Duterte hits back at ex-COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 19, 2018 - 6:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte Wednesday lashed back at former Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, who defended the state audit body after the chief executive belittled its regulations.

Duterte said Mendoza could not lecture him on procurement because he used to be a special tanod bayan prosecutor.

"She cannot lecture me because I was ahead of her by a mile when it comes to understanding the nitty gritty," the president said. 

Duterte said he was taking the side of lower-ranked officials who are punished for procurement anomalies while mayors and governors escape accountability. 

"I have seen in the matter of months the same circular convicting (people). When the mayor asks the treasurer and auditor to sign, they would sign. When the bomb ticks off, the mayors and governors are gone," he added. 

"I was speaking on the people who cannot defend themselves. I was not criticizing," he added. 

Earlier, Duterte asked local officials to defy the regulations of COA after Ilocos Norte governor Imee Marcos informed him that the state auditor had prohibited cash advances to buy building materials for residents affected by the typhoon.

Duterte said he does not comply with COA circulars, which he described as "cock-eyed." He said while some government personnel went to jail over a circular, others went scot-free because of the same document. The president also told Marcos in jest to push COA's representative off the stairs so the official could not report on government transactions during a briefing in the aftermath of Typhoon Ompong. 

Duterte's comments did not sit well with Mendoza, who stressed that COA deserves to be respected. Mendoza, who now works as an undersecretary general for the United Nations, said not one of previous presidents have called on another institution to defy COA's rules. 

Duterte said he was ticked off when he learned that COA was asking officials of typhoon-hit areas to comply with certain regulations. 

"I said 'to hell with COA.' Do not listen listen to them. Just do what I'm telling you to do. I will answer them," he said.  

"As long as the food reaches the people and every peso was spent for the food and anything needed by the people, I will answer for that." 

Duterte said he was ready to defend local executives of typhoon-affected provinces before COA. 

"Just like the military, you just do your duty. If it puts you in trouble, I will answer for it. Do not bother to worry about anything. That's the work of the president," he added. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte was not disrespecting COA when he made the statements on the agency's circulars. 

"What is important is respect the people, give the needs of the people," Roque told radio station dzRH. 

"Do not mind the COA circulars that are not laws. Give the people what they need before we deal with the requirements (of COA)," he added.

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