MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Audit (COA) Commissioner Heidi Mendoza begged Congress to confirm her appointment, saying her only fault was standing against Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Mendoza faced anew the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday, March 4, saying she cannot be faulted for incompetence in auditing the transactions of Makati during the term of Binay’s wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay.
In office for 3 years without confirmation, Mendoza said she could not help but be envious of two Commission on Elections commissioners who breezed through their confirmation hearings on the same day.
Mendoza said she already responded to the opposition against her in a December 2012 CA hearing but her confirmation continues to be delayed.
“Pabalik-balik po ako rito, nanonood ng mga naco-confirm at talaga pong ako ay inggit na inggit. Alam ko po na darating ang panahon bubuksan ang katotohanan dahil hindi ako nagsinungaling. Hindi po ako nagnakaw. Hindi rin po ako nakasuhan. Ang aking tanging kasalanan, nanindigan [akong] mag-file ng kaso sa isang may ambisyon maging presidente,” Mendoza said.
(I keep coming back here and watching those who are confirmed and I am really so envious. I know the time will come for the truth to come out because I did not lie. I did not steal. I do not face charges. My only fault is having the conviction to file a case against someone who has ambitions of becoming president.)
“It was year 2003 when I conducted the audit of Makati. I never had an inkling of who would be the next president then, that I would be sitting as commissioner-nominee,” she added.
Mendoza’s confirmation was again deferred after Senator Jinggoy Estrada sent a letter saying he wanted to ask questions in the next hearing. A Binay ally, Estrada earlier said he will block Mendoza’s confirmation over supposedly “valid issues” against her.
Those opposing Mendoza’s confirmation are former state auditor Arturo Besana, and lawyers Mariano Sarmiento, Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo and Sandra Coronel of the Yorac, Chua, Arroyo, Caeda & Coronel Law firm, the law firm handling the graft cases of Mrs Binay. They accused Mendoza of dishonesty and incompetence in her work as auditor.
Sarmiento said Mendoza cannot drag Binay into her confirmation hearing because their opposition is based on 4 cases pending before the Sandiganbayan against Mrs Binay, not the Vice President.
“There is no such thing as conjugal partnership in criminal cases. In all fairness, these 4 cases now, as well as the 4 other new cases, they do not involve the Vice President,” Sarmiento said.
On the issue of Mrs Binay’s graft cases before the Sandiganbayan, Mendoza responded that she should not be blamed if these were initially dismissed. She said state auditors play a limited role in the prosecution of cases.
“Even if I am raring to answer, the prosecutor is not asking me. I’m only as good as the evidence presented when asked. This is the sad condition of our auditors. It is so hard to testify and answer questions, face accusations and security issues that auditors often experience. That’s why those making the fraud audit report usually do not want to stand by the case because it gets so personal sometimes.”
CA members also asked Mendoza about the revival of cases against Mrs Binay, which the Binay camp described as “pure harassment.”
“I would rather not give my opinion because I respect the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman. I have no knowledge of their action if they refile cases. Our only participation is to stand by the audit report when we are called. It’s our responsibility,” Mendoza said.
In a statement, Binay’s spokesman Joey Salgado said, “We request Commissioner Mendoza to simply answer the issues raised against her. Appeals to the emotion will not help her case.”
‘I was not part of PDAF audit report’
Mendoza also clarified that contrary to the statements of her oppositors, she was not part of the COA special audit on the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The report was among the bases for filing a plunder complaint against lawmakers, including Estrada.
“The PDAF report is the output of the special audit services office. The office is directly under the office of the chair. My oversight is only operating units like national government audit, corporate, and local,” she said.
Mendoza again addressed her critics’ claim that she was dishonest and incompetent in testifying on and auditing funds involving former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, and the United Nations peacekeeping funds.
Mendoza said she wanted to pursue a lead when the COA could not trace the flow of funds from the UN Permanent Mission in New York to bank records, but she was not allowed to do so.
She said she decided to resign from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to testify in congressional hearings on the controversial Garcia plea bargain deal instead of denying there was an audit report implicating him.
“On incompetence, my oppositor (Besana) said he spent 40 years in the Commission. None of his reports reached the Sandiganbayan. In my 22 years in COA, modesty aside, all my audits ended up with cases in Sandiganbayan. I am honest. I live the concept of integrity.”
She reiterated that Besana was only opposing her confirmation because former military budget officer George Rabusa filed a case against him over the military fund scam. Besana said the case was baseless.
Mendoza lamented the protracted confirmation process.
“They say I’m incompetent but I’ve been with the commission for 3 years and I think these are the best years for the commission. We see that. Every day, COA is in the papers. These are the years when our auditors stand proud that they are part of the commission,” she said.
The whisteblower said she accepted her appointment as COA commissioner because she believed in the administration’s anti-corruption campaign.
Mendoza alluded to reports where Estrada said he would block her confirmation. She said she chose not to respond in the media.
Asked after the hearing about the senator’s threat, Mendoza gave a short message. “God bless po.” – Rappler.com