Has the Commission on Audit (COA) been turned into an “attack dog” unleashed on Vice-President Jojo Binay? Is the COA waging a “proxy war” against Binay on behalf of certain personalities and groups harboring political ambitions in the 2016 national elections?
These were the questions that came to mind after we got wind of an alleged plot brewing in the audit agency to pin down Binay using resurrected issues during his term as mayor of Makati City.
Sources from COA claim that last September 24, 2013, several auditors were summoned by newly appointed COA commissioner Rowena Guanzon to a meeting at its headquarters in Quezon City. During the meeting, Guanzon reportedly berated the auditors for failing to find irregularities in the 10-year-old Makati Friendship Suites project.
The Makati Friendship Suites is the hostel set up by the local government of Makati during the term of (then mayor) Binay, where visiting local government officials from Makati’s sister cities are billeted during their stay in the city.
Late last year, COA initiated an investigation into the Makati Friendship Suites based on an “anonymous” complaint, with commissioner Heidi Mendoza supposedly spearheading the audit. This renewed investigation into the hostel project has apparently turned into a team effort, with Guanzon joining the probe.
The COA sources alleged that Guanzon wanted the auditors to come up with a report with adverse findings right away because “pina-follow up na ito (it’s being followed up).”
But the auditors present reportedly told Guanzon—a former mayor of Cadiz City, Negros Occidental and rumored to be a nominee of Mar Roxas – that the Makati Friendship Suites had been audited several times before during the previous administration and yet no adverse findings could be established.
Guanzon, however, was insistent, telling the auditors that an adverse report must be submitted and that once submitted, the commission would render a decision within 60 days, COA sources claimed.
Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to decipher that the investigation into the Makati Friendship Suites is really meant to tarnish the image of Binay who has not only consistently garnered high survey ratings but has also been largely unscathed by the on-going pork barrel controversy.
That certainly doesn’t sit well with certain groups who see Binay as a major threat to their political ambitions. Perhaps this explains why they’re trying dig up dirt against the vice-president.
What’s also quite disturbing is seeming fixation of the all-woman COA commission—led by Grace Pulido-Tan, Heidi Mendoza and Guanzon—on Binay.
The hostel project had already been audited and cleared by COA’s resident auditors and audit teams. In fact, a COA investigation initiated during the time of ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo failed to turn up any adverse findings.
It’s public knowledge that there’s no love lost between Binay and Arroyo.
Binay, who was a staunch critic of Arroyo, earned the ire of the disgraced former president for allowing opposition groups to hold huge anti-Arroyo rallies in Makati that caused the country’s financial capital to grind to a halt.
Arroyo so despised Binay that she tried to oust him as Makati mayor not just once, but twice. In the run up to the May 2007 elections, Arroyo ordered the 60-day suspension of Binay and other Makati officials while dispatching some 1,000 armed and uniformed policemen to enforce the suspension order—a move that even the late president Cory Aquino criticized.
Mere days before the elections, Binay was given another suspension order based on a case filed by a known ally of the Arroyo administration. The new order generated a huge public outcry of “political harassment” that the Arroyo administration was forced to defer Binay’s suspension.
Given the Arroyo government’s intense hostility towards Binay, had they found something anomalous in the Makati Friendship Suites project, they surely would have used it to oust him as Makati mayor. That the past administration couldn’t make out a case against Binay only goes to show there was nothing irregular with the project.
Which is what makes COA’s investigation into Makati City’s hostel project all the more dubious and suspect.
What kind of “findings” is the present COA trying to belatedly (and miraculously) excavate in the decade-old Makati Friendship Suites project that the Arroyo administration—with all its power and resources (and hatred for Binay)—could not?
Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on what observers perceive as a political hatchet job, it would serve public interest more if the current COA leadership also conducted and completed the audit and released a full report on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and other ‘pork’ releases during the current Aquino administration.
Doing so will prove that they are a truly “independent” constitutional body that they were meant to be rather than the state-sponsored “political assassin” that many people say they’ve become.