MANILA, Philippines – To fast-track cases arising from Commission on Audit (COA) fraud audit reports, two government agencies took the first step Thursday, April 18, by launching a team that will put investigators in one office, among other things.
The Joint Investigation Team formed by COA and the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) aims to ensure better coordination between the two agencies in investigating and prosecuting such cases, COA chairperson Gracia Pulido Tan said in a press conference.
Tan contrasted this new set-up with situations in the past when COA and OMB teamed up, but in an ad hoc or temporary capacity.
The COA-OMB team in the case of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller Carlos Garcia provides an example of an ad hoc set-up. Then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo saw the need to bring COA and OMB investigators together due to the extent of the Garcia investigation, which involved the long practice in the military called “conversion.” It was a special case that needed special attention.
“This time we are partnering as institutions,” Tan explained. “Isang importang bagay na ‘yon, kasi made-dedicate ang team na ‘yan sa mga kasong ganito.” (That is an important thing because a team will be dedicated to cases like this.)
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, for her part, expressed confidence that because of the joint team “these cases will finally be resolved, the names of innocent individuals cleared, and the accountable officials meted the appropriate penalties.” (Watch the video below.)
More than team-ups
To combat corruption, however, it will take more than team-ups on the part of COA and OMB.
Change should begin with the people within COA itself, said Makati Business Club’s Alberto Lim in a previous interview with Newsbreak. “If we get the wrong people, a lot can go the wrong way.”
A significant number of Filipinos (6.9% of respondents) perceive COA to be the 4th most corrupt government agency, based on a 2011 survey by pollster Pulse Asia. The most corrupt, according to 48.9% of respondents, is the AFP.
“Karamihan ng problema ng corruption sa bansa, ang puno nasa COA. Kaya nga parating may porsyento ang COA,” Sen Francis Escudero told ANC’s Headstart in an interview last year. (Most of the country’s corruption problems trace their roots in COA. That is why COA always gets a kickback.)
COA’s Tan, however, has promised to wipe out corruption by at least half in 5 years.
Another Aquino appointee in COA, Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, began her term with a commitment to clean the agency’s image. It was Mendoza who blew the whistle on Garcia’s plea bargain deal with government prosecutors. – Rappler.com