Going on a tirade against the Commission of Audit (COA) in his weekly Monday briefing, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he would reject any resignation attempt from embattled Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who faces allegations of mismanaging some P67 billion in funds to address the pandemic.
"Alam ko gusto mo nang mag-resign, pero alam mo rin na tatanggihan kita ngayon," Duterte told Duque..
(I know you want to resign, but you know that I will refuse you.)
"Noon you have attempted to resign twice. I expect you to say something to me after this, mag-resign ka. Sabihin ko sa iyo, hindi. Wala ka namang ginawang masama. Bakit ka mag-resign?" the President continued.
(You have attempted to resign twice before. I expect you to say something to me after this, that you'll resign. I tell you, no. You did nothing wrong. Why will you resign?)
The president slammed COA following the agency’s claim of “deficiencies” in the health department’s handling of COVID-19 funds that reportedly led to “missed opportunities” in the government’s pandemic response.
Duterte also ordered state auditors to stop flagging government expenditures and publishing their findings because it would “condemn the agency or person” they tag and “taint” the image of those identified.
The president then complained about how transactions would go past local auditors only to be questioned later, claiming that the problems only arise at the top level.
“When they get to the top for auditing, there’s a hitch. You blame now the procurement, the mayor, whoever. Leche na yan (Damn that). Just remove the auditors at the bottom. It’s wrong. Just make one audit, your audit (at the main office),” Duterte said.
The president further said that COA should not audit ongoing projects while paperwork is still being processed because it would not be "fair" to people working on them. He also argued that once COA releases its preliminary audit to the press, it would cause “suspicion” and become "gospel truth."
“Now, once they have their preliminary audit. they will have an exit conference and they will release that [report]. That paper of the preliminary audit, once you release it to media, becomes the gospel truth. Immediately, there’s already suspicion,” he said.
Duterte went on to say that COA’s data is “insufficient and deficient.” “Do not conduct an audit while my work is not yet finished. Do not conduct an audit on our work that’s ongoing because it’s still being documented,” he added.
For his part, Duque emotionally lamented about his agency's ruined reputation during the lower chamber's hearing on the matter. “Winarat na ninyo kami, winarat nyo ang dangal ng DOH, hindi na kami makaharap sa mga tao, wala na po akong tulog. (You have ruined us, you have ruined the dignity of the DOH, we can no longer face people, I can no longer sleep). This is unfair, unjust, this judgment,” he said.
Meanwhile, opposition senator Francis Pangilinan believes that the health department should be criticized for its incompetence. Senator Risa Hontiveros agreed, claiming that the recent spike in COVID-19 cases is proof of Health Secretary Duque III's failure as the department’s chief.
Senators have been calling for Duque's resignation since the Senate probe of corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Ana Catalina Paje is a development journalist passionate about grassroots communication geared towards genuine social change. She also writes about showbiz, lifestyle, and all things Pinoy pride. The views expressed are her own.
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