President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has picked outgoing Solicitor General Jose Calida to be the next chair of the Commission on Audits (COA), press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced Wednesday.
Calida heads the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
The announcement of Calida’s appointment as COA chairman is not without controversy — the Solicitor General himself was flagged by the audit commission for excessive honoraria and allowances worth PHP7.46 million (US$135,939.14) in 2017, as well as high salaries for lawyers under the OSG that amounted to PHP3.312 million (US$60,352.60).
COA has maintained that staff or officials under OSG must not receive more than half of their basic salary from client agencies.
As Solicitor General, Calida has also gone after critics of the Duterte administration. He instigated the shutdown of Philippine broadcast giant ABS-CBN after he had filed a petition with Congress to revoke the network’s franchise over airwaves and issued a warning against the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to grant ABS-CBN a provisional permit, which would have allowed them to operate even without a franchise.
Calida also sought to shut down news outlet Rappler by writing to the SEC to investigate the independent media outfit’s alleged constitutional violations on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities in 2016, a claim that Rappler has repeatedly debunked. Yesterday, the SEC upheld its decision to revoke Rappler’s license to operate.
Calida and Duterte are known to be close colleagues in Davao’s legal circles, where both hail from. He also served as former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s justice undersecretary.