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COA’s costly ‘wink’

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:12:00 10/02/2010

Filed Under: Government offices & agencies, Accounting and Audits, Wages & Pensions

IN ITS Sept. 9 editorial, the Inquirer highlighted a reign of greed in government-owned and -controlled corporations and corporate financial institutions where officials raked in gargantuan salaries, allowances and bonuses by the tens of millions of pesos yearly. The editorial noted that the Department of Budget Management has disallowed allowances and bonuses it deemed excessive or illegal. However, the Commission on Audit ?merely winked at such violations? of government?s own rules.

Specifically, a presidential decree and an executive order, not to mention the Constitution, have failed to spark the COA into action as a watchdog. To our mind, COA?s myopia becomes puzzling in the face of a constitutional proscription against ?irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or unconscionable expenditures? (Sec.2(2), Part D, Art. IX, 1987 Constitution). Certainly, between the fundamental law and congressional franchises of GOCCs, like Armand Arreza?s SBMA down to Macra Cruz?s MWSS and the CFIs, like the BSP and GSIS, the Constitution should prevail.

The Senate Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Franklin Drilon, has now validated gross abuse of remunerations and stock options by the gnomes of CFIs, like SSS? Thelmo Cunanan and Romulo Neri, in violation of their fiduciary duties. Moreover, the committee unearthed an obscure GOCC?the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, operating under a private corporate veil of existence since 1975?that has failed to remit its earnings to the national government and has refused government audit. Actually it is an informal Philippine embassy in Taipei which has apparently become a milking cow of Malacañang and politicians who use it to coordinate with taipans in the Binondo area during elections.

But the Drilon committee has not covered our regular foreign service posts, like the embassy in Tokyo which has devised since 1986 a scheme of ?collection rate? by which it has given its ambassador comparably smaller though still unconscionable salaries and allowances amounting to about $25,000 per month. His official residence, if rented, would cost the government not less than $50,000 a month and should be computed as part of the ambassador?s gross income. Likewise, the committee failed to touch the case of millions of pesos being distributed regularly by Malacañang?to whom and for what reasons are questions that have caused Annabelle Abaya, last peace adviser of the Arroyo government to the GRP-MILF negotiations, a lot of migraine attacks.

It indeed appears that the financial mess at the GOCCs and CFIs has continued and aggravated because of the inhibition of the COA to exercise its mandate. Its wink at the captains of the GOCCs and the gnomes of CFIs has constituted patent criminal conspiracy and constitutional nonfeasance, for which the people expect the Drilon committee to make the COA accountable.


retired ambassador,


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