MANILA - Malacañang on Monday defended President Rodrigo Duterte from criticism over his statement against the Commission on Audit, saying the chief executive is just irked at bureaucratic red tape hindering government response to calamities.
Duterte on Sunday slammed the COA over its prohibition on some government spending, even joking that a COA employee should be pushed down the stairs.
Duterte made the remark after Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos claimed that COA does not allow cash advances for the purchase of building materials intended for disaster victims.
"Maniwala ka niyang COA na 'yan. You know, you just do it by circular and then expect everybody to obey. Mga circular, pakialam ko? Inyo iyan,“ he said.
Sitting beside the president, Marcos clapped and said, "Yes, yes."
The issue came up when the governor said they are only allowed by COA to request cash advances for food up to P15,000.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s statement only shows that the chief executive wants relief and rescue efforts for victims of calamities such as the recent typhoon “Ompong” be expedited.
“Ang konteksto niyan eh maraming limitasyon pagdating sa delivery ng assistance in times of crisis. Ang sinasabi ng presidente, considering na post-audit naman ang COA, hayaan na munang ibigay ang pangangailangan ng taumbayan tsaka na muna address-in ang sinabing napakaraming requirements ng COA,” Roque said in a press briefing in Benguet.
(The context there was there were so many limitations in the delivery of assistance in times of crisis. The President said, considering that COA conducts post-audits, it should just allow the delivery of the needs of the people to proceed.)
“Wala dapat bureaucratic red tape sa pag-release sa tulong ng bayan. Ang sabi ng presidente, kung may nilalabag na COA circular, so be it. ‘The buck stops with me.’”
(There should be no bureaucratic red tapes in the release of assistance to the people. The President said, if a COA circular will be violated, so be it. “The buck stops with me.”)
‘NOT WITH US SIR!’
Former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza did not take Duterte’s comments sitting down, calling on the President to respect the constitutional commission “for we deserve it.”
“Not with us Sir! We are a long standing, dignified institution whose men and women spent long hours working for its flag and our people. Some of our own even laid their lives defending and protecting public coffers,” Mendoza, who was appointed Undersecretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Office of the Internal Oversight Services in 2015, said in a Facebook post.
“We are a constitutional Commission and not one of the past Honorable Presidents of our land has called on another institution subject under our authority to defy our rules. Yes, some might be outdated, others might be impractical to some, but it is actually in balancing flexibility and accountability where the real challenge lies!”
Mendoza, a former COA commissioner who made headlines in 2011 after her explosive testimony on the alleged misuse of military and UN peacekeeping funds, said the Philippines has a Disaster Audit Guide that allows local officials to procure items during times of calamities.
She said that during the onslaught of Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, government was allowed procurement deals of up to P500,000 without going through public bidding provided that the transactions were audited immediately.
Duterte visited parts of northern Luzon over the weekend to check on the status of the area in the wake of typhoon Ompong’s onslaught.
Damage in Ilocos Norte, records from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed, was pegged at P2.3 billion.
The loss in agriculture was valued at P1.9 billion, while damage in infrastructure has exceeded more than P440 million.