'Hindi ito pa-contest': Hontiveros chides Duque after rants vs COA

Published August 18, 2021, 3:53 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday, August 18, hit Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s wailing about being flagged by state auditors for his agency’s deficiencies in spending COVID-19 funds.

Senator Risa Hontiveros (Senate of the Philippines)

At the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearing, Hontiveros took a swipe at Duque for complaining about the findings of the Commission of Audit (COA) on the Department of Health’s (DOH) management of its funds.

“Lahat po tayo dito ay halos wala nang tulog (All of use here are losing sleep),” Hontiveros said, alluding to Duque who had lamented being deprived of sleep since state auditors release their preliminary report.

“Hindi ito pa-contest ng kung sinong ahensya ang may mas maraming ginagawa at kung sino ang pinakapagod at nakakaawa. Ito ay usapin ng pananagutan; ng pagtupad sa mga pangako; at paggawa ng mga tungkulin ayon sa nakasaad sa batas (This is not a contest of which agency is busier and which is most tired or more deserving of pity. This is a discussion of accountability; of fulfilling promises; and performing duties as mandated by law),” she pointed out.

“Kung may nawarak man ngayong panahon ng pandemya, ang nawarak ay ang kabuhayan at kinabukasan ng milyon-milyong ordinaryong mamamayan (If anything was destroyed in this time of pandemic, it is the livelihood and the future of millions of ordinary Filipinos),” Hontiveros told Duque.

Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. also advised Duque not to be emotional, even if he was hurt with the COA’s findings. He said he, too, was dismayed with the reported issues in the management of COVID-19 funds.

“Nakakalungkot, nakakagalit, nakakapanlumo. Ngunit hindi ito ang oras para maging emosyonal (It was saddening, infuriating, depressing. But this is not the time to be emotional),” Revilla told Duque.

“We need to be rational, we need to be judicious,” he added, saying the COA serves as a “review for DOH to improve itself.” The COA previously observed “various deficiencies” in its spending of over P67.3 billion in COVID-19 response funds, citing non-compliance with laws, low utilization and unobligation of funds, among others.

During the House of Representatives’ hearing on the same issue Tuesday, August 17, Duque slammed the COA for supposedly denying the DOH due process in releasing its audit report.

“Winarak ninyo kami (You destroyed us),” Duque told the COA.

Senators have defended the COA, stressing that it was mandated by the Constitution to check on the government’s use of resources.