Letters to the Editor

When COA breaks its silence

The Philippine Star

When COVID-19 hit the Philippines, our government started to borrow vast amounts of money from various international and domestic banks to secure financial capability to cope with the pandemic. In fact, as per the Department of Finance, the national debt will probably hit up to P13 trillion when the Duterte administration ends.

But, as a common citizen who nods in front of the television whenever a new bank approves a national loan, I was left stupefied when COA revealed its audit reports to the public. In their scrutiny of public funds, mostly borrowed funds, they discovered a lot of deficiencies in its utilization.

The Department of Health was just one of the national agencies which drew tremendously flak and was criticized for its deficiencies that amounted to P67.3 billion of its COVID funds. COA said that of the P67.3 billion, P42.4 billion was not properly documented.

The OWWA became a head turner as well when state auditors unearthed the information that sanitary napkins were procured from a construction firm. Not only that, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was flagged for its payment of P15 million to guest lecturers from 2018 to 2020. It was even tracked down that one of its lecturers received a payment of around P3.5 million.

The COA audit reports were concrete evidence that public funds were mishandled and mercilessly stolen from its supposed beneficiaries. Honestly, when I heard these findings, I felt intense anger running through every inch of my body. Not only against those devious corrupt officials, but also for their unfair perception of our poor countrymen. For me, such unscrupulous acts were without conscience done because they looked at the people as dumb and helpless. Respect was gone. Public service was defiled.

It is heart-breaking to know that most of our government officials, whom we assumed were our allies, were literally the ones exacerbating our current situation. It’s painful realizing that majority of us are suffering from severe poverty due to intermittent lockdowns and job loss, yet people up there in the government are shamelessly amassing public funds. Not to mention the special risk allowance of the medical frontliners which was released only when the COA reports were out. Really? Do they have to wait for COA’s findings before they take action? Do we need COA’s findings to rattle them?

As a millennial, I do not know where our battle against this virus is heading. The pandemic worsens the corruption in our government. COA has succinctly told us that our enemy is not the virus alone, but these corrupt politicians, too. And it is only through transparency that these people can be stopped.

As Filipinos, we have to safeguard our public funds together. We do not just keep silent with the proliferation of corruption in the government. It is our hard-earned money that these audacious crocodiles are savoring. We, the taxpayers, are the ones who will pay for the debts that these officials are taking advantage of. We should not plaster our mouths and ignore these criminal acts; rather, we should help lift ourselves and support COA in its constitutional mandate.

Thus, if you find yourself being forced to give bribe to get vaccinated, report it. Remember, vaccines are for free. If someone in the government asks you for money to process documents ahead of time, report them. If you do not receive the “ayuda” or any form of government assistance that is due you, have the courage to air your side. In these small ways, we nip in the bud the corruption at a micro level. It is the right thing to do! – Marlon P. Labastida, a public school teacher from Southern Leyte

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