Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III lamented that the Commission on Audit’s report affected the agency’s morale. 

“I think COA should also consider that we are not operating under normal circumstances. We’re operating under a state of public health emergency,” a visibly emotional Duque said in a House panel hearing on the COA report that discovered several deficiencies in its DOH’s utilization of Covid-19 funds worth P67.3-billion.

“Winarak na ninyo kami. Winarak ninyo ang dangal ng DOH. Winarak ninyo ang lahat ng mga kasama dito,” he said.

Duque labeled the COA report as “unfair” and accused COA of releasing their final judgment without giving the health agency more time to submit its rejoinder and act on recommendations.

“Masakit po talaga sa amin ito dahil kami po ang pangunahing ahenysa na humaharap, tumutugon sa panahon na ito… Por Diyos, por santo, maawa naman kayo. Kayo nga ang pumunta rito at kayo ang gumawa,” he said.

“Kayo nga ang pumunta rito at kayo ang gumawa. I speak in behalf of my people in the department. Mahirap na mahirap po talaga itong nangyayari na ito na winarat na ang imahe ng DOH na nangunguna sa pagtugon… sa COVID-19 pandemic.” 

However, COA chairperson Michael Aguinaldo denied that the DOH was not given a chance to address their findings. He said the DOH has 60 days to act on their  recommendations.

He said the COA’s 2020 report covers DOH’s transactions as of December 31, 2020, as submitted around February 2021.

From there, the COA checks the accuracy of the submissions of DOH even as they recommend improvement opportunities, determine the propriety of transactions, and due compliance to laws and regulations. 

Aguinaldo also maintained that their annual audit report is not “equivalent to an audit decision.”

“Yung audit report is a requirement by law. That has to come out. Before this audit is issued, mayroon pa yang exit conference. It’s not correct at all na sabihing walang due process,” he said.

“It’s not only the DOH central office are being audited. We do have an obligation to report. We have to mention what happened sa pondo ng gobyerno,” he added.

In a taped speech aired late Monday evening, Duterte told members of his Cabinet to ignore COA reports, claiming its documents are “insufficient and deficient.”

Ironically, Duterte is a lawyer who ran on a campaign platform in 2016 to eradicate corruption in government in 6 months.

He also said state auditors should stop flagging deficiencies in government projects, especially those connected to the government’s pandemic response.

“Stop that flagging, God damn it. You make a report, do not flag. Do not publish it, because it will condemn the agency or the person that you are flagging,” he said. Ronald Espartinez