As both President Rodrigo Duterte and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque issued statements scoring the Commission on Audit (COA) for flagging the DOH, there has also been a groundswell of support for the COA and its personnel.
Following the announcement that Atty Jake Cimafranca, the auditor who led the team that worked on the DOH report, had died of a heart attack, former COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza paid tribute to the “ordinary people” who work as auditors.
Calling for support, Mendoza wrote in Filipino, “If you recognize the faces of those who serve at the COA, you’ll see that most of them are ordinary people. They didn’t come from prominent families or what they would call born with a golden spoon. They worked, graduated, passed the board. If you work every day at auditing, how could you not be aware how things are truly done in government. But I can say that no one works to become famous, let alone allow themselves to be used for politicking.”
Mendoza went on to say that she “learned how important it is for the ordinary COAn to feel that [the COA Commissioner] believed in your report and would stand with you no matter where it might take you. If it reaches the Sandigan Bayan, the auditor will face that even if he is no longer in service.”
Duterte had castigated the commission during his Monday night Talk to the Nation address, saying, “Stop that flagging, goddammit. You make a report. Do not flag and do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person that you are flagging. The flagging is spelled f-l-ag-g-e-d. Ang ginagawa ninyo is f-l-o-g-g-i-n-g. Flogging, hampas. Eh huwag naman sige kayong flag nang flag.”
But lawmakers were quick to support the COA, reminding the administration that the audit is a crucial part of the system. “COA findings and recommendations are public documents. Transparency dictates that the public must be informed of how public monies are spent,” Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said in a statement. “The COA should not be cowed by intimidating statements, even those coming from the Chief Executive. In fact, those in the COA should proceed with more vigor, courage and independence.”
Sen Risa Hontiveros also posted a video asking, “I thought the president was against corruption. So why would they stop the COA from releasing their reports?”
Atty Chel Diokno, a candidate in next year’s national elections, agreed with the lawmakers, saying, “COA auditors should be praised instead of punished for flagging and reporting to the public. The President seems to be forgetting our own Constitution. COA should not be stopped from doing its job, which is to protect our people’s hard-earned money. Kakampi ng COA ang taumbayan.” (“The COA is on the people’s side.”)