MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday hit back at former Commission on Audit (COA) Commissioner Heidi Mendoza for criticizing him over government audit processes.
Mendoza recently lashed out at Duterte after the latter slammed the COA over its prohibition on government spending, even joking that a COA employee should be pushed down the stairs.
But Duterte told Mendoza, an Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services at the United Nations, that “you cannot lecture me.”
“Hindi mo ako ma-lecture-an (You cannot lecture me) because I was ahead of her by a mile in understanding the nitty gritty of [government processes],” Duterte, a long-time Davao City mayor, said during the oath-taking ceremony of Liga ng mga Barangay officials in Malacañang.
The Palace has defended Duterte’s statements against COA, saying the chief executive was just irked at bureaucratic red tape hindering government response to calamities.
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 (Should you believe that COA)... You know, you just do it by circular and then expect everybody to obey. Mga circular, pakialam ko? Inyo iyan (Circulars? What do I care? They're all yours),“ he said.
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 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 Yes, some might be outdated, others might be impractical to some, but it is actually in balancing flexibility and accountability where the real challenge lies!”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.