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Duterte jokes: Let's kidnap, torture COA personnel

MANILA, Philippines – In a fresh tirade against the Commission on Audit (COA), President Rodrigo Duterte joked about kidnapping and torturing the commission's personnel who make life hard for local government officials.

"Ah putangina 'yang COA na 'yan. Letse kasi yung COA, everytime may mali talaga. Ano ba naman itong COA na ito? Kung magkidnap tayo ng taga-COA, lagay natin, i-torture natin dito, 'tangina," said Duterte on Tuesday, January 8.

(Those sons of bitches in COA. That COA, everytime, there is always something wrong. What's up with this COA? What if we kidnap someone from COA, we torture them here? Sons of bitches.)

Duterte was speaking in front of Metro Manila local officials at the Barangay Summit on Peace and Order in Pasay City.

COA regularly reports on how local government units spend their funds. Duterte himself, as Davao City mayor, had his fair share of unfavorable COA reports.

Duterte railed against COA for making things difficult for local officials, part of his continuing narrative against bureaucratic processes he sees as obstacles to governance.

"Sino ba gusto makulong nang ano? Pero yung ano, pahirapan, 'yan ang ayaw ko, yang pahirapan (Who wants to be jailed? But making things difficult, that's what I don't like.)," said Duterte.

Four months ago, the President had joked about throwing a COA auditor down the stairs  for reporting unfavorably about the Ilocos Norte provincial government being led by his ally, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.

"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)," he had said back in September 2018, in the presence of Marcos and other Ilocos officials.

Duterte had even told local officials to ignore COA circulars.

The presidential outburst prompted former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza to remind the public that COA personnel deserve respect  as they play a critical role in safeguarding public funds.

Mendoza admitted that some COA guidelines may appear "impractical" and "outdated" to some but that these rules are in place to ensure public officials are held accountable for how they spend taxpayers' money.

During the Duterte administration, the COA has proved instrumental in revealing mismanagement of funds, findings that led Duterte himself to fire certain officials to fulfill his promise of weeding out corruption. (READ: 6 times COA reported on key Duterte concerns, advocacies)

The COA flagged the Department of Tourism's millions of pesos worth of advertisements that aired during the PTV show of then-tourism secretary Wanda Teo's brother.

A COA report also revealed the extravagant travel expenses of former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation interim president Celestina de la Serna.

COA also identified anomalous contracts entered into by the Presidential Communications Operations Office for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit hosting. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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