Palace urges Ombudsman to act on COA reports

Published May 3, 2018, 2:42 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang is putting the Office of the Ombudsman to task following the release by the Commission on Audit (COA) of reports questioning the activities of some government offices, notably that of the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after it was reported that the COA questioned the DOT’s P60-million advertisement deal with state-run television network PTV-4. The ad placements went to the show of Teo’s brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing in Malacañang on April 20, 2018. (YANCY LIM/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing in Malacañang on April 20, 2018.

The COA also asked PhilHealth officer-in-charge (OIC) Celestina Ma. Jude de la Serna to explain her travels amounting to P627,293.04 in just one year amid the agency’s massive net income loss amounting to P8.92 billion, based on its 2017 unaudited financial statement posted online.

Roque, during his Thursday morning Palace press briefing, said that the Ombudsman should look into the matter so cases can be filed against the erring officials.

“That’s why the COA exists. That’s why the Ombudsman exists,” he said.

“Well, kung sapat (If they have enough evidence, they should press charges). Kasi, sometimes hindi sapat, sometimes hindi tumatayo sa korte (Because sometimes the COA report is not enough and will not stand in court). Sometimes you have to dig deeper. So the Ombudsman has to investigate and has to do its own case buildup,” he added.

According to Roque, it should not be just President Duterte to act on these reports and said that the Ombudsman should also look into them as it is part of their function.

“Lahat itong report na ito, hindi naman dapat sa Presidente lang ang tinatanong kung ano ang dapat gawin ng Presidente. Talagang kung meron po talagang paglabag [sa] anti-graft law, ang Constitutional body na dapat nagi-imbestiga nito (All these reports should not only fall into the lap of the President. If there really is a violation of the anti-graft law, the Constitutional body that should investigate), even motu proprio, should be the Ombudsman,” he said.

“I’m hoping that because the Ombudsman was furnished a copy of these reports, that they will act on these reports,” he added.

“All these reports are coming out because the COA reports have been published. The COA reports are given to Congress, they’re given to the Ombudsman,” he continued.

Duterte has already ordered a probe on the DOT-PTV advertisement deal. Roque said that the investigation will push through even if Teo is the sister of the Tulfo brothers who are known staunch supporters of the President.

Meanwhile, Roque said that he will check with the Office of the President if they will investigate PhilHealth following the release of the COA report. He said he will also follow-up on the earlier information given to the OP detailing the allegations against the PhilHealth’s OIC.

“I do not know if the Office of the President has actually received this information. I will forward the information now to the Office of the President and will seek a clarification or response from them whether or not they will investigate PhilHealth,” he said.

On Wednesday, Malacañang said it respects the recommendation of the Office of the Ombudsman to press charges against former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon over the P6.4-billion shabu shipment that slipped past authorities in May last year.

“Ganyan ang nangyayari pag ginagawa ng Ombudsman ang trabaho nila (That is what happens when the Ombudsman is doing its work),” Roque said during his Thursday morning briefing.