawani ng COA na nakakaranas ngayon ng harassment mula sa iba’t ibang makapangyarihang lider ng ating pamahalaan,” Cendaña said.
(We are here because we want to express and show the support of the people to COA's staff, who are now experiencing harassment from the powerful men in government)
In the letter, Akbayan expressed their “full support and gratitude” for COA’s work for the Filipino public and the country.
“Tayo ay yumayakap sa tapang ng bawat kawani ng COA at kumikilala sa kanilang paninindigan na hindi sila magpapatinag sa pananakot, patuloy na gagampanan ang kanilang trabaho sapagkat ito ang kanilang sinumpaang tungkulin,” Cendaña said.
(We embrace the courage of each COA staff, and we recognize their principles and idealism despite the threats. They are still working despite all of these because this is their mandate.)
The group also expressed in their letter their sincerest condolences to the commission after the death of Jake Cimafranca, who supposedly led the audit team that checked disbursements of the Department of Health (DOH).
Cimafranca reportedly died of a heart attack, former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza had said. It was his team that found questionable disbursements of P67 billion in COVID-19 funds under DOH care.
“Pinapahayag ng Akbayan ang taos-pusong pakikiramay sa pagkamatay ni Atty. Jake Cimfranca, alam natin na sa kanyang kabayanihan nabuksan ang isang mahalagang imbestigasyon para tingnan kung paano ang pondo ng bayan ay hindi nagagamit para proteksyunan ang ating mamayan," he explained.
(Akbayan also expresses its condolences to the family of Atty. Jake Cimafranca who is one of the reasons why the investigation is being conducted right now. He scrutinized how the funds were used, he made sure they would be protected)
"Si Atty. Jake Cimafranca ay namatay na bayani ng katotohanan. Atty Jake is a hero for truth,” Cendaña said.
The Akbayan event also came after President Rodrigo Duterte blasted the constitutional body for releasing audit reports, even asking his Cabinet to ignore them, saying its documents were "really insufficient and deficient."
COA is the supreme auditing arm of the Philippine government, with the 1987 Constitution reiterating its role as the "sole official external auditor" of government agencies as well as government-owned- and-controlled corporations (GOCCs).
Recently, it flagged the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration's (OWWA) questionable purchases of napkins supposedly priced at P35 and bought at a hardware store.
The commission likewise flagged the construction of a P10.835-million infinity pool and additional room in the Ports Management Office-Northern Luzon of the Philippine Ports Authority in La Union.
Meanwhile, DOH's "deficiencies" in handling P67 billion in COVID-19 funds is the subject of an investigation at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. The committee will reconvene on Aug. 25 to continue the hearings.