IN a fresh tirade against the Commission on Audit (CoA), President Rodrigo Duterte joked about kidnapping and torturing the commission’s personnel who make life hard for local government officials.
“Ah putangina ‘yang CoA na ‘yan. Letse kasi yung COA, everytime may mali talaga. Ano ba naman itong COA na ito? Kung magkidnap tayo ng taga-COA, lagay natin, i-torture natin dito, ‘tangina,” Duterte said on Tuesday.
Duterte was speaking before Metro Manila local officials at the Barangay Summit on Peace and Order in Pasay City.
CoA regularly reports on how local government units spend their funds. Duterte himself, as Davao City mayor, had his fair share of unfavorable CoA reports.
Duterte railed against CoA for making things difficult for local officials, part of his continuing narrative against bureaucratic processes he sees as obstacles to governance.
“Sino ba gusto makulong nang ano? Pero yung ano, pahirapan, ‘yan ang ayaw ko, yang pahirapan (Who wants to be jailed? But making things difficult, that’s what I don’t like),” said Duterte.
Four months ago, the President had joked about throwing a CoA auditor down the stairs for reporting unfavorably about the Ilocos Norte provincial government being led by his ally, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.
“Sino’ng taga-CoA dito? Ihulog mo na sa hagdan para ‘di mag-report (Who’s from CoA? Push him down the stairs so he won’t be able to file a report anymore),” he had said back in September 2018, in the presence of Marcos and other Ilocos officials.
Duterte had even told local officials to ignore CoA circulars.
The presidential outburst prompted former CoA commissioner Heidi Mendoza to remind the public that CoA personnel deserve respect as they play a critical role in safeguarding public funds.
Mendoza admitted that some CoA guidelines may appear “impractical” and “outdated” to some but that these rules are in place to ensure public officials are held accountable for how they spend taxpayers’ money.
The comments of Duterte about the CoA alarmed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia deplored Duterte’s statements saying he should not have made them even in jest.
“We do hope that the statements uttered by the President are not serious. We are alarmed though with the use of the words ‘torture,’ as well as ‘kidnapping,’” De Guia said.
“These are serious human rights violations, if carried out, and we do hope that these terminologies will not be used even in the context of jokes and uttered against any one, may it be an ordinary person, a public official, or COA,” she added.