President Rodrigo Duterte once more claimed that the Commission on Audit (COA) has a “constitutional mandate” to audit the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), an independent, autonomous, non-government organization.
This needs context.
In a televised address on Sept. 20, Duterte said without presenting any evidence that Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon “co-mingled” some P88 million in the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) with the money of the Red Cross, which Gordon leads. He said the amount “is lost forever; it cannot be accounted for.”
The president went on to say:
“[K]ung totoo ito (If this is true), you (Gordon) must answer [for] it, because I am really going to insist that COA conduct an audit sa (on) Red Cross. You cannot escape that constitutional mandate.”
Source: RTVMalacanang Official Youtube Channel, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People 9/20/2021, Sept. 20, 2021, watch from 10:00 to 10:20
“As a matter of fact, the mandate that you give — you have to give me, a yearly report of COA’s wrongdoings or anong ginawa, hindi mo binigay (what was done, you didn’t give it.).”
Source: watch from 10:20 to 10:33
Gordon has been the subject of Duterte’s ire for leading a Senate probe, as chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, into the government’s transactions related to its pandemic response.
As a non-government organization, the PRC is not subject to COA’s mandated audit of the annual spending and revenues of government agencies.
However, COA can conduct a post-audit, or a review of the government’s transactions with private entities, such as the Red Cross, as confirmed by COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo in a Sept. 2 hearing at the House of Representatives.
Aguinaldo, during the House hearing on COA’s proposed budget for 2022, explained:
“We do not have the jurisdiction to audit the organization, ‘yung (the) Philippine National Red Cross. The only thing we can audit are payments made by PhilHealth to the Red Cross but in that case what we’re auditing, actually, is PhilHealth for making those payments.”
Source: House of Representatives Official Facebook Page, COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS Agenda: FY 2022 Budget briefing (Commission on Audit), Sept. 2, 2021, watch from 51:09 to 52:06
COA is mandated by the Constitution to conduct an annual and regular audit of the revenues and expenses of state agencies and all government-owned and -controlled corporations. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Gadon makes inaccurate claims on Red Cross funding, audit)
Private entities receiving subsidies from the government can also be post-audited, according to Article IX, Section 2d of the Constitution. A post-audit is a review after a government transaction is made. Under this provision, COA looks into the financial compliance, economic efficiency, and effectiveness of the payment.
When the PRC was created under Republic Act No. 10072, the government allotted “at least one lottery draw” a year from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to support the blood program and disaster relief efforts of the Red Cross.
However, the PRC has no allocation under the national government budget, or the general appropriations act (GAA), that Congress deliberates on and approves.
Duterte has previously insisted that COA is mandated to audit the PRC. In a Sept. 11 address, he claimed that the commission would commit “dereliction of duty” if it refused to “conduct the investigation audit.”
On Gordon’s PDAF
In a Sept. 21 interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo, Gordon confirmed that he allocated a part of his PDAF in 2010 to the Department of Social Welfare and Development to buy mangosteens in Sulu and to the PRC to buy ambulances, which were allowed at that time.
The Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional in 2013, following the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s investigation of the pork-barrel scam, which identified businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles as the mastermind behind the P10-billion fraud.
PDAF was first integrated into the 1990 GAA during the term of the late President Corazon C. Aquino. This allocated money to congressional districts to fund “small local infrastructure and other priority community projects” identified by lawmakers.
Official Gazette of the Philippines, Republic Act No. 10072, April 20, 2010
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), TALK TO THE PEOPLE OF PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE, Sept. 20, 2021
RTVMalacanang Official Youtube Channel, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People 9/20/2021, Sept. 20, 2021
House of Representatives Official Facebook Page, COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS Agenda: FY 2022 Budget briefing (Commission on Audit), Sept. 2, 2021
Official Gazette of the Philippines, The 1987 Constitution, Accessed Sept. 23, 2021
Commission on Audit (COA), Circular No. 81-162, July 1, 1981
On Gordon’s PDAF
- ABS-CBN News Official Youtube Channel, Gordon confirms part of PDAF given to Philippine Red Cross in 2010 | TeleRadyo, Sept. 21, 2021
- CNN Philippines, EXPLAINER: What you need to know about the PDAF scam, Feb. 14, 2021
- Commission on Audit (COA), “C. Post-Martial Law Era: Corazon Cojuangco Aquino Administration(1986-1992)”, Accessed Sept. 23, 2021
Supreme Court of the Philippines, G.R. No. 208566, Nov. 19, 2013