President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he did not believe that the P67.32 billion in pandemic funds flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) had been stolen by Department of Health (DOH) officials.

Duterte, citing his experience as Davao City mayor, said paperwork for government projects was difficult to complete.

“I am not criticizing anybody especially itong COA. But I’ve been mayor…May mga project tayo, malaking project, so ngayon mayroon
talaga ‘yang mga papel-papel na hindi masyado makumpleto,” he said during a televised address.

Duterte claimed that the “deficiencies” in the health department’s management of P67.32 billion pandemic funds might have been due to incomplete documents.

“‘Pag mag-ano ang COA, magsabi lang ‘yan siya deficiency na mga gano’ngano’n, hindi man sabihin na deficiency na ninakaw mo ‘yung pera. Deficiencies really in producing the necessary documents to complete the story. Imposible magnakaw ka ng 67.3 [billion],” he said.

The “deficiencies” in the DOH’s use of Covid-19 funds were made public by the COA in its 2020 audit report.

“Various deficiencies involving some P67,323,186,570.57 worth of public funds and intended for national efforts of combating the unprecedented scale of the Covid-19 crisis were noted,” the COA said.

The DOH has until September to come up with a report responding to the COA’s report.

The president also told the COA to stop “flagging” and “flogging,” saying making public unproven claims might cause premature public outcry.

“Stop that flagging, God damn it. You make a report. Do not flag and publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person that you are flagging. What you are doing is f-l-o-g-g-i-n-g,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro