>BY PET MELLIZA, The Beekeeper
The way officials of the Commission on Audit (COA) deal with public offices other than theirs, is amusing. They can be strict, quick to issue “notices of disallowances” on expenditures a public officer incurred in good faith, that is, he/she did not benefit personally from but just the same, the COA can do as it please by issuing the notice which is only a prelude to the “notice of reimbursement” in case the COA is dissatisfied with the explanation.
The notice of reimbursement is to be followed by legal suit, civil or criminal or both, in case a public official fails to refund the government.
But it scarcely occurs to the them that they dwarf other public officials in making illegitimate expenditures with the only difference that they exempt themselves from receiving notices of disallowance, much less, orders for reimbursement.
COA people even have the temerity of making government office, particularly, local government units (LGUs) scrape down the bottom of the barrel to lavish them with pelf.
COA auditors jut act like spoiled brats swooping down on LGUs in the guise of looking into their books. Half a dozen of them can just show up unnannounced at the door steps of the “municipio” and inform the local chief executive, they are in for a long haul to check the items of expenditures.
They stay in the LGUs for months on end, six months average. They demand they’d be given a service vehicle with free and unlimited fuel to boot plus a driver if none in the team knew how steer. That saves them expenses travelling from their quarters to the work station and vice versa. If the municipality has no hostel or lodging house, the LGU has to make them quarters right at the premises of the town hall itself.
There is no limit to expenditures by the LGUs if the purpose is to pamper COA people who comports themselves superiors to local officials. Thus, aside from a free service vehicle, fuel and driver, they demand free board and lodging. A hapless LGU is fleeced more than P200,000 per month to feed and spoil these unwanted guests who, in their home bases, either at the regional or provincial office, have to spend from their own pockets for their board, lodging and gasoline.
Not one COA person ever dare audit, much less issued a notice of disallowance to the LGU on public funds spent to pamper them with.
This nefarious practice has to end. The good governor, Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. is now in a better position to spew “yu__p—a!” to these riffraffs who think LGUs owe them (COA people) a living.
My friend Gerry Bionat has also something funny to tell of his experiences with the COA. Only this year, he prepared the voucher for a disaster-mitigation training at the Provincial Capitol with delegates from the local governments of Iloilo Province.
The COA office proved to be the biggest hurdle he had to pass. The auditor scrutinized every proposed item of expenditures prior to the release of the fund. It qrilled Bionat repeatedly with queries like who were the participants to attend, where would they come from, and why was the budget for the meals too much. He answered that all the 42 towns and one component city of the province had confirmed their attendance.
On the seminar day itself, the COA auditor again showed up to check if Mr. Bionat were telling the truth on the proposed activity and the number of participants. It counted the guests. It asked this and that, bla-blah here and there, until my good friend handed it (the gender is secret) three packed lunches and that shut the inquisitor’s big mouth up.
I was wrong. Virginia Palanca-Santiago, W. Visayas director of the Office of Ombudsman and concurrently, its Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas, is not totally callous or shameless, contrary to my 21-series column titled “Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s exercise of raw power”.
She still has a sense of shame left, after all. Since I started exposing her early in 2009, she has made herself scarce in Iloilo City where the regional office is.
I grabbed the bull by the horns, I dared called a spade a spade by asking that she be not allowed to slip silently into retirement but rather, she must be investigated for corruption.
The grist of my 21-series column was that she rigged her decision in “People’s Graftwatch of Iloilo, Inc. versus Mayor Jaime Esmeralda, et al” where she convicted the respondents administratively and surreptitiously filed a criminal information with the Sandiganbayan. She further handicapped her victims from filing a certiorari petition by furnishing them mere photocopies.
I wrote point blank that her truncated decision and her unusual rush invited suspicion that her hands were greased.
Most of my columns have been “cc’ed” to the ombudsman Region 6 office and to the personal e-mail address of Ms. Palanca-Santiago. Later, my columns sent to her private mail box returned with the message “account no longer in use”.
Her pair of hands were caught dipping into the cookie jar because of her recklessness in aligning herself with the pack of charlatans masquerading as graft busters. She was just unfortunate that her victims are themselves cousins of some of the charlatans known for their loose tongues, who boasted that they could have what they wanted because this embalmed version of Mommy Dionisia, this moral pygmy whose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks – little did she knew that these loose tongues kept on boasting that she was in the take of their financier, an ex-pat who sent the mullahs through a sibling.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, another participant in this looming scandal, a municipal judge, a friend and co-conspirator of Palanca-Santiago, suffered a mild stroke, after her dark secret, an adulterous affair with another judge, was exposed. W. Visayas judges need not be alarmed. This adulterous judge holds sala outside the region. As I wrote in the transmittal e-mail to Palanca-Santiago, “I am not done with you yet”.