Senior members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 16 slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks against the Commission on Audit, saying that subverting the agency’s independence is a clear violation of the Constitution.
In separate statements, Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna); Asst. Minority Leader Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Partylist) and Rep. Edcel Lagman (Independent, Albay) chided Duterte for directing COA to “stop” flagging government agencies.
“You make a report, do not flag. Do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person your are flagging,” Duterte said during his taped briefing that was aired on Monday.
Duterte also ordered the Cabinet to ignore audit reports of COA.
Zarate, Brosas and Lagman said instead of backing his boast that he is an anti-graft advocate by ordering the prosecution of officials flagged by COA, Duterte chose to defend them from the reports released by an independent body like COA.
“Galawang diktador! (A dictator’s deportment)” Brosas said.
“The COA, as an independent constitutional commission, cannot and must not take orders from a disgruntled, late night show President,” she said.
Zarate stressed that COA is "just expectedly doing its constitutional duties and should not be stopped in flagging or pointing out suspected or apparent irregularities on the use of taxpayers' money."
“COA has the power, authority, and duty to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned or held in trust by, or pertaining to, the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities,” said Zaratre in his statement.
Lagman stressed that Duterte “has no authority” over COA that is “performing its constitutional mandate of safeguarding the utilization of public funds and making public the results of its audit.”
“Duterte conveniently forgot that COA is an independent constitutional commission which is not accountable to the president,” said Lagman of the chief executive’s statements on Monday.
“The right of the people to information cannot be negated and quashed by invoking that officials should be shielded from ‘corruption by perception;”, Lagman stated.
The independent lawmaker noted that state auditors have submitted audit reports that have been “thoroughly reviewed and documented.”
“When major government departments and agencies are found to have unspent and/or misspent their respective budgets, then it is COA’s obligation to disclose the sanctionable negligence to utilize public funds and the culpable misuse of the people’s money,” said Lagman.