Part 2 of 3: Heidi Mendoza favors transparency as the new normal under ‘totoong pagbabago’
It was a bit curious that a weird coincidence happened on the push to this discussion. Atty Jake Cimafranca, the auditor who led the team that worked on the DOH report, had died of a heart attack.
Well actually, as Jake is now in heaven for his great service to the government and the country, I consider this flag on the Department of Health blessing in disguise.
So let’s us give the Department of Health and Secretary Francisco Duque III a rest for a while and go to Secretary Gregorio Honasan’s backyard as COA has reported that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for P2.1 million in the purchase of 44 smartphones.
Hijo de puta, I don’t even need COA here. That’s 47,727.27 each.
How smart do you want a cellphone to be? I have a second-hand Huawei that I bought for P7,000 and I am very happy with it. Can those 48k hand-held demons do anything else than my 7k angel cannot?
Is Ramboy putting up a mobile call center here of sorts? Why didn’t he get the Huawei P40 PRO+5G Dual-Sim ELS-N39 worth P56,000 or the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max model costs $1,399 in the US. Or he can even buy that same model in Brazil where it fetches for US$2,535.
It was at this point when I bumped into an interview of Heidi Mendoza with Malou Mangahas of GMA-TV. Take in Taglish because I have no time to translate it.
“Meron akong hugot line. Ang audit report, parang break-up letter. Masakit tanggapin pero may lessons na dapat aralin, at doon mo-move on.
“Bakit masakit yun sa Department of Health? Masakit sya siguro at iba ang dating kasi lumabas yung audit report matapos marami nang umuugong na mga iba’t ibang usapin para bang paglalapastangan sa mga batas na about good handling of money.
“Umuugong na parang hindi tamang panggastos ng pera.
“Ang mga tao ay nagtatanong, teka, nahihirapan kami, mahirap ang buhay, hindi kami makapasok. Therefore, ang lakas ng demand for accountability kung kaya masakit.
“Kasi tiningnan ko yan eh. Bago ba itong mga findings na ito? Hindi eh, paulit ulit yan…
“Noong tinitingnan ko, not particularly on the DOH, marami na ring compliance findings, pero wala masyadong narinig dahil may confidence na mukhang tama ang ginagawa ng gobierno at hindi naman naghahanap ng pagtitiwalaan ang ating mamayan.
“Gusto kong tingan on a macro level.
“Ang ultimate na tatamaan nito ay yung tinatawag nating citizens trust. Kung yung mamayan hindi magawang magtiwala, walang tatakbuhan. Kahit ano pang gawing pagsisikapna i-deliver yung basic services, tainted na eh. May pagdududa na ang mamamayan.
“Yan ang overall, ngayon baba tayo ng konti. Meron din akong gustong tingnan na parang positive naman on the part of the system. Ngayon puede nating sabihin gising na ang mga mamamayan sa mga usaping pananagutan. Kasi, heto na sila ang nagsasabi ‘hoy bakit ka bumili ng napkin sa construction’. You never hear them say those things before.”
“Bakit mahalaga magising ang mamayan sa mga usaping pananagutan?
“For a long time, wala tayong say. May isa ngang nagsabi na hindi raw mahalaga yung usaping honesty pag dating sa halalan. Pero pinalakpakan, di ba? Walang nagsalita. But this time, people are demanding.
“Ngayon, ano parang epekto doon sa response?
“Nandoon tayo sa kahit anong sikap ng ating pamahalaan, and I think it is unfair naman doon sa public servant natin. Kung ako nagsisilbi sa DOH, marami nag-message sa akin, “Mam, ang mama ko nasa DOH, hindi na rin po yan nakakauwi sa dami ng trabaho!”
“Fair enough, tama yun, kahit anong sikap mo, kahit anong sipag mo, tatamaan ka noong perception ng mamayan na wala nang puedeng pagkatiwalaan.
“I think this is really the danger of what’s happening. Hindi makita yung ganda ng Gawain, hindi makita yung gawa ng kalooban, o yung hinahangad, dahil napakataas ang pagaalinlangan ng mga mamamayan.
“Iha-highlight natin dito yung supreme audit institution. Lahat ng mga leaders ng mga bansa, kinikilala nila yun except for those who are dictators. Yung mga bansang pinasasabog yung mga sasakyan ng mga auditors. Meron akong alam na mga estoryang ganyan.
“Sa kalahatan, ginagalang yung independence.
“Gusto ko rin naman tingnan sa mayroong pagbabalanse. This is a different time. Meron kang pandemya. Bilang president nakikita mo yung tao mo hindi makapasok. Maraming nagugutom, maraming walang pagkain, maraming walang pera.
“So, gusto mong bumilis ang proseso dahil may pera. I think he is coming from the point of sheer exhaustion, nagpro-frustrate ka dahil hindi mo ma-move yung gusto mo. At that extent, naiitindihan ko yan Dahil galing din ako sa pagiging public servant.
