Now a CPA lawyer, Bar 3rd placer wants to stay as auditor for the people

Myra Baranda, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), achieved her ultimate dream of being a lawyer, landing on the Bar exams No. 3 spot at that, but she said she wants to remain as a state auditor to be more in touch with the people.

Baranda, an accountancy graduate of Bicol University and a law graduate of the University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi, has been working at the Commission on Audit (COA) for the last 5 years, where she is an auditor assigned to the Daraga City local government.

Baranda told Rappler on Wednesday, April 29, it has always been her dream to become a lawyer, but the last 5 years as state auditor have given her a new drive in life.

"Ang gusto ko sa pagiging state auditor, 'yung interaction sa tao, naririnig mo 'yung mga hinaing nila, every time na nagte-thank you sila, fulfilling sa 'yo na nakatulong ka in a small way," said Baranda.

(What I like about being a state auditor is the interaction with people, you get to hear their grievances, and every time they say thank you, it's fulfilling to know you were able to help in a small way.)

State auditors are spread throughout the country in all government offices; they probe government spending and spot irregularities. Often they are feared; President Rodrigo Duterte once threatened to push auditors down the stairs.

Baranda said her experience working in a city government took her closer to the people, and she saw closely how local leaders work – a type of governance she wants to help enhance.

Baranda said there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with local leaders.

"Kami naman, 'yung mga nire-recommend namin para sa kanila, para okay ang leadership nila, para sa constituents nila, para ang funds ay ma-disburse within the legal bounds and efficiently, to make sure there's value for money," she said.

(What we recommend is for their own good, for the betterment of their leadership, and for their constituents, so funds are disbursed within legal bounds and efficiently, to make sure there's value for money.)

Baranda said she wants to work at COA long enough for the perception of auditors to shift from being the dreaded "watchdogs" to being "guardian angels."

"We can check kung 'yung funds na pinagpaguran ng taxpayers ay may napupuntahan," she said. (We can check if the funds that the taxpayers worked hard for went to something good.) 

Baranda said she worked for COA after becoming a CPA to follow in the footsteps of her father, who was also a government employee.

Baranda is one of the two of University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi graduates to land in the Top 10 – the other, her batchmate Mae Diane Azores, who was No. 1. They are among the 2,103 (or 27.36%) examinees who passed the 2019 Bar examinations.

'I was intimidated, I had no confidence'

Despite being an honor student, Baranda said she never dreamed of becoming a topnotcher.

She said a factor may be her coming from the province. Baranda said that when she reviewed for the Bar in a center in Manila, she was always intimidated.

"Ako kasi 'yung taong walang tiwala sa sarili, lahat ng tao sinasabi sa akin, kayang-kaya mo 'yan, pasado ka na, ako pakiramdam ko babagsak ako," said Baranda.

(I don't have self-confidence, and when people tell me I can do it, that I will pass, I feel that I would fail.) 

"Noong nag-review ako sa Manila, maiintimidate ka rin talaga, may tinatanong ang lecturer, may sasagot, alam niya 'yung enumeration, ako walang idea. Sabi ko 'ang gagaling naman ng mga 'to' sabi ko 'paano na?'" said Baranda.

(When I was reviewing in Manila, I was really intimidated, the lecturer would ask something and someone would answer and be able to provide an enumeration, when I had no idea. I told myself these people are so good and I thought, what would happen to me?)

Baranda said it was also hard juggling her work with law school.

She took the night class in law school, but even that schedule proved to be challenging because she had to make sure all her audit reports were completed before she could come to class.

Baranda said she owes a lot to COA for letting her stay in Albay, when all other auditors were being assigned outside their home provinces, because otherwise she would not have been able to go to law school.

"COA is in need of auditors. Kapag government employee ka, nagta-trabaho ka para sa tao," she said.

(COA is in need of auditors. If you're a government employee, you're working for the people.) – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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