'Even the President cannot disregard COA,' Duterte's anti-corruption body says

MANILA, Philippines – Despite President Rodrigo Duterte's earlier statements belittling the role of auditors, his own anti-corruption commission has formally linked up with the Commission on Audit (COA) for faster information-sharing on corruption cases.

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Chairman Dante Jimenez shrugged off Duterte’s earlier "disrespectful" remark against COA.

He is a lawyer, so he knows. And these are just…. You know the President, as I understand him, he has quotable quotes,” Jimenez said on Tuesday, October 2, during the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signing between him and COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo.

Jimenez added: “This is a constitutional body, we cannot disregard [it], even the President cannot disregard COA.” 

Duterte earlier suggested to push auditors down the stairs following a complaint by Governor Imee Marcos against auditors in Ilocos Norte. 

Aguinaldo evaded questions from the media and instead joked: Sinabi ko sa auditors umiwas na lang sa hagdanan (I told auditors to just avoid the stairs).” (READ: 6 times COA reported on key Duterte concerns, advocacies)

COA Chair Michael Aguinaldo was evasive to questions from media. Asked for his reaction on Duterte’s statement to push auditors down the stairs, Aguinaldo said: “Sinabi ko sa auditors umiwas na lang sa hagdanan.” pic.twitter.com/gOrC7DCeTq — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) October 2, 2018


“The MOA essentially covers, in the area of coordination and cooperation, referral of information, consultative meetings, continuing review and Joint Task Force,” said the PACC in a news release.

Aguinaldo said the COA would share data with the PACC.

For 2017, the COA has released controversial findings that have led to resignations and Ombudsman investigations.

Asked which COA finding has caught their eye and on top of their priority list, Jimenez refused to say.

For example, the COA has found irregular transactions in 2017 inside Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). Jimenez was mum on the audit findings on the PCOO or a specific agency.

But Jimenez said they would soon announce the names of individuals they are investigating.

PACC Executive Director Eduardo Bringas said one of the people they’re investigating is Senator Antonio Trillanes IV over an accusation that the opposition lawmaker allegedly used discretionary funds for a ghost lamp project.

However, Executive Order 43, which created the PACC, only authorizes the commission to investigate presidential appointees.

Asked to provide legal basis for investigating Trillanes, Bringas said: “In EO 43 we are given authority to conduct lifestyle check and fact-finding on all government officials, not necessarily presidential appointees.”

Section 5(c) of EO 43 authorizes the PACC to conduct lifestyle checks and fact-finding inquiries on “all presidential appointees including those outside the executive branch.” – 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.