OPINION: What if COA auditors conspire?

Feb 3-9, 2011

COMMENTARY

Former COA auditor Ms. Haidee Mendoza, who is now in the national limelight for spilling the beans about shenanigans of former chiefs of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, had once uttered in a national television that top officials of the Commission on Audit were involved in the conspiracy with the generals feeding a new twist in the issue on the web of corruption in the AFP.
Ms. Mendoza’s charge about the passivity and inaction of COA officials, her former bosses, to pursue what she found out to be irregularities in several transactions involving the AFP’s retired generals gives implications to the presence of COA auditors in our local government units.
In the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley, there are few instances that COA auditors found out irregularities and scandalous transactions involving mayors and executive department officials, and when conspiratorial legislation came into the picture, elected officials in the legislative department were dragged to the scandals that had them all answering to Sandiganbayan or the Ombudsman for Mindanao.
In the last three decades since the 80s in our two provinces (that were separated in 1998), we heard about graft and corruption involving mayors and other elected officials made evident to public in their preventive and disciplinary suspensions, often belatedly, as ordered by the Ombudsman or Sandiganbayan, like the suspensions of former mayors and their cohorts in the then municipality of Panabo, and in Nabunturan and Montevista LGUs. To the credit of the unknown COA auditors pursuing these few cases, corrupt officials could not have been uncovered and penalized had they not stood with their findings which became proofs and evidences in the complaints submitted to the Sandiganbayan or the Ombudsman.
Still, we recalled other cases about technicalities and those stemming from administrative reprisals made by mayors against partisan subordinates and their sins of omission but cases like these oftentimes ended up in legal limbo past the term or combined terms of involved elected officials. In this case, their terms  were only interrupted by suits but never discontinued by courts or anti-graft bodies making their cases somehow moot and academic in the end.
But in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley, fortunately or unfortunately, not one of the erring mayors and their cohorts had languished in jail, without sa crystal clear, good verdict. But this would not mean however that corrupt ones could not be put behind bars while past cases abound in the country about incumbent mayors and their cohorts being adjudged so guilty in graft and corruption cases and so they were put behind bars before they had ended their terms. Oftentimes, though in our localities- and there seems to be a pattern to this- erring elected public officials and their appointed cohorts were put on preventive suspensions, to their personal and family humiliation and risk to their reelection; their leaderships tarnished and marked X by the electorate for the next election.
When prima facie evidence and cause of action are established by the integrity in the audit findings of COA auditors, resulting to the filing of administrative suits, the COA in this case needs to the appreciated for leading the way in the crusade for good, transparent and corruption-free governance.
Maybe the local cases calling for accountabilty thus far were just not sufficient to convict and put responsible elected officials to jail. Not yet, or it is yet to come. Or maybe the culture of corruption of bad and corrupt local officials is just so hideous, thriving on the petty and small sums or whatever, and not on barefaced and plunderous scale. Or maybe the cases filed were just politically motivated, but politics in the first place is confrontation and a combat among politicians in winning the hearts and minds of the electorate. Or maybe a few or some COA auditors were cavorting with corrupt officials. What if COA auditors collaborate and conspire with the corrupt officials in our LGUs? This last is a sum of our fears, as we heard of one or so COA auditors asking for greases from the chief executives whose offices are subjects of their audits. – Cha Monforte

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