Commission on Audit

Jose Calida is Marcos’ COA chair

Lian Buan

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Jose Calida is Marcos’ COA chair

PRIOR RESTRAINT. Solicitor General Jose Calida challenges the Comelec over its Memorandum of Agreement with Rappler, citing prior restraint.

File photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

From justice undersecretary under Gloria Arroyo to solicitor general under Rodrigo Duterte, Calida will again move to a new turf, this time under the Marcos administration
Jose Calida is Marcos’ COA chair

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing solicitor general Jose Calida will be the chairperson of the Commission on Audit (COA) under the incoming government of president-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

“Attorney Jose Calida for COA chair – as you know he is the former solicitor general under President Duterte, he is also the former undersecretary of justice and formerly also of the Dangerous Drugs Board,” incoming press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a news conference Wednesday, June 29.

Angeles took only a few questions, and others who wanted to expound on the appointment of Calida did not have a chance to do so.

For years, rumors did not die down that Calida had eyed becoming Ombudsman, but he did not apply for the post in 2018, and Duterte appointed former Supreme Court justice Samuel Martires for a fixed term of seven years.

Calida was President Rodrigo Duterte’s close contemporary in the legal circle in Davao City where they both hail from. In the 2016 elections, Calida campaigned for the so-called “AlDuB” tandem or Alyansang Duterte at Bongbong. Calida is a loyalist of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, father of the incoming president.

The OSG under Calida went after perceived critics of the Duterte government, including jailing Senator Leila de Lima, attempting to jail Antonio Trillanes IV, and seeking to shut down Rappler and ABS-CBN.

Under Calida, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was flagged by the COA for high allowances for lawyers, including himself. COA had always insisted that OSG staff or officials cannot receive allowances from client-agencies more than half of their basic salary.

But Calida, in his term, was able to get allowances that quadrupled his basic salary and catapulted him as the second highest paid government official – a spot no other solicitor general held before. By the end of his term, Calida doubled his net worth from P36.9 million in 2017 to P73.4 million in 2021, according to Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) obtained by Rappler.

Calida was also put under scrutiny for his family-owned security firm Vigilant, which cornered hundreds of millions worth of government contracts while he was Duterte’s solicitor general. After an aborted Senate investigation and a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, Calida and family divested from the firm and sold their shares to Dominic Edgard Angeles Cabangon (60% shares) and Benjamin del Villar Ramos (39.998% shares), executives of CNN Philippines.

COA, a constitutional commission, is a silent worker in the bureaucracy but had been instrumental in exposing corruption across presidencies, such as the military “pabaon” scandal during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, and the pork barrel scam that the Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III administration pursued.

Under the Duterte government, COA’s annual audit reports sparked the intense investigation into the pandemic procurements, particularly the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation – a company backed by Duterte’s former economic adviser and which bagged P11 billion worth of pandemic contracts.

Jose Calida is Marcos’ COA chair

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.