Duterte jokes: Push COA auditor in Ilocos Norte down the stairs

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte joked that the Commission on Audit (COA) auditor in Ilocos Norte should be pushed down the stairs so he would not be able to report on the local government's transactions.

Duterte made the statement on Sunday, September 16, at the prodding of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, who was complaining about various prohibitions that COA has been imposing on her local government's spending. 

"Sino'ng taga-COA dito? Ihulog mo na sa hagdan para 'di mag-report (Who's from COA? Push him down the stairs so he won't be able to file a report anymore)," said Duterte during a meeting with his Cabinet and Marcos in Laoag City.

In response to Duterte's remark, Marcos laughed and clapped her hands while saying, "Yes, yes!"

During their meeting, the President asked the Ilocos Norte governor what COA had to say about Ilocos Norte's efforts to rehabilitate the province after Ompong.

According to Marcos, they were told by COA that Ilocos Norte can only file cash advances up to P15,000 for food, even during times of calamity.  

"P15,000 po ang puwedeng cash – 'yan si Mayor Gladys [Cue] ng Currimao – P15,000 ang puwedeng i-cash advance and only for food, kahit calamity. Roofing, wala lahat. Lahat bawal i-cash advance and this occurred over the weekend, which made things even more difficult, sir," said Marcos. 

(Mayor Gladys Cue of Currimao is here. We're only allowed to request cash advances for food up to P15,000, even when there's a calamity. We can't use it for roofing. We can't request cash advances for everything else and this occurred over the weekend, which made things even more difficult, sir.)

The President then belittled circulars from COA. 

"Maniwala ka diyan [sa] COA na 'yan. You know, they just do it by circular and they expect everybody to obey. Circular, ano'ng pakialam ko? Inyo 'yan!" said Duterte.

(Don't believe in COA's circulars. You know, they just do it by circular and they expect everybody to obey. Why would I care about your circular? That's yours!) 

"So 'yung COA na 'yan (this COA), some guys in the government went to jail based on a circular and other guys went scot-free because of the same circular.... Depende na lang kung saan nila i-ano (It would depend on) where the swing [of] the legal arguments there," he added. 

Later on during the meeting, Marcos complained that COA issued an audit observation memorandum against Ilocos Norte, telling the provincial government that it had applied for too many loans since monsoon rains in August.

"Sabihin mo sabi ni Duterte shut up (Tell him Duterte told him to shut up)," the President told Marcos.

The Ilocos Norte governor, a close ally and friend of the President, had been in trouble in the past because of COA's audit reports. 

In its 2017 audit report on the province, COA recommended charges to be filed against "erring parties" in Ilocos Norte's 5 construction contracts where the bidder was also an observer, contrary to the procurement law.

In May 2017, COA's various issuances on Ilocos Norte's alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of provincial tobacco funds to purchase motor vehicles became the subject of a congressional investigation.  

COA also previously questioned Marcos' authorization to buy medicines, fertilizer, as well as construction materials and services through cash advances in 2012, saying this violated government spending rules. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.