Sat. Sep 18th, 2021

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said the Duterte administration remains relentless in the fight against corruption as he expressed support for the probe being conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee into the proper use of funds for the country’s Covid-19 response efforts.

In a statement released on Friday, August 20, Go, who is a member of the said committee, reiterated his and President Rodrigo Duterte’s zero tolerance policy against graft and corruption.

“Let me reiterate that my position against graft and corruption has been firm and consistent since day one — the President and I will never tolerate any form of it,” said Go.

Go however appealed to fellow lawmakers and the public that while they rigorously seek for the truth, objectivity must be maintained in order not to pass judgment too early without knowing all the facts.

Given this, the Senator called on government agencies to continue to work hard while ensuring that there are no irregularities in its transactions. He stressed that his relationships to those in the executive branch will not get in the way of his commitment to fight corruption.

Presumption of innocence and regularity

On the other side of the fence, Ombudsman Samuel Martirez said that “observations of the Commission on Audit (COA) anent the Department of Health’s (DOH) 2020 budget utilization as contained in its Annual Audit Report (AAR), is still undergoing the completion of the auditing process. 

“As of this stage of the proceedings the agency is given the opportunity to ensure full implementation of all audit recommendations to improve its financial and operational efficiency.”

“The audit process is still on-going and not yet complete, and we still operate under the Constitutional presumption of innocence and regularity.”

 Short of calling the newspaper reports and public criticisms as premature as the period of opportunity given is 60 days, and the deadline is still a month away, Martirez clarified that “should there be non-compliance or disagreement in the implementation of the recommendations and observations of the auditors, the matter may still be elevated to the COA en banc which has the final say on the matter.”

Earlier, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales pointed to a 2017 COA-OMB Memorandum of Agreement that created a task force composed of COA auditors and Ombudsman investigators to automatically investigate audit observations tagged by the COA.

Martirez however clarified that he has “already deactivated the task force because I noted some legal infirmities in the MOA like usurpation of authority,”

He said he wanted to avoid another wastage of government resources and embarrassment on the part of the Ombudsman prosecutors, which happened in the anti-graft and malversation cases which Justice Carpio Morales filed against former Congressman Enrico Echeverri and several department heads of Caloocan City, based on an Audit Observation Memorandum of the COA.

The Ombudsman narrated “When the cases were filed, the audit process has not yet been completed and the accused were able to appeal the audit observations to the Commission en banc, which overturned the findings of the auditors.

“Meanwhile Carpio-Morales’ criminal cases pending with the Sandiganbayan reached the Supreme Court which, on the basis of the decision of the Commission on Audit Proper, dismissed the cases.

This forced the prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman to withdraw all other cases against Echiverri et al before they could retort that their rights to due process of law have been violated.  (AQP/SPH)

Ombudsman Martires has already ordered, motu propio, as early as June 2020, the investigation relative to the procurement of test kits, PPE’s and other emergency purchases that resulted to the preventive suspension of at least five DOH officials. Courtesy of PhilStar.

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