A public official in his sound faculty would never have done so. Even the basest transactional politician would look after his public image. Many of them even swear that they do not steal money from the public coffers. Of course we know they do. But when they start appointing somebody charged with malversation, they would have to move heaven and earth to convince us that black is white and white is black.

Expecting good governance from Rodrigo Duterte, however, is craning the neck to stretch the imagination too far. He had in fact spoken so brazenly corrupt when he once said to push state auditors down the stairs if they questioned cash advances. Even if the palace dismissed it as a joke, it is not the kind of comment one expects from a president who once said he was angry at corruption. Is he really?

“They always make things difficult. That’s what I don’t like, making things difficult,” he said. To solve his difficulty, he recommended that these auditors should be kidnapped and tortured.

The days of kidnaping, torture and pushing down the stairs is over. Here comes Rizalina Justol. The Duterte proclivity to brutalism is explained in fact by his appointment of Justol. Is it that he despises being checked because he does things that cannot pass auditing?

If auditors “make things difficult,” Justol will make it easy. Here is her record:

In 2010, the Davao city hall was found to have unaccounted city government properties amounting to P291.65 million in 2003, P280.63 million in 2004, P462.79 million in 2005 and a P2.93 billion in 2006. The irregularities aggregated to a total amount of P2.93 billion in public funds because they happened serially over a course of four years. Auditors had made repeated demands on city hall to render an accounting of the missing assets, which was refused. 

Who were these auditors? It was the Commission on Audit. Take note of the Davao city hall’s response – it refused the request for accounting. Who was the city accountant? It was Rizalina Justol. The city mayor was Rodrigo Duterte.

On the basis of the COA reports, complainant Pedro Domingo filed a case at the Ombudsman against Duterte, Justol and five other city officials.

But that was not all. Domingo filed a second complaint. He had also alleged that Duterte unlawfully used Special Education Funds amounting to P11,554,632 which he said Duterte had channeled to a program called “Pahalipay ni Mayor” in 2005. The SEF is a fund created by Republic Act 5447 but stipulated exclusively for use on extension classes including construction of classrooms, teachers’ compensation and purchase of school materials and equipment. Instead, the money was used on food catering, phone bills and raffle prizes. 

The two complaints were for acts of plunder, technical malversation, illegal use of public funds, and graft and corruption. Again, who was the city accountant at that time? It was Rizalina Justol.

On the latter case, the Ombudsman found basis in saying that there was diversion of public funds that earned pogi points for Duterte but caused damage to the government in the said amount. For the second case, Duterte reasoned that there were no notices of disallowance or suspension of payments. So he counts on the COA after all if it is to his advantage.

And for all her important role to Duterte as co-conspirator for such very severe accusations, Justol was amply rewarded. She was designated an exalted position in Malacañang, that of Deputy Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration. Her roles always had something to do with money.

How do we regard the appointment of one to an agency that once charged her with serious crimes? It is not an act of anti-corruption at the very least. Others see it as an ominous sign. Is Duterte panicking at the specter of cases that will follow him once he steps down? Why, is he guilty?

Officials acting in concert is called a government even when their alleged robberies is legalized.