“However, ang hindi ko take. Puede mo naman sabihin nakakapagod naman yan mga yan. Pero yung sabihin na ihulog sa hagdan, o kaya kidnapin, i-torture, and recently huwag niyong pakinggan, I don’t it is something nice, lalo na’t namnggagaling sa father of the family.
“Alam nyo po, yung paggamit ng salitang tatay, hindi lang sa mga lenguahe ng mga nauuso ngayon, sa paggamit ng pera usapin rin yan. In fact, ang pamantayan ng mga auditors, o yung mga nagsasabing nago-audit, ay ang tinatawag nating the prudence of a good father of the family.
“Ako ang tatay, kailangan magamit ng husto ang pera. Kailangan yung mga anak ko matutong magpahalaga sa mga perang pinaghirapan ng iba’t ibang nag-contribute sa perang ito. At huwag silang mag-waldas.
“Kailangan yung mga anak ko makuha ng mga productive na paggagamitan.
“In other words, kung siya ay tinitingala ng marami, natin bilang ama, we expect him to be prudent as a good father of a family.
“E kung sinasabi mong kidnapin mo, ang tanong ko, do you say that to your children?”
Watch video: Malou Mangahas interviews Heidi Mendoza
It seems the President has found a deserving nemesis in this lady’s up-front defense of her institution.
About three years ago, former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza did not take Duterte’s comments sitting down, calling on the President to respect the constitutional commission “for we deserve it.”
“Not with us Sir! We are a long standing, dignified institution whose men and women spent long hours working for its flag and our people. Some of our own even laid their lives defending and protecting public coffers,” Mendoza, who was appointed United Nations Undersecretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, in 2015, said in a Facebook post.
On September 16, 1918, President Rodrigo Duterte joked that the Commission on Audit (COA) auditor in Ilocos Norte should be pushed down the stairs so he would not be able to report on the local government’s transactions.
“We are a constitutional Commission and not one of the past Honorable Presidents of our land has called on another institution subject under our authority to defy our rules. Yes, some might be outdated, others might be impractical to some, but it is actually in balancing flexibility and accountability where the real challenge lies!”
Mendoza, a former COA commissioner who made headlines in 2011 after her explosive testimony on the alleged misuse of military and UN peacekeeping funds, said the Philippines has a Disaster Audit Guide that allows local officials to procure items during times of calamities.
She said that during the onslaught of Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, government was allowed procurement deals of up to P500,000 without going through public bidding provided that the transactions were audited immediately.
On January 20, 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte railed against the Commission on Audit anew, joked about kidnapping and torturing the commission’s personnel who make life hard for local government officials.
Duterte had even told local officials to ignore COA circulars.
So, the problem now metastasizes from Duque to Duterte?
How do you solve a problem like President Digong?
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra comes to the rescue of his superior: “President Duterte is not stopping the Commission on Audit (COA) from doing its duty to look into how government agencies disburse public funds.
“The President as a lawyer fully understands the mandate of the COA as a constitutional body,” Guevarra said, “I think his chief concern is on the way the COA’s preliminary findings are presented to the public and the impression that it leaves in the mind of the people prior to full compliance by the agency concerned.”
Guevarra said Duterte acknowledges it is COA’s job to “regularly report its observations on a government agency’s compliance with standard auditing rules and regulations and with other regulatory processes such as in the procurement of goods and services.”
Holy guacamole! Yun naman pala eh.
But wasn’t the president the one who raised the bar to stop corruption, as little as a whiff or a faint smell or sight of smoke. Why is he balking now that those close to him are being flagged by the media based on facts that are reflected on the official COA website?
Of course, the opposition will use this against his government!
Isn’t this what transparency is all about?
The president must remind himself that it is precisely the lack of political will that tolerated from the longest time, government officers who do not do it right the first time.
Accounting in the private sector is sacrosanct. Is it not in government? This double-standard must cease. People get fired for just wrong reporting, why can’t people or agencies be sanctioned in government for late or deficient filing? And then you blame the auditors for flagging mediocrity? Hello, arithmetic is an exact science.
This is why corruption starts as early as before the procurement process. This is why bidding procedures are raped in broad daylight. This is why when deals are paid, liquidations are obscured. This is why lawyers become rich because their job is to hide those obscurities.
The criminals in government are way, way-ahead of those many dutiful public servants who burn the midnight oil just to sort things out of the labyrinths that these criminals have replaced the institutions with.
The President, if true to the bar he himself raised, must be the one flogging those who are being flagged for deficiencies. There should be no exception, whether you beloved or not beloved by the President. Then and only then will true national interest, begin to reign.
So, when I read the Manila Bulletin headlined: Duterte vows to stand by Duque “even if it’s only me left” and “even if it will bring me down”, I hope he was not rendering all the great legacies he could leave behind, a death wish.