News Release

Give pandemic responders elbow room, President Duterte tells COA

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on August 20, 2021. ROEMARI LIMOSNERO/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Saturday, August 21, called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to give the government’s COVID-19 responders some breathing space for them to effectively tackle the pandemic.

During his regular Talk to the People on COVID-19, President Duterte said the Department of Health (DOH), along with other departments, has been battling the coronavirus pandemic outbreak and an untimely COA audit may distract it from its work.

“At saka itong ginagawa ngayon ni Secretary Duque, Año, Secretary Galvez, Secretary — si Defense, ongoing ito, adre. So you do not conduct unnecessarily ‘yung mga audit na audit na ongoing pa. We are fighting a pandemic,” President Duterte said.

“They are fighting a war against an enemy na hindi natin nakikita. Give them enough elbow room to move.”

With regard to the documentation required by the state auditor, the President said government agencies fighting the coronavirus can hardly comply because government restrictions hinder them from doing so.

Government offices, he said, have limited manpower due to the adoption of skeletal workforce.

The President asked COA to at least start its audit at the end of the year to give the agencies ample time to collate and validate documents.

“Suggestion ko lang ‘yan. Huwag kang pumasok ngayon kasi ongoing ang barilan between the virus and the government’s vaccine. There is a war there. Huwag ka masyado — basta bigla ka na lang pumasok, mag-conduct ka ng ano. I-timing ninyo,” he said.

The President wants COA to refrain from drawing conclusion without getting the side of the offices involved, noting they must be given sufficient time to answer queries.

The President also responded to the complaints of Congress regarding unused government funds, arguing agencies had difficulties carrying out their programs due to lack of manpower as a result of government restrictions.

“Hindi nga basta-basta ma-implement ang program, you know, walang tao. Walang opisina dito na — that employs thousands of personnel who will go out to implement a program of government,” he pointed out.

President Duterte has previously asked COA to stop flagging government agencies, noting they are put in bad light whenever an audit report is released to the press and the public.

The state auditor flagged the DOH for “deficiencies” in the handling of its P67.3 billion COVID-19 response. PND