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Church group decries Duterte government’s litany of corruption: ‘immoral, unjust and a betrayal of public trust’

A press statement by Promotion of Church People’s Response on government corruption
August 22, 2021


Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11, NRSV)

“One whiff of corruption and you’re out.” Five years ago, then president-elect Rodrigo Duterte vowed to stamp out corruption in government.

Fast forward to today, the continued coddling of Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque by Pres. Duterte and the latter’s tirades against the Commission on Audit (CoA) highlights government’s continued lip service to good governance. Duterte has not only ordered the agencies to ignore the CoA reports, he has ‘ordered’ the body to stop publishing their initial findings that purportedly create impressions that they are corrupt.

CoA is an independent constitutional body responsible for checks and balances in the handling of public funds. It is mandated to publish its reports and is not accountable to the country’s Chief Executive.

An emotional Duque utterly failed in explaining the misuse of some PhP67 B funds before an ongoing Senate inquiry. This demonstrates the height of incompetence, at the helm of the main agency supposedly directing the country’s battle against the pandemic. It also sorely lays bare the Duterte government’s brazen lack of accountability, of hurling vitriols and attacks against critics (including activists exercising basic rights and in this case, COA, for performing its mandate), and promotion of widespread disinformation that paints a narrative starkly different from ground realities.

Based on the latest CoA reports alone and as reflected in various news reports, the stench of anomalies extends to other agencies and instrumentalities as well. Some of these include:

Dept. of Budget and Management (DBM) – questioned for securing Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies, buying high-priced ones from private suppliers that are slow moving. These are now in the depots because client agencies do not want to buy them anymore.

Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) – CoA has suspended DPWH’s disbursements worth more than P4.2 B for various infrastructure projects made ‘without proper and complete supporting documents.’ State auditors noted that 3,283 infrastructure projects worth over P108 B have been delayed or are no longer implemented due to the “absence of proper coordination” with local government units and other government agencies. COA also noted that government lost over P681.9 M of advance payments to contractors.

Dept. of National Defense (DND) – bought P14.5 M worth of surveillance and security equipment without producing some necessary documentary requirements provided for under RA 9184 or Government Procurement Reform Act. It also did not submit the basis for the contract’s approved budget. CoA likewise flagged the agency for its 20 unauthorized bank accounts worth P1.8 B and dozens of incomplete projects amounting to P6.8 B. [In 2020, COA questioned the agency for spending P6.4 M for costly air-conditioning units and showers in its comfort rooms.]

Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG) – over P3 B worth of projects across many years have not been completely liquidated. This included fund transfers to local government units worth P2.6 B (the biggest chunk) for projects supposedly for poor and conflict-affected communities, including war-torn Marawi. Of the P372 M unliquidated by national government agencies, P223 M was transferred by the DILG between 2011 and 2019.

Technical Education and Services Development Authority (TESDA) – despite the absence of authority, transferred P160 M to the NTF-ELCAC (EO 70). The biggest chunk (P41 M) went to its regional office in Davao, an act COA found “highly questionable”. TESDA’s budget did not include activities for the NTF-ELCAC, which constitutes grounds for technical malversation. Technical malversation is a crime of corruption, punishable under the Revised Penal Code.

Dept. of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) – disbursed P1.28 M for 330 supposed rebels under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), while P4.4 M was released for the Livelihood Settlement Grant (LSG) assistance with inadequate documentation casting doubt on the validity of the transactions. This includes absence of government-issued IDs to determine veracity of the rebels. The so-called validity is limited to a certification by the Joint AFP-PNP Intelligence Committee.

People’s Television (PTV4) – the state media network was called out for granting P1.8 M in salaries to employees without seeking for approval from the Office of the President, as required by law. A total P7.4 M was also unliquidated cash advances for travel and other expenses.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) – was asked to explain expenditures worth P1.2 M for the purchase of sanitary napkins, hygiene kits and thermal scanners, alas, from a hardware store. Upon the audit team’s ocular check of the hardware store, it was nowhere to be found. Among OWWA’s administrators is a rabid spreader of false information, Mocha Uson.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) – its training compound in San Fernando, La Union spent P6.5 M on an infinity pool and jacuzzi. Other amenities worth P10.8 M included guest rooms, pergola, and a decorative rockwall. The budget was "realigned from a supposed new port development project" in Camarines Sur.

The list goes on. And it is not only about the past year but also the previous ones, which can be listed altogether. This immoral, unjust betrayal of public trust must end. Public money badly needed, especially during these times, has been pilfered and squandered. This is totally unacceptable. We must persist to hold leaders to account, no matter their crocodile tears or expletives.

As the pandemic rages on, we reiterate the need for an overhaul in the government’s response starting with removing Duque and retired military generals from directing a health crisis. We stress the urgent need to strengthen the public health system (especially at community levels), ramp up targeted, free mass-testing, conduct serious contact-tracing, hasten vaccine roll out, and deliver expediently just compensation for health workers and other frontliners. Much-needed economic aid must be provided for all those affected by the endless lockdowns: healthworkers, workers (including those in the informal economy as well as displaced or stranded Overseas Filipino Workers), farmers, teachers, and students. The rights of the people, at all times, must be upheld; however, attacks continue, including a most recent illegal arrest and detention of farmers in Southern Tagalog. Militarist lockdowns – that penalize people and fail to see them as central and most important in any policy or program – must end.

These glaring reports of a daylight robbery of the people’s resources for almost six years make clear that the people have lost much. We must lend our voices in saying NO to this regime.