Palace insists COA has jurisdiction to audit Red Cross, other NGOs

Robie de Guzman   •   September 7, 2021   •   428

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Tuesday maintained that the Commission on Audit (COA) has the authority to look into the finances of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and its use of funds received from the government.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that under the Philippine Constitution, COA can scrutinize the use of funds by NGOs “receiving subsidy or equity directly or indirectly from or through the government.”

The PRC is a non-governmental humanitarian organization.

Roque said that several COA issuances also allow special audits on the PRC.

“May hurisdiksyon ho ba ang Commission on Audit sa Philippine Red Cross? Ang sagot, meron po,” he said in a Palace briefing.

Roque said the state auditor should particularly look into the agreement entered into by the PRC with Metro Manila mayors and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on the COVID-19 RT-PCR testing.

He also pointed out that under existing law, the PRC is mandated to submit a yearly financial report to the President as its honorary chairman.

Roque said that the agency has not submitted any report since 2016.

“Malinaw kasi po na nakalagay sa PRC charter na hindi ito maaaring kumita habang ginagampanan nito ang kanyang mandato… Simula 2016, wala pong isinumiteng ang PRC sa presidente ng Pilipinas na annual report, laman ng kanilang gawain at nagpakita ng kanilang financial conditions tulad ng pinag-uutos ng RA 10072,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier lashed out at PRC’s chairman, Senator Richard Gordon, for questioning the transactions made by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gordon is spearheading a Senate inquiry into the government’s alleged procurement of overpriced medical supplies and equipment last year.

Duterte also accused Gordon of using the PRC to further his political career.

Duterte urges public not to be choosy with COVID-19 vaccine brands

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte urged the public anew not to be choosy with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine brands.

During his Talk to the People on Tuesday night (October 19), Duterte expressed optimism over developments in the country’s vaccine supply as the government moves to build herd immunity.

However, he reminded the public to remain vigilant by continuing to follow health protocols; get vaccinated and avoid being choosy with vaccine brands.

“Do you know, if these vaccines that we have been giving to the population are not really effective and right, marami nang patay ngayon (many people would’ve been dead by now),” he said.

The president reiterated that the national government is trying hard to fight against the pandemic, and expressed his gratitude to other nations that provided aid to the Philippines.

“We’ve been trying hard, really hard to fight. [This] COVID program nakatutok kami lahat dito (we are all focused on this). I’d like to thank everybody who have really contributed to what we are now seeing,” he said. AAC

Duterte backs call for Ombudsman probe on Pharmally issue

Maris Federez   •   October 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte supports a call for the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation on the government’s alleged anomalous procurement of pandemic supplies.

The president was referring to the appeal of the Philippine College of Physicians for the Ombudsman to file appropriate cases against all those accountable in the controversial multibillion-peso deals between the government and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

“We welcome the call of the Philippine College of Physicians that this matter should be immediately given to our courts and the Ombudsman. We have been saying this for the longest time and we all know that the Senate cannot prosecute. Mabuti pa ang mga doktor alam at naintindihan nila,” Duterte said.

“File cases is the right way to go. Stop using this issue in aid of election. Problema kasi sa Senate natin trying hard maghanap ng mga issue na may nangungurakot o kaya may nagkakapera,” he added.

The chief executive stated that, to date, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee has yet to build a case out of the hearings it has conducted, pointing out that that the said government deal was consistent with Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One-Act.

“And so we go back now to what has been established many times, walang overpricing […} legal ang naging proseso ng pagbili, according to what has been provided by Bayanihan 1. Na-deliver lahat at binayaran nang pagkatapos na-deliver,” the president insisted.

Duterte also dared the Senate to bring the matter to the proper courts.

“And if you think that you have identified companies with tax issues, then file the appropriate cases. Matagal na naman namin sinasabi, kasuhan niyo ang mga dapat kasuhan. Lahat naman talaga dapat magbayad ng buwis at kung kailangan magbayad, singilan para magbayad iyong may mga atraso sa gobyerno kagaya ni Senator Gordon,” Duterte said.

“Eh you call my memorandum ‘stupid?’ Well, I challenge you: bring your arguments to the proper court and I will answer you,” he further stated.

The president also slammed Senator Richard Gordon for threatening to cut the budget of the executive department if the officials will not attend the Blue Ribbon’s hearings, calling it a blatant abuse of power.

“You threaten the budget of different agencies of the Executive because the officials refuse to attend to your hearings. Ito ‘yung mga pang-abuso talaga itong masabi ko sa gobyerno — sa gobyerno ‘pag ka demokrasya, itong separation of powers, co-equal and everything; and they threatened to paralyze government,” Duterte said.

“I challenge you, do it. ‘Pag ka ‘yung mga hearing reduce the budget by one third, hinahamon ko kayo, gawain ninyo ‘yan,” he added. —/mbmf

Senate panel approves COA, Ombudsman proposed 2022 budget

Maris Federez   •   October 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee on Finance on Tuesday approved the proposed budget of two constitutional bodies for 2022.

Senator Sonny Angara called the budget deliberation of the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman the shortest so far for this year, as the panel gave its approval under 15 minutes of the hearing.

The committee hearing for COA’s proposed budget of P14.4 billion only took 10 minutes and was soon endorsed for the nod of the plenary.

“No questions on the part of the Chair. […] this is probably the shortest budget meeting of this 2022 budget,” Angara said during the hearing.

Indicated in COA’s proposed budget is its request for additional funds for personnel services for the third tranche of the pay adjustments under the salary standardization law for government employees.

COA also requested a budget increase for the construction of provincial satellite auditing offices and provision for the operational expenses of these branches.

“We have written a letter to the committee asking for additional budgetary support primarily on the MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) […] and possibly if the budget is flexible enough, maybe additional capital outlay,” said COA chairperson Michael Aguinaldo.

COA has, so far, completed the construction of 54 satellite offices, and 17 more under construction.

Meanwhile, it only took the Senate panel 13 minutes to finish the hearing of the P3.9 billion budget of the Office of the Ombudsman that was recommended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Ombudsman Samuel Martires appealed for additional funding for its operational budget that was cut by almost half by the DBM.

“We’re not asking too much. If it will be hard for the Senate to give us the proposed budget for 2022, then we just would like to request that at least the budget that was given to us for 2021 be retained,” Martires said.

The Senate is currently on recess and is expected to resume on November 8 wherein senators are expected to start the deliberation of the national budget in the plenary. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